Resume vs. Reality: Look Beyond Titles to Find Your Dream Director of Surgical Services
By Carisa Brewster
From Nurse to Director. When Whitman Partners placed Dustyn Miller as a Director of Surgical Services at Lifepoint Health System’s Community Medical Center (CMC) in Missoula, MT, last year, the “Director” title was absent on his resume. However, he has excelled in the role, extending his impact by participating in Lifepoint’s Surgical Services Council, a group of leaders who evaluate processes and recommend improvements.
For clients, determining a candidate’s suitability without the specific title of “Director” on their resume may seem challenging. Miller’s journey is a compelling case study, illustrating the valuable insights that often go beyond what can be captured on the resume.
Building a Foundation
After gaining experience in the PACU and PreOp, Miller transitioned to the ER at a small critical-access hospital. Through per diem travel shifts across Washington State, he saw how different facilities ran processes. He met a fellow nurse who eventually became his wife, and they both moved to Seattle to work at The Polyclinic, a set of multi-specialty clinics that serve the Puget Sound area.
Miller was hired as an interventional radiology nurse but received a surprise: part of his job would be building the interventional radiology clinic from the ground up. He accomplished this in 90 days.
“That experience was the foundation of my learning how to write policies, procedures, and practices and kind of hone into the leadership perspective,” says Miller. “I was thrown into the fire, and I wanted the challenge of figuring out how to do it right.”
Miller trained at Puget Sound area hospitals through the Northwest Perioperative Consortium, a perioperative education and internship program. He took to the OR well, eventually becoming the charge nurse for neurosurgery and plastic surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital, playing a pivotal role in advancing the robotics program. When a supervisor position became available, he seized the opportunity.
“That’s when things took for me because I was able to have FTEs under me, figure out how to manage people and processes, and work with an interdisciplinary team to create efficiencies for the OR,” says Miller.
When the permanent director left on vacation, Miller became the interim director and the clinical expert for the new hospital wing that added 8 ORs, including two catheterization labs and two cardiac-only rooms.
“We were able to open the new building while I was interim director,” says Miller. “In less than five years, I went from not knowing the OR to having my name on a list to sign off on the new building. It was a great accomplishment.”
Jenni Smith, Whitman Partners’ Head of Portfolio Management and Training, was trying to recruit a candidate for the director position at CMC. They were not on the market but knew someone who was: Miller.
A desire to leave the city aligned with Miller’s decision to seek a permanent director position. He applied to many facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest, but the Missoula opportunity stood out for him and his wife because family lived there.
“I loved working bedside and in the Emergency Department. But when I was allowed to have an impact on my teammates and peers as charge nurse, I realized early on that if I could make those changes for my staff, it would trickle over to patients. I would be doing the same work, just in a different capacity,” says Miller.
Smith says she loved Miller’s energy from the moment they connected. “He was very genuine and straightforward. I understood what he was looking for and went to work.”
However, he was worried about not having the “Director” title and wondered if he had the experience people were looking for. However, prospective employers—recognizing his background in a large organization with nearly 30 ORs—asked if he might find a facility with a handful of ORs not as professionally challenging. Surprisingly, no one perceived his resume as a barrier—only Miller did.
For Miller, going to a smaller facility was a matter of lifestyle and the chance to have more control over his work environment.
“I wanted to be at a place where changes could be implemented quickly rather than going through a significant number of leaders to get approvals,” says Miller.
Smith says Barb Jones, CMC’s then CNO, was blown away after the first virtual interview.
“When he went onsite—to no surprise—he won the team over right away,” says Smith. “His management style and EQ impressed the team and landed him an amazing offer.”
Impact at CMC
Miller has played a crucial role in enhancing the culture of CMC’s surgical services and introducing new technology to show the community they can also perform complex procedures. Additionally, he is delving into the business side of surgical services and has benefited from a supportive network of peers. A key factor in his success is the early recognition of the importance of being sensitive to the nurses with long tenure at CMC.
“In Seattle, we’d hire new people every 15 months because there are multiple hospitals to work with. Here, there are only two,” says Miller. “We have nurses that have been here 16, 18 years. It wasn’t a matter of managing the change; it was changing habits, things they had been doing for 30 years. It came down to, ‘Why are we doing this, and how will it make our jobs easier?’”
Confidence to Take the Leap
Miller has one piece of all-encompassing advice for perioperative nurses interested in leadership: don’t be afraid to try new things.
“I felt like an expert in the ER. Then I went to the OR not knowing a single thing,” says Miller. “I jumped in and took the lead, but also researched. Taking on the director role, never having been a director, was a big leap of faith. The confidence that I can learn and will do my best has driven me to take those next steps and has only benefited me in my career.”
Every candidate placed by Smith gets a call from her on their 1st work anniversary. The hope is that they are happy where they are. The report she received from Miller exceeded her expectations.
“When he shared with me all he had accomplished and what the future at CMC held for him, it really warmed me,” says Smith. “He has worked so hard, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Remember, Whitman Partners is a phone call or email away for your leadership staffing needs. For interim leadership, contact Zach Parker or Ines Radic; for permanent leadership, contact John Elffers. Looking for a job? Click here to search our job map.