Workforce development a key to success.
Sammie Cribbs, MSN, AGCNS-BC, APRN is taking nursing to new heights at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. The recently appointed president of Harrison's flagship hospital joined NARMC as a PRN nurse 15 years ago and hasn't looked back. Effective April 1, 2022, Cribbs took over the strategic, operational, financial, and clinical initiatives for the health system in her new role as President and CEO.
Originally from Colorado, Cribbs graduated from Highland High School in Hardy, Arkansas before heading to Louisiana Tech University, where she earned an Associate of Science in Nursing. "My maternal grandmother and mother were both diploma RNs, and begged me to do anything except nursing," she laughed. "I was going into pre-pharmacy but identified a love for caring for patients and went into nursing instead." Cribbs went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northwestern State University and in 2015 received her Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis on Adult Health & Geriatrics Clinical Nurse Specialist. Today, Cribbs is a 2020 graduate of Leadership Arkansas Class XV, and is a frequent speaker on the local, state and national levels. She currently serves as a Board member for multiple organizations, including the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce, College of the Ozarks Nursing Advisory Board, North Arkansas College Adult Education Advisory Board, and North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education. She has been awarded as a Patriotic Employer by the Department of Defense and is a past examiner for the Arkansas Governor's Quality Award. Cribbs has also received a certification in healthcare finance.
Coming to NARMC
Her nursing career started in ambulatory surgery at the Shreveport Endoscopy Center before transitioning to a PRN float nurse at Mercy. She relocated to Harrison in 2007 and joined NARMC as a PRN float nurse and later as Director of Nursing. "When I accepted the position as Director of Nursing, my goal was to improve efficiencies to optimize patient outcomes and staff satisfaction," Cribbs explained. "As I worked with staff and leaders to improve our healthcare delivery system, it became apparent for me that the more advanced levels of administration were a greater opportunity to achieve greater outcomes for the communities that we serve. Some of my greatest successes are seeing others achieve their goals, whether patients or other staff." She also enjoyed working with department leaders to encourage higher levels of education, in turn promoting better patients' outcomes. In 2014 Cribbs was named Vice President of Clinical Services/Chief Nursing Officer and in 2016 Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer. In January 2022 she was selected as Interim President/CEO following retirement of former CEO Vince Leist. Now, Cribbs is settling in to continue leadership of more than 750 employees (including 250-plus nurses) at NARMC, named one of the Top 100 Rural Hospitals in the nation according to the Rural Health Policy Institute. NARMC's 5-county service region includes an 85,000 resident catchment area served by its central hospital and 18 clinics serving the rural communities of North Arkansas. A two-time recipient of the Arkansas Governor's Quality Achievement Award, NARMC is a Baby Friendly Designated birth facility, a Level 3 Trauma Center and a designated ARKANSAS SAVES (Arkansas Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support) hospital. She's already made a significant impact in the North Arkansas community. Accomplishments include redesigning the nursing care delivery system, improving standardization in care, reducing cost of care, cultivating strong community relationships, strengthening physician engagement and population health, and leading the organization through the interim transition process.
Cribbs said serving as an administrator through a global pandemic has highlighted - and triggered - a number of challenges for nursing professionals nationwide. "Emerging from the pandemic, a lot of nurses are fatigued from patient care, giving all they can and looking to reinvigorate and reenergize," she said. "We learned a lot, both good and bad, and are figuring out how to integrate those changes into our medical practices going forward. It's a huge challenge from an executive standpoint, because the most precious commodity any organization has is the workforce. How do we support, sustain and engage our nurses moving forward?" She said the pandemic also produced more efficient ways to operate, including managing viral illnesses and drive-through testing, and optimizing telemedicine and nursing autonomy by allowing nurses to operate at the highest levels of professional licensure. "This was an opportunity to show what advanced skills they have, because a lot of advanced training goes into bedside care," she said. "It's time for nursing to be highlighted." Cribbs also is intrigued by recent nursing graduates who've only seen the healthcare environment through the eyes of a pandemic.
"As this evolves and we continue to emerge, our eyes will be open to their skill sets and how the pandemic impacted the knowledge they're coming in with," she said. "As a leader and nurse, we want to make sure they have those opportunities and are prepared to conquer the future."
Training Up Leaders
Cribbs also is working to educate nurses on the possibility - and reality - of leadership roles. "Leadership is a journey," she said. "To have a passion to lead people even at difficult times is a true calling. Sometimes the glitz and glamour of administrative roles is seen but behind the scenes are difficult decisions and looking at how to manage care of the entire hospital is much more daunting than we talk about. I tell nurses, 'I realize you may have six to eight patients on the floor, but to those six to eight you're the only nurse.' The same thing applies to nursing leaders, whether you have 40 or 750 employees. To that one employee, you're their leader. I'm most proud when I see other leaders grow and succeed in their role and I'm incredibly blessed to continue to serve this organization and community with such outstanding dedicated individuals."