Representing Healthcare in Corporate Boards — Karen Walker Johnson

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A change catalyst and innovative problem solver, Karen Walker Johnson is a compassionate healthcare executive. Her background includes leadership roles in hospital administration, health plan operations, and Medicare, Medicaid, and those requiring long-term care. Karen is an advocate for identifying and acknowledging the growing need for behavioral and mental health in organizations.

We are in discussion with Karen about the importance of representation of healthcare in corporate boards.

Certain demographic groups are more susceptible to deteriorating mental health. Board members, managers, and entry-level employees all face different issues. How should organizations tackle this issue while successfully addressing problems at various levels of seniority?

“Different groups within the workplace may experience varying levels of deteriorating mental health, but there are also many similarities. The fear of financial failures, serious illness and/or death, and the fear of whether “normalcy” will ever return are commonplace. For front line workers who may not have the same resources and safety net, it’s important to provide confidence that leadership is supportive. For managers within the company, they need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their employees, this is a time to truly demonstrate “servant leadership”. This is a philosophy in which the goal of a leader is to serve. Finally, board members being primarily responsible for strategy and fiduciary oversight have even greater accountability and burden during these difficult times. It is important to leverage the full treasure of resources the company has to support leadership and line employees. A recommendation for corporations is to have at least one board member who has healthcare experience and expertise. They will bring not only insight into how to work with the management and human capital area within the company, but will also position themselves for the growing need to address both physical and mental health within their workforce.

“As a healthcare executive myself, with a background as a registered nurse and non-practicing attorney, I would work collaboratively with the board and company leaders to develop comprehensive strategies for the recognition of signs and symptoms of a workforce facing behavioral health. Additionally, I would work to ensure that there are adequate health benefits covering these types of needs and full use of EAP. Finally, I would continually work to ensure that the leaders have the resources to provide tactics and tools to give employees the best opportunity for success.”

It’s interesting to know how you would tackle this issue, Karen.

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