As high-powered leaders at Geisinger Health System, one of the nation’s largest health service organizations, Gloria Gerrity ’06 MBA and Kim Bloom-Duffy ’00 BSN and ’12 MSN/MBA strive to provide the best health care in the region every day.
Gerrity is vice president of Geisinger Women’s and Children’s Institute and Bloom-Duffy is associate vice president of nursing. Geisinger serves more than 3 million residents in 45 counties of Pennsylvania, making the scope and responsibility of Gerrity and Bloom-Duffy’s roles vast.
Gerrity administers all programs in Women’s and Children’s Institute service lines, is responsible for day-to-day operations and strategy, and manages two associate vice presidents. She also manages 125 general and specialty pediatricians and a net revenue budget of more than $40 million. Bloom-Duffy is responsible for the adult, pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, two pediatric medical-surgical units, and the Childbirth Center. Five nursing operations managers report directly to her and 500 individuals work within the inpatient units that she oversees.
“Gloria manages the business concepts of the service lines and my role is nursing operations in those inpatient settings,” Bloom-Duffy says. “Our roles are very collaborative and interconnected.”
For both women, communication, business acumen and leadership — skills they developed in Bloomsburg’s MBA program — are essential in their roles and help them lead with courage and confidence.
When Gerrity took her first job at Geisinger in 1981, she was unsure if working in health care was her long-term goal. As she moved her way up the ranks, Gerrity started to love what she was doing. Thirty-six years later, Gerrity is not only still at Geisinger, she has developed into an influential health care leader who has a passion and purpose: to provide first-rate health care from clinical and patient-experience standpoints.
“As a healthcare administrator, you have to be on top of your game. You’re constantly navigating regulatory changes, improving process flow, figuring out how to provide care with limited resources, and thinking of cost reduction, but you can’t forget about providing value and a good service experience for patients,” Gerrity says. “Particularly in pediatrics, you see families at their worst times. We have to think about what we need to do to relieve the pain they are dealing with. When you do that well, your career is forever altered. I just got a letter from a family about how wonderful their experience was and I feel like I helped to create that.”
Gerrity’s typical 12-hour days are filled with meetings, answering email, managing projects and visiting the different Geisinger locations to make sure operations are running effectively.
“Every day looks a little bit different,” says Gerrity, originally from Northumberland and now living in Elysburg. “During budget season, I’m busy finalizing numbers. Other days, I am recruiting and interviewing providers, interacting with the physicians and physician leaders and also visiting with families and making sure patients and families are satisfied with their experience.”
Gerrity’s philosophy is simple — she leads by example.
“I need to always be a positive influence and action-oriented. I set the vision, goals and work through people on my team to execute those goals,” says Gerrity. She describes herself as a “servant leader” —someone who puts the needs of others first and helps people perform as highly as possible. “On a daily basis, I rely on my philosophy to set the tone for everything that needs to happen.”
Though Gerrity was already in a high-level role when she entered the Bloomsburg MBA program, she credits the experience with giving her the courage and confidence to put her leadership philosophy into action.
“The MBA honed my communication skills and sharpened my finance skills. In my classes, I got feedback from my teammates and took that feedback very seriously,” says Gerrity, who also has a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Maryland. “I grew as a manager and businessperson by understanding my work in detail and gaining a big-picture perspective that helped me tie everything together.”
One of Gerrity’s first MBA classes was with Darrin Kass, program coordinator and professor of management. “He was inspiring. I loved the way he taught. It was so relatable to what I was doing on a day-to-day basis,” Gerrity says. “He was one of the first professors I had where I thought, ‘this is the right program for me.’”
A watershed moment for Gerrity came at the end of her program in her capstone class with Joan Benek-Rivera, a now-retired professor of management. The class was required to complete a high-ropes course in order to pass. Gerrity is terrified of heights.
“We had to go through these high ropes and go down into this ravine. I was dead-last in the class, but I made myself do it and it was so rewarding afterward,” Gerrity says. “The ropes course gave me a new perspective and showed me that you really have to be grounded to be a leader.”
Gerrity remains involved with Bloomsburg as a member of the Zeigler College of Business advisory board and hopes to one day teach at the university. Her husband, Francis, is a 1977 Bloomsburg graduate and her youngest daughter, Jordan, graduated in 2013 with a criminal justice degree. “We are a family that sees the value that the university brings to the community,” she says.
Kim Bloom-Duffy doesn’t lead from a desk.
Though she’s in an executive level position as an associate vice president of nursing, Bloom-Duffy doesn’t spend her days in an office. It’s not uncommon to see her in the inpatient units wearing a Geisinger registered nurse uniform.
“I’m very proud to don a uniform of a registered nurse,” Bloom-Duffy says. “I take any opportunity to get visibility in my units, talking with the staff, talking with the patients.”
For Bloom-Duffy, there is no typical day. Each one is different and often involves spending time speaking with patients, staff and operations managers to make sure all nursing operations are at their best.
When it comes to having meetings with her direct reports, they don’t go to Bloom-Duffy’s office, she goes to them. “I feel this is important from a servant-leadership perspective,” says Bloom-Duffy, originally from Mount Carmel and now living in Riverside.
Bloom-Duffy’s leadership philosophy evolved from her own ideas of what she would want in a leader. As she journeyed through her rise to leadership over the last 17 years, she thought to herself, “How can I look different? How can I be more visible to my teams?”
She is also willing to spring into action on the floor when needed. “I’m still a nurse and I could always be an extra set of hands,” she says. “If a patient needs to be transported, or if a nurse needs help, I have no problem jumping in.”
When Bloom-Duffy first considered pursuing the dual MSN/MBA, Gerrity was one of the first people she consulted. Bloom-Duffy was then a team coordinator of nursing at the children’s hospital. Gerrity was the vice president of the Pediatric Service Line and had completed her MBA at Bloomsburg several years earlier.
“Kim was a leader from the beginning. She’s my go-to nursing person,” Gerrity says. “I’m a unique person because I don’t have a clinical background. To have a nursing background with a business background is really the best scenario for leadership roles, so I encouraged her to do the dual program.”
In her first MBA class, Organizational Behavior with Kass, Bloom-Duffy experienced many lightbulb moments. “Many of the foundations being taught aligned with my work as an assistant manager. I could use the academic principles to guide me in how I was going to practice as a leader,” she says. “When I was promoted to an operations manager position, the academic background really came into play.”
The MSN part of the program came naturally to Bloom-Duffy, but the MBA program challenged her in rewarding ways. It allowed her to “connect the dots” and to prepare to lead an organization.
Bloom-Duffy’s life experiences also played a significant role in strengthening her character. When she started the program in 2008, she had just lost her uncle to throat cancer. In 2009, both of her parents were diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Then Bloom-Duffy was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was also juggling a promotion at work and taking care of her 2-year-old son, Cole (now 10).
“I was fortunate that I was able to have a hysterectomy at a young age and I didn’t need any further treatment. My parents also ended up doing well,” Bloom-Duffy says. “When I look back at all that was going on, it’s amazing that I was able to complete my degree. The support of my family and my Geisinger and Bloomsburg families is what got me through.”
“Now I have two hats: I am a nurse by heart, but also have the business hat, because believe it or not, healthcare is a business. We have to think of the financial responsibility. We have to keep that happy balance between keeping our patients happy and having the right individuals at the bedside and in the boardroom,” Bloom-Duffy says. “The decisions made at my level truly affect the patients and the staff at the frontline. People always ask me if I miss taking care of patients, and I always tell them that I absolutely miss it; however, I know that I have the patient at the forefront of my decision-making every single moment of the day.” •
Susan Field ’11/’12M is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.