Welcome to my fifth interview with interesting people in healthcare. This one is with Carole La Pine, CPMSM, CPCS, Director of the Credentialing Department at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor, MI, and President-Elect of the National Association Medical Staff Services.
I’ve known Carole for a number of years, and admire her steadfast excitement about the value and future of the MSP role. She works diligently to promote our profession. She is a leader who is “comfortable in her own skin,” which gives her the ability to celebrate the wins of her professional colleagues. Carole is a great mentoring role model, and a wonderful asset to NAMSS.
MSSPNexus – How long have you worked in the medical staff services field and how would you explain our profession’s role in the delivery of safe, effective healthcare?
I’m sure like many who have entered this field, we just got there. And once we got immersed, we saw opportunities and challenges to make a difference and that’s what got us hooked. So truth be told, I entered the medical staff services field when JCAHO required organization of the medical staff even when physicians were employed by a medical school. At that time I was working at the University of Michigan Hospital and all of our “medical staff” were employees of the Medical School. So to meet JCAHO standards, we developed Medical Staff Bylaws and we began “credentialing” the physicians who worked in the hospital. My favorite activity was to “credential” the new residents and fellows who became part of the University of Michigan health care delivery system. I’ve seen changes through the years that all lead to the important role we, the medical services professionals, play in the delivery of quality health care services.
To explain our professional role as it relates to the delivery of safe and effective healthcare is a challenge. We can call ourselves “practitioner investigators’ or “medical service managers” but all descriptions are not totally succinct. The problem is that we, the MSPs, have numerous responsibilities as we fulfill roles our organizations require us to fulfill. I like to say that I “investigate the individuals who provide health care services to ensure that they are indeed qualified and competent to deliver those services”. Although I’d like to add that I ensure adherence to JCAHO, NCQA, CMS and state regulations, I know I would see facial expressions of “what are you talking about”. This is one of the problems .. or challenges…. NAMSS struggles with: Who are WE and how do we tell the public who WE are.
MSSPNexus – How long have you been a member of the National Association Medical Staff Services, and what benefits do you feel you’ve received from your association with the organization?
My state association provided the connection to a larger community of Medical Service Professionals. If those in my Michigan Association had not provided educational opportunities and awareness, I would not have known about NAMSS. In large institutions mail addressed to “generic” individuals usually does not reach the targeted recipient. I’m sure mail was sent to the University but never found its way to my little desk.
So after experience with the State Association, I became aware of the “NATIONAL” organization through the conference material. I was so excited to know that there were educational opportunities beyond the State level and I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. I challenged my peer and long-time co-worker, Arlene Schneider, to join me in our mission to “save” the U/M Medical Staff. We were allowed to attend our first NAMSS conference and from that point on, I was hooked. Following attendance at that first NAMSS Conference, I was so energized that I thought I could change the world of credentialing.
I had the drive to keep moving forward, to get more. Along the way I heard about “Certification”. First thing I said was “ME?” Okay! I got together with a small study group that was led by Lillian Skidmore, a former Michigan State Association President and a person I consider my mentor. We met for several months, made up questions, shared reference material, and supported each other through the exam process. I was certain that I didn’t pass the CMSC exam. Every day I would watch the mail, hoping that I would finally get my results so I could stop feeling sick to my stomach. I’m happy to report that both Arlene and I passed! Then I didn’t stop. As soon as the CPCS exam was available, I had to take that too. Still I didn’t stop…. I entered an accelerated bachelor program, completed that. Then enrolled in an accelerated Master’s program and finished that as well. So for me, the certification programs fed my motivation to higher learning.
It would be a very long answer to address the benefits I’ve received from my association with MAMSS and NAMSS. Primarily my answer would be to (1) move into a leadership role, (2) to mentor others, (3) to influence changes in both organizations, and (4) to see opportunities beyond our current goals.
Going back to my fifth grade goal of being a medical staff secretary, I NEVER envisioned that I would one day be President of my state association, Chair of the NAMSS Certification Commission, member of the NAMSS Board of Directors, or President-Elect of NAMSS.
MSSPNexus – As President-Elect of NAMSS, what is your vision for the future of the organization?
First I wanted to learn the dynamics of our organization as well as current strategic goals. I believe one needs to understand our past, acknowledge our current situation, and see clearly where our organization can go. So this year, my goal has been to become familiar with all NAMSS initiatives, our strategic plan, member and certificant expectations, governance structure, and the dynamics of our management company to help up achieve the goals we have established. This year has been a terrific learning opportunity; to look at our past accomplishments and see what resources we need to accomplish today’s goals. I can truly say that I see NAMSS as a very assertive organization…we no longer will wait for change, but will be the catalyst for that change. I see my involvement as keeping the progress going.
MSSPNexus – What advice do you have for individuals new to the field?
My best advice is to find a mentor! Or if you don’t like that term, partner with a peer. No one is alone in this field. If there is competition and an unfriendly environment, know that there are many in the profession who are willing to be a mentor. I strongly encourage involvement in local and state educational opportunities. Certainly check out NAMSS, use the web site, consider educational opportunities, and set certification as a goal. For those who may be unsure as to what to do or where to go, think local, state, and know that NAMSS is there for you regardless of your geographic locale.
MSSPNexus – What advice do you have for medical staff and administrative healthcare leaders who work with MSPs?
I’m not sure I would consider this “advice” but I strongly encourage the medical staff and administrative healthcare leaders to take some time to consider what MSPs truly do. Anyone thinking that these are clerical positions does not understand the responsibilities placed on MSPs today. It is sad that so many highly qualified and experienced MSPs do not receive the financial rewards or the recognition they so deserve. I hope that NAMSS will be able to influence a change in salary levels and bring awareness of our roles to Human Resource Departments, Medical Staff leaders, and hospital and healthcare leaders.
MSSPNexus – Any other thoughts?
It is an honor to be the President-Elect of NAMSS. I am so excited about the strategic plans and goals NAMSS has coming up in 2007. NAMSS is on the move and I want to invite others to come along. The journey will be awesome!