Leadership Lunch Series: Larry Noriega
Larry Noriega’s visit sparks lively conversation
In September, the Whitman Partners staff was treated to a lunchtime visit by Larry Noriega, RN, PhD, a longtime perioperative leader. During his 28-year career, Larry has held distinguished positions as vice president, consultant, and permanent and interim director of surgical services throughout the country and internationally. At the time he was serving as Director of Surgical Services at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in nearby Vancouver, Washington, so we invited him to come break bread with us and answer our questions about his leadership philosophy and his thoughts on successful interim leadership and recruitment for those positions. Larry responded with frankness, insight, and thoughtfulness.
Larry noted that sometimes he’s come into situations where the surgery department is in disarray, and the local resources are not up to finding a solution. So how does he go about fixing things? “I look for what’s available in the environment,” he said. “I recognize the use of the most vital resource of all—time. I identify the problem, separating what seems to be presenting itself as the problem from what is actually underneath as the real problem.”
“You have to treat people like human beings. It’s all about the relationships,” he said. He looks for the values shared by the surgical services and hospital staff. “In two or three months on the ground, being truthful, being engaged, an interim is able to see the path ahead for the institution,” he said. “And I don’t wreck the environment for people who live there and can’t move. I make it worth their time,” he said.
Eric Schwindt, a Whitman Client Partner, learned some valuable lessons from Larry. “Larry’s action plans are very thorough, so it was a surprise to me
that someone you would think is very process-driven is actually driven by good relationships with physicians, staff, and administration.”
As for working with physicians, Larry said, “The joy of working with physicians is that they want a clear end in sight and clear goals. You enter that relationship by being part of a supportive leadership group.” Being part of this support system is invaluable, Larry said. “People are often surprised that I’m not a permanent member of the staff. I say, ‘no, I’m a temp. How can I help you? What can I do for you?’ And if the answer is nothing, then I shouldn’t be here.”
The open-ended discussion with Larry also touched on problems with sterile processing, OR efficiencies, budget constraints, the benefits and downsides of Joint Commission surveys, the importance of clear, enforceable policies, and the cost value of interim perioperative leaders. “I used to say to facilities that I will save you what it costs to hire me for six months. It will be cost neutral and will allow you to take the time to get the best and most qualified permanent hire,” he said.
After the success of Larry’s visit, we hope to schedule many more of these Alert and Oriented lunch visits. If you plan to come to Portland, Oregon, please let us know, and we’ll have you come meet our nice people and nice dogs, we’ll feed you lunch and serve you kombucha on tap, we’ll discuss the field, and we’ll treat you well. Email Nadine Fiedler at email@example.com if you’d like to be part of this, and we can’t wait to meet you!