Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association

MHA’s Executive Insights Series: Christine Schuster, RN, MBA on the Strength of Community Hospitals

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Christine Schuster played a lot of sports growing up, including field hockey, basketball, and soccer. Today, she’s still a triple threat: a nurse, an MBA, and a hospital chief executive. But Schuster will tell you her most valued ability is the deep connection and mutual support she’s established with the patients, staff, and broader community at Emerson Hospital, where she serves as president and CEO.

“It really is a team sport. We have to work together,” Schuster said during MHA’s latest Executive Insights webinar

Schuster’s half-hour conversation with Steve Walsh, MHA’s president and CEO, was the second in the association’s new series. Throughout 2021, Executive Insights will offer monthly one-on-one interviews between Walsh and hospital CEOs from across Massachusetts, providing up close and personal perspectives from these leaders as they work on the state’s biggest healthcare issues and opportunities.

Schuster discussed the importance of equal representation for women in healthcare leadership and the value of creating supportive cultures in healthcare organizations. On this topic, Walsh cited the example of Schuster calling for women to make up half of the MHA Board’ of Trustees’ membership – a goal MHA has accomplished. Schuster serves as the board’s treasurer.   

“Many women that reach out to me [ask], ‘How do you be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a CEO? That in and of itself seems a huge responsibility.’  And what I tell them is, ‘I think you can have it all – I just don’t think you can do it all,’” said Schuster. “It’s very, very important to find an organization that allows you to do the things that are important to you both professionally and personally.”

Schuster spoke about the unique value of community hospitals in the healthcare system, and how she is leading Emerson Hospital in its role of delivering care to patients across their lifetimes. 

“Our vision is caring for the community. And we do that across the board,” said Schuster. “Here at Emerson, we serve 27 different communities. We have programs going in all of them.”

And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge all healthcare providers like never before, Schuster highlighted the unprecedented cooperation among hospitals statewide, and MHA’s role in fostering and coordinating that collaboration and mutual support. 

“Everyone has really come together.  In all my years in healthcare, I’ve never seen the collaboration, the coordination, the cooperation – The walls just have come down. And in a crisis, these are the people I want to work with,” she said, noting as an example that Emerson was able to accept some patient transfers to alleviate pressure on other hospitals during the COVID-19 surges.

“I particularly love the community hospital setting because it’s a chance to get really involved,” said Schuster. “This is an area where community hospitals like Emerson can truly shine.” 

Watch the full episode here.

Stream all Executive Insights Series episodes here.