Over her nearly 30 years as a registered nurse, Dare Meeks has watched colleagues come and go. She has seen dozens of nurses hop from clinic to clinic and healthcare system to healthcare system. And she has witnessed many of them, especially lately, leave the stress-filled field altogether.
Meeks has been with SCA Health, one of the largest networks of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) in the country, for nearly three decades. She says she stays because of the upward mobility: Starting as a cardiac care nurse at a Birmingham center, she has steadily progressed to her current position as group vice president and chief nursing officer of the entire organization. Meeks cites the opportunities for advancement as a key factor that has motivated her to remain dedicated to SCA Health.
But most of all, she says, she stays because she has always felt valued.
“As a nurse at SCA Health, I have direct access to leadership and can have a say and make a difference in the procedure, process, and how we care for a patient,” says Meeks. “At SCA, I have a voice.”
Across its more than 320 ASC locations, SCA Health works to align physicians, health plans, and health systems behind the common goal of delivering high quality outcomes and better experiences for patients and providers at the lowest cost of care. But the foundation of the company is its employees—compassionate professionals dedicated not only to superior care, but also to each other.
“Sometimes, people believe that high-performing teams in corporate America don’t have compassion, grace, or humanity,” says Jason Strauss, President of SCA, who has been with the company for 14 years. “Our philosophy is that you can be better and more high-performing when you bring compassion for the individual as a broader team. All of us have things going on at home. We need our team to support in times of challenge. If we can bring that trust and vulnerability, we can play at a higher level.”
“SCA Health puts people first,” says Rikki Mondo, group vice president of OptumCare Specialty Practices at SCA Health. “That’s the best way to describe it. SCA is a place where you can build a career and work with talented people who will make you better and give you opportunities to shine.”
For nurses, these shining moments come in many different forms. First, for example, there is support and reimbursement for continued formal education and certification. There is an open line of communication with and mentorship from SCA management and administration, and a clear pipeline for vertical advancement within the company.
But because each location is small and independent—essentially a mom-and-pop operation—under the larger SCA banner, there is also ample opportunity for hands-on experience in cutting-edge technology, equipment, and methodology across multiple disciplines.
“A phrase you’ll never hear is, ‘That’s not my job,’” says Mondo. “This is a place that thinks about how we can create opportunities for other people. It’s a true partnership between talent (our nurses) and leadership. What do you want for your career? How would you tackle this problem? There are no limits. Here, people are never pigeonholed. Here, they can spread their wings.”
There is also a clear path to leadership positions. Chief nursing officer Meeks says that many of the people on her leadership team came up as entry level scrub technicians, bedside nurses, or operating room nurses. And this has enabled SCA to bring on nurses with varying levels of prior experience. Anyone new to the industry will have plenty of chances to develop their skills across disciplines firsthand and under the tutelage of the best in the business.
“One of our values is continuous development,” says Strauss, who started as an analyst and worked his way up to company president. “We see it as having a career here — not just a job. Once you come to SCA and demonstrate what you’re capable of, it then just becomes a question of where you want to go next.”
At SCA Health centers, nurses get a chance to broaden their views by trying their hands at and experiencing a vast array of roles, jobs, and specialties.
“In a small setting like this, we all wear lots of hats,” says Meeks. “In our multi-specialty environment, you’ll see a variety of procedures, from eye surgery to neurosurgery to ENT—you’re getting all of it. You’re able to learn on the job and build your skillset for your future.”
Healthy work/life balance
Despite this focus on professional development, SCA Health isn’t all about work. Being healthcare professionals, everyone from the top down understands the vital importance of mental and spiritual health when it comes to employees. After all, a happy and healthy person is bound to have more energy and passion to do their job well.
A key element of employee satisfaction at SCA Health is a healthy work/life balance.
Part of this balance comes naturally with the territory. Most SCA Health surgery centers are for elective or scheduled procedures—not late-night, on-call emergencies. That means there is a structured and assigned time specific to surgeons and their staffs. That makes it much easier to manage employees’ time and schedules, including finding substitutes when a nurse needs time off to tend to a personal or family matter.
Advance scheduling also means staff usually doesn’t have to work weekends or overnight shifts. And because patients are screened ahead of time, staff also have minimal exposure to severe acute diseases like Covid-19.
“When you’re a nurse working at a hospital and you’re assigned to a patient, you have no control over when or how long that patient will be in surgery or recovery,” says Meeks. “At SCA, you have more control over your life.”
Valued for who you are
Relationships matter at SCA Health. Nurses are encouraged to bring their unique perspective and experience to the team, fostering mutual learning.
“From the top down, there is a real commitment to inclusivity and diversity and getting everyone together,” says Erica Denniston, senior director at SCA Health. “I’ve never worked with as many women leaders on one team. It gives me trust in the organization. Women bring a different lens to leadership, and I think it shows up in our culture.”
There is also a concrete culture of mutual respect from the CEO down to entry level technicians and nurses. Everyone is recognized for their individual contributions.
But according to Meeks, there’s another advantage to working at a tightly knit SCA Health location. It is something that touches upon the compassion that brings so many nurses to the profession in the first place: Patient appreciation.
“Our staff receive a patient, help address their acute problem, and then see them walk out the door with their quality of life immediately improved,” says Meeks. “Our staff is able to see the entire episode of care.”
So if you are currently employed as an RN, LPN, or medical technician, are high energy and highly organized, and are looking for a career that empowers you to grow professionally and personally, go to SCA Health’s website to look for openings in your area.
“It’s a positive environment where you can make a difference and you can see that difference,” says Meeks. “For any individual who is energetic, there’s no better place. You also get to go home and see your own family. You get the best of both worlds.”