Clicking Refresh with Rhonda Sebastian
Rhonda Sebastian’s Success Story
After 20 years in one spot, Rhonda Sebastian was looking for a new challenge.
Subconsciously, at least.
She spent the beginning of her perioperative career getting her “OR legs,” starting at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and then on to Sharon Regional Health System. She was promoted to charge nurse at Sharon Regional and then served as an OR educator. She spent the last 20 years at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), overseeing the OR, GI lab, and SPD. In fact, she earned an SPD certification because she felt that managing the department required more intimate knowledge about what they did. After being promoted to director of surgical services at UPMC, Sebastian consolidated surgical services by regionally integrating operating rooms from three sites to two.
But after two decades at the same facility, she needed a new challenge. She hadn’t realized what she needed until she had a few conversations with Tyler Leonard, one of Whitman Partners’ Client Partners, about an opportunity at Dunlap Outpatient Center, St. Clair Health in Pittsburgh.
“When we were going over career aspirations, Rhonda was transparent with me that she had slight reservations about making a change,” Leonard says. “But this is normal when considering a professional leap into a new organization.”
Eventually, Sebastian was game.
“The last time we talked, and I don’t know if I was just having a day, but I said, sure, I’ll check it out,” Sebastian says. “St. Clair’s is a beautiful facility. I thought learning a new system would be a good challenge.”
“The last time we talked, and I don’t know if I was just having a day, but I said, sure, I’ll check it out.”
But there was more: while the many stresses that come with leading perioperative were not new to Sebastian, she felt like her work/life balance was getting a little too off for her tastes.
“I was working many, many hours. It was constant,” Sebastian says. “I was getting calls in the middle of the night. I think I just needed a break and a change.”
And change she received. For starters, her schedule at Dunlap was 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., so she was home by 5:00 (she lives 90 minutes away). There were also great growth possibilities at Dunlap.
“The facility was brand new, and the staff was amazing,” Sebastian says. “I saw a lot potential for growth in the service lines as well as staff.”
Because the height of the pandemic corresponded with her starting the new position, Sebastian says that the beginning was rocky.
“We were losing a ton of nursing staff to traveling, and many of them retired,” Sebastian says. “It was a whole new way of life here, and the culture was a little different, so getting acclimated was hard for a while. I came from a huge corporation with 24 hospitals to one hospital in this great community. I had to navigate those waters and figure out how to make it work.”
Her responsibilities also included opening a brand-new surgical pavilion. Leonard recalls those first conversations during his check-ins with her post-hire.
“She handled this adversity in stride, truly embracing the challenges.”
“She handled this adversity in stride, truly embracing the challenges,” Leonard says. “Rhonda was an absolute pleasure to recruit, coach, and eventually place at St. Clair. When we first met, her warmth immediately struck me. She is so easy to like and has been a successful addition to their team.”
Truer words have not been said. Sebastian was promoted to executive director of perioperative services with supervision over Dunlap, the main OR, and the entire perioperative platform at St. Clair.
“One of the things I asked for when they approached me about taking this position was a strong doctor in the operating room to manage physician issues,” Sebastian says. “They gave me a wonderful doctor, and he and I work really well together.”
One piece of advice Sebastian would give to those aspiring to perioperative leadership is to take time away from work.
“Build a good team that you know can handle things while you’re away.”
“Build a good team that you know can handle things while you’re away,” Sebastian says. “This is one thing I did not do when I was at UPMC. I rarely took vacations. But I’ve learned to do that here. You sometimes need to get away and unplug from the day-to-day stress.”