Like most who entered medical staff services in the early 1980s, Vicki Searcy found the profession by accident. “I was a woman working in a man’s world, doing institutional research at the University of Arkansas,” she recalls. “I was never going to be given the opportunity to further my career.” Taking the reins – and her future – into her own hands, Searcy applied for a part-time clerical position in the hospital pathologist’s office. “The HR director told me there was someone they wanted me to meet,” she says. It turned out to be the hospital’s CEO, and it turned out that the hospital was preparing for its Joint Commission survey the following year.
From there, Searcy was off to the races. “They needed someone who could coordinate writing all of the operating manuals,” she says. Searcy worked on the board manual, department head supervisors manual and medical staff organization operating manual, along with a manual for every single department in the hospital. “That was my entrée into healthcare,” she recalls with a chuckle. Because Searcy needed to know which standards the hospital had to meet, she conducted extensive research, leading the pack in anticipating and mitigating challenges. “When we got to the medical staff organization, we realized that the bylaws weren’t in compliance and needed to be redone,” she says.Searcy’s success led to increased opportunities, each of which she took in stride. Notably, she was responsible for healthcare quality, then in its infancy. With no simple way to maintain all of the data and limited commercial software on the market, Searcy again took the reins. “We got an IBM Displaywriter, and I had to go to IBM school and learn to write the programs for it,” she says. “I designed the credentialing package, and then created a package to track quality outcomes.” Over time, Searcy expanded into the utilization management and risk management arenas. “There wasn’t a clear pathway, so I had to write my own software,” she says. By the time she left Arkansas several years later, she was also responsible for the medical records department. “One of the things that drew me to and kept me in this profession is that there’s always something to learn,” she says.
Reining it In and Taking the Lead
With her professional responsibilities plus the responsibility for her three children, Searcy decided it was time to pull back on the reins. She moved to Southern California and took what she thought would be a relatively low-key position at a hospital. “Within three months, the hospital merged and had consolidated management,” she says. “I had the same responsibilities as before, but with two hospitals.” Searcy recalls sitting at her desk, thinking, “I did this already.” That moment in 1989 was when she decided to go into consulting. “I remember thinking, if I’m going to work this hard, I’m going to do it for myself,” she says.During that same timeframe, Searcy redoubled her commitment to MSPs. She served as NAMSS Certification Council Chair, and then was elected NAMSS President in 1988. “I loved it, and felt like I was giving something back to the profession,” she says. “The camaraderie was wonderful, and I made contacts that became lifelong friends.”
Launching her first company with industry veteran Sue King required another sprint to create the systems and blueprint for success. “You have to make it up as you go along,” Searcy says. “On the other hand, there’s no one to say that you’re doing it wrong.” Searcy attributes her consulting success to having experience beyond medical staff services, and in learning the art of speaking and writing. “That’s how you got clients,” she says. Searcy has had many clients, and has worked in 49 states – every state except Vermont.
Searcy spent the better part of the next decade in consultancies with various business partners, and then accepted the position of Practice Director for Credentialing and Privileging with The Greeley Company. From there, she moved to Morrisey Associates, which was acquired by HealthStream. There, Searcy became the Vice-President of Consulting Services for VerityStream, a position she still holds today.
Looking Back, Moving ForwardWhile COVID has impacted everyone to one extent or the other, for Searcy it represents a dramatic shift in how she works. Used to clocking 150,000 in-flight miles each year, Searcy was grounded at the beginning of March. While missing direct contact with clients and staff members, Searcy is philosophical. “We’re all going through this,” she says. “We’ve learned what we can do remotely and we’re better for it.”
Searcy’s ability to meet the moment is grounded in her clear-eyed vision of the past, present, and future. Acknowledging that she received important leadership lessons from her father, the CFO of a college, Searcy says that he taught her the importance of taking responsibility. “Being accountable and being truthful is important both when things go well and when they don’t,” she says. “Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with people who were excellent leadership examples and mentors.”
Reflecting on her career arc, Searcy says, “I’ve made wonderful friendships thanks to this profession and NAMSS.” Noting that medical staff services is a fascinating profession, and one that she would highly recommend, she circles back to the beginning, when she had to grab the reins at an Arkansas hospital and hang on for the wild ride that ensued. “It keeps us engaged and keeps us learning,” she says. “And what we do is important in making patients safe.”