There is so much to be learned from our fellow HR professionals. This month, I decided to interview an amazing Human Resources Director, Wendy Edelson RN, MA from Meridian Health in southern New Jersey. After 40+ years of working in the Healthcare industry, Wendy has decided to (semi) retire this month. Meridian Health has more than 12,000 team members and has achieved Magnet designation, Fortune 100 status and "Best Places to Work in NJ" distinction.
I'm glad I had the opportunity to catch up with her on a sunny day in December to discuss the evolution of her career and her perspective on today's healthcare recruitment arena.
Tell me a little bit about your healthcare background.
"Well, I started out as a bedside nurse in a small community hospital in NJ. Although I absolutely loved my job, the desire to utilize my leadership skills was a constant pull. The RNs at the hospital were unionized and ultimately, I was elected to be the Union President (HPAE part of the AFT). When Meridian began to merge with other hospitals, the Vice President of Human Resources, asked me if I was interested in joining his team as the Director of Labor and Employee Relations. Eventually, recruitment was added to my responsibilities. We really worked hard to blend the different hospital cultures and were successful in creating a new Meridian culture, all based on the strength of our team members."
That's an amazing career progression. How did you switch from the labor side to management?
"Really, it wasn't that hard. I believe that if you stay focused on treating people fairly and consistently and always with respect it's not that hard to do the right thing. Because I worked with both sides, labor and management, I was viewed as a credible resource. I have always been fortunate to be invited to coach people including management and hourly team members. Understanding the whole person as well as generational differences always helped me stay focused on fair outcomes. Appreciating the individual as a team member, parent, son or daughter, student etc. is essential to enhancing an effective work culture or as we call it, 'The Meridian Way'".
What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare recruiters today?
"Two things: Finding the time to get out from behind their desk to walk the halls of the hospitals, talk to hiring managers and to new hires in order to get a pulse on the environment. Secondly, recruiters shifting their role from processors to functioning like an independent recruitment agency. Recruiters need strong communication and marketing skills and of course, they need to understand the business and how important they are to impacting patient care."
What's your favorite interview question?
"What would your previous boss say about you?"
What's your best career advice?
"Follow what makes you happy. It's simple but true!"
What's your "secret" sourcing strategy?
"Again two things: find a talented sourcing partner like TMP! TMP has always kept me ahead of the curve. In healthcare recruitment, you need a strategic partner who will always keep you informed and who has their finger on the pulse of recruitment—both locally and nationally; of course that is TMP. Also, not so much of a secret- but employee referrals are always the best!"
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing healthcare today?
"No doubt about it: it's quality scores like HCap, industry wide shortages and definitely emerging gaps in the pool of leadership talent."
Do you have any last words on your healthcare career?
"I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to positively impact not only Meridian Health but also individual team members. For example, tonight I am going to the pinning ceremony of a graduating RN who started here as a physical therapy aide. I remember advising him that he would make a terrific nurse and a few years later, it's a reality. That is where my satisfaction comes from. The good thing is that all of us in recruitment and HR can make that kind of difference each and every day! It's pretty terrific!"