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Nursing Leadership Transformation: Leiran Cornish’s Impactful Coast-to-Coast Journey

April 30, 2024

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Nursing Leadership Transformation: Leiran Cornish’s Impactful Coast-to-Coast Journey

A Year of Transformation: Leiran Cornish’s Coast-to-Coast Leap in Nursing Leadership. In January 2022, Leiran Cornish was at a career crossroads. She felt the stirrings of change and the hunger for professional growth but was unsure of her next move. Whitman Partners’ Jennifer Smith, Head of Portfolio Management, became a consultant of sorts for Cornish. Smith sent her opportunities for almost a year until a manager position at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire popped up on the docket. However, there was a twist – Cornish was living in Spokane, WA. Embracing the spirit of adventure, she took a step into the unknown. Fast forward just a year, and she has been promoted to Director of Nursing at Dartmouth’s outpatient surgery center, marking a significant leap in her career within a brief time.  

How did the recruitment process unfold? 

Jenni Smith

JS: I was recruiting for the University of Washington Medical Center in early 2022, and that’s how I came across Leiran. That wasn’t the right fit, but she felt it was time for a change. I developed a great relationship with her, reviewing opportunities aligned with what she was looking for: academic medical center, level 1 trauma, and 25+ ORs. None of them were quite the right fit, and there are just so many facilities in the country with more than 20 ORs. Sure enough, the manager position at Dartmouth came up. It checked every box, except it was on the other side of the country. Given their reputation and affiliation with a prestigious school, I presented it to her, and she went for it.  Leiran is not afraid of a challenge, no matter how daunting it may be. She is truly a subject matter expert regarding OR staff engagement and physical relations. Watching her grow, prosper, and land her first director role has been amazing. I am very proud of her. 

Leiran Cornish

LC: The Whitman Partners’ team was very patient with me and what my goals were. I was primarily looking for director roles, but then the manager position at Dartmouth opened. The scope was similar to what I had at Sacred Heart and Providence but more expansive, being an academic medical center and level 1 trauma. There was a lot of potential to stretch the skills I learned and apply them in another setting with more volume and responsibility. And because Dartmouth is within a system, I hoped there would be more growth opportunities. So I ran with it. Meeting the team and leadership was a positive experience. I felt like they were the right group at the right time for me. I would invest in them, and they would do the same for me.  As far as relocation, my spouse and I are from the Northwest. We both knew Washington State really well. He grew up in Spokane. But we were both feeling the itch for something new. Neither of us had experience on the East Coast, but we have family that lives out in that direction, so it didn’t feel like we were going too much out on a limb. We’ve enjoyed it so far. The culture in New Hampshire is similar to that of Washington State, but it is still a little different.  

What were your initial impressions when you started as manager at Dartmouth? 

LC: It was a rocky beginning, but it always is. You’re not only new to staff, but you’re also new to the community. The facility here is huge, but the community is small, and everybody knows everybody. I looked back on the notes I took during the interview process as I prepared for my first day, and they were so honest about their needs. There was some brokenness, and they needed someone to come in and take care of them. Give them relational tools, structure, and guidance. Part of my vocation as a leader is to be a caregiver for the caregivers. That was my approach, and it ended up being really successful.  

What led to your promotion? 

LC: I was very honest during my interview process about how, at some point, I want to be a director. If the opportunity arises and it’s right for me and the team, I’d love to be considered. It was my way of saying, “Please, invest in me.” And that’s what they did. There was a director vacancy at the surgery center, and they asked me to think about it. At that point, I felt confident that someone else could come into the manager role and they wouldn’t take things in the wrong direction. I felt comfortable to at least throw my hat into the ring. I’m not leaving the company, I would literally be a hop, skip, and jump from their location because we share the same campus.  

How did you prepare yourself to feel ready to be a director? 

LC: I already tried to keep a global view of what we were doing. As a manager, I sought out further understanding of what I believed to be the big picture and ensured I was included at the table when certain things were being discussed. I would throw ideas out there to see how they were received to help gauge if I was out in left field or in line with the business. I did side dives for myself on perioperative staffing and how to build grids. I put staffing templates in place to see how that would work within their block structure. It was a win-win because I got to practice and was able to give some work/life balance back to staff.  

Any practical tips for your peers who want to grow their careers? 

LC: I would say do a deep dive into productivity measures. How are your blocks utilized? Under the physician/OR relationship, whether they work within the system as employees or are external. Unpack the finances and metrics behind the scenes, understand why we make certain business decisions. Identify the players within your hospital: the risk department, quality assurance, safety, infection prevention, etc. Your strongest tool is your connectivity with your peers, who will not always be clinical. In fact, many are non-clinical. So be vulnerable with them and say, “Hey, I don’t understand how we build this budget. Can you go over this with me?” Can you have difficult conversations but also comfortably give words of affirmation to people? And through it all, stay humble.  

Jennifer, what insights can you share about successful recruitment? 

JS: Success in recruiting is about asking the right questions and getting to know the candidate. What process improvements have they made, and what metrics have they influenced? Relationships with staff and physicians. It helps me align incoming opportunities. A candidate might be excited about an opportunity, but is this something they would excel in, and does it make sense for the client? Those factors guide me in the process.  

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