Home » All Start Local Episodes » Top-Rated Health Care and Well-Supported Staff with Karen Pinsky, MD and Ed Callahan
Top-Rated Health Care and Well-Supported Staff with Karen Pinsky, MD and Ed Callahan

Podcast published: June 14, 2024

We meet with two leaders from Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital to discuss the medical needs of the local community and how the teams providing that care are being supported. Dr. Karen Pinsky, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer at the hospital and a practicing clinician specializing in pediatrics. Her colleague, Ed Callahan, is the Chief of Human Resources at the hospital. We cover everything from addressing health inequity, the challenges following local hospital closures, finding the right medical team, staff retention, and more.


Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital

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Liam Dempsey: Welcome to Start Local, where we talk with business owners, leaders of nonprofits, and other members of our community focused on doing business in and around Chester County, Pennsylvania. Each episode will provide insight into the local business scene, and tell you about opportunities to connect with and support businesses and nonprofits in your local area.

Joe Casabona: The Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce promotes trade, commerce, industry, and sustainable economic development while supporting a diverse and growing marketplace. The chamber is proud to partner with the Start Local podcast to raise the profile of businesses and nonprofits throughout Chester County. Learn more about the chamber at [scccc.com]. That’s [scccc.com].

Erik Gudmundson: I am Erik Gudmundson, and I’m here today with my cohost, Liam Dempsey. Liam, how are you today?

Liam Dempsey: I am doing fantastic, Erik. Really excited for today’s conversation.

Erik Gudmundson: Today’s podcast studio is a little crowded, but I’m happy about that. We have 2 guests with us today, both from Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital. First, I will introduce Doctor Karen Pinsky. Doctor Pinsky is the Chief Medical Officer at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital, Board certified in pediatrics. Doctor Pinsky maintains a clinical practice as well as performs her duties as CMO at Chester County Hospital. Hi, Doctor Pinsky.

Karen Pinsky, MD: Hi. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Liam Dempsey: I am too, and I’m gonna introduce our second guest. It’s doctor Pinsky’s colleague, Ed Callahan. Ed is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Chester County Hospital. He works closely with Doctor Pinsky. Welcome, Ed. Thanks for being here today.

Ed Callahan: Thank you for having me.

Erik Gudmundson: Let’s start big. Southern Chester County and Western Chester County are currently without traditionally convenient access to hospitals due to the closure of a number of such facilities in recent years. Would you please talk about Penn Medicine’s efforts to support those underserved regions of our community? And specifically, how are you handling the influx of new patients in Chester County Hospital?

Karen Pinsky, MD: Sure, Erik. I’d be happy to answer that question. I can speak for Chester County Hospital, as well as Penn Medicine to say that we really were dismayed when those hospitals closed. We consider all of the residents of Chester County as well as the surrounding regions to be our community and our patients. And so when those hospitals closed, it did put quite a burden on Chester County to absorb those patients. We feel very strongly that we want to develop more services and more offerings in those Chester and Southern areas of the county. We had attempted to engage with the Veterans Administration and, reopen some part of Brandywine Hospital. But as it turns out, after they did some geological and land surveys, that area really isn’t suitable to be developed.

So, we’re still looking for opportunities within that community as well as in Southern Chester County to evolve and develop more services. It might be in the form of more of a micro hospital or perhaps a more expanded multi-specialty site, maybe with an urgent care or a few temporary beds. We don’t know what that’s gonna look like, but we do recognize that the community needs more service. 

In terms of absorbing the patients here at Chester County, we really did need to pivot. We had to pivot hard around COVID and then again around the hospital closures. And I think we have done a really nice job. We did, we engage patients here in the hospital and out in the community to try to be more inclusive and just address the needs, more directly of our patients that are coming from further and further away in the county.

Liam Dempsey: Speaking of meeting the needs of folks in the community, health inequity and social drivers of health is becoming a stronger focus, the very least, for the medical community and certainly others beyond that, but particularly in areas like Chester County, which has a significant population of migrant workers and those who live at or below the poverty line, how is Penn Medicine adapting its practices at Chester County Hospital in light of the greater appreciation for health-related social needs?

Karen Pinsky, MD: That’s a great question. And I think if you speak to most of the physicians and the nurses who work here at Chester County, I think that’s one of the things that attracted us to this facility is, the recognition that we live in a very diverse county, and it’s wonderful to see sort of a broad array of patients. 

Nobody really likes as a clinician to sort of see one type of patient and have everybody be the same. So I think we’re really fortunate in that regard. I think we’ve done a lot to address the social drivers of health, but not nearly as much as we need to. We’re starting with basic things, like, things such as just collecting the information, just asking the questions when patients present to us, either in the outpatient setting or in the hospital. Where are your pain points? What is keeping you from living a healthy and productive life? Is it transportation? Is it access to food? Is it social supports? So that’s the one thing that was easy for us to do, which is just start asking the question. 

And then now we’ve got an obligation once we’re asking the question, Wwat services do we have available through our social work department, our case management department, other types of Penn Medicine at home health care to actually reach out and address the needs of the patients and our employees so that they can actually fulfill their promise and lead healthy lives.

Erik Gudmundson: I know I’m biased with a career in technology, but we do enjoy talking about technology on the show. So listening to your answer there, and I’m thinking about how can we stretch resources, how can we stretch the labor that you have, how can we deliver services in better ways, I’m curious how you’re working with AI and the latest new technologies. Can you share just how you’re using AI at our local hospital and how you might be looking to implement AI in the future?

Karen Pinsky, MD: Absolutely. It’s actually a really exciting field and Chester County is dabbling in it, but all of Penn Medicine across the board, much research is happening as well as experimentation and pilot projects.

Here at Chester County, we’re using a couple of opportunities to leverage into artificial intelligence or machine learning. One of them is just in algorithms that help identify patients who are a little bit sicker, who are a little bit more at risk to decompensate. That’s something that we’ve been working on for many years, identifying patients who might be developing sepsis or might be developing particular conditions that we need to intercede on. 

Another place that’s actually quite well developed is using artificial intelligence in interpretation of images. If you speak to any radiologist, they will tell you that their workflow, that their burden, the number of images that they have to read has just increased exponentially. We’re just doing more tests because our tests have become more effective, more interesting, more helpful to diagnosing patients. And so the number of images they have to read is skyrocketing. And because of that, they need the assistance of technology, such as AI or machine learning to help them ascertain which patients’ images need to be looked at more particularly [Inaudible 08:09] a set of human eyes, and which look a 100% normal. 

I’m gonna give you just a really nice example. We’re starting to think about other ways, for example, for EKGs to just say, this one is stone-cold normal and have the machine determine that that’s the case and have the physicians who have expertise focus on the ones that are a little bit off to do that fine-tune nuanced interpretation. So those are just some areas that we’re looking at.

Liam Dempsey: That’s really interesting because I expect that that lightens the burden for your clinicians, your medical professionals. There’s plenty of people with medical issues that if they can let those who are, says the non-doctor, fully healthy or fully healthy with respect to this condition, that might burden their lighten their workload.

And I wanted to get into that. And this might, this might be an Ed question. So, Ed, we’ve been hearing, generally about a lot of burnup, burnout across the medical community in recent years. We’re doing no small part to the pandemic. But we’re wondering, how are how are you, how is Penn Medicine supporting staff across all your departments? We know you’ve got a lot of different departments, some medical, some not. How are you working to support them to reduce burnout and to improve staff retention?

Ed Callahan: Yeah. Thank you for the question. Here at Chester County, we have a couple of specific programs, one being the We Care program, which is a program in which our staff can secure chats, the We Care team, and get a peer to respond to talk through the emotional support that they may need, and then that individual who’s been trained can help make referrals to other services for more long-term support that the individual may need. So anyone at Chester County Hospital has access to that and can reach out to the We Care team. 

So that team, as I mentioned, does referral services, and those referrals are to supports that are available to all Penn Medicine employees, some of which include our employee assistance program, so connecting with live clinicians to either have virtual visits or in-office visits.

We also have programs that are available to all employees to deal with things outside of the workplace. One of them that’s very popular and particularly I think is useful for health care providers is a program called Wealthy, and that allows individuals to reach out and get help with what you would consider case management for either yourself or individuals living in your home, be it a aging parent or a child. 

We have found, you know, as a healthcare professional, you’re giving of yourself all day, so to have to go home and then think about how to do that for the loved ones around you, that can attribute to a lot of the burnout that our healthcare providers experience.

So having programs like Wealthy, having resources like EAP, and other virtual platforms that employees are able to easily connect to, and then also programs like the We Care program where you can reach out to a peer and almost in real-time have that connection, that’s really trying to meet everyone where they’re at depending on the need that they have in that moment.

Erik Gudmundson: That sounds like a key focus of a lot of workplace initiatives of very healthy organizations these days. So that’s exciting to hear. More specifically, though, Ed, I wanted to ask you, what do you think is the hardest part of recruiting and retaining doctors and nurses these days?

Ed Callahan: I think you know, they are mentioned and alluded to it really is that COVID had people look at life in a very different way, through a very different lens. And so we have seen people make career changes, and there is a lot of competition in all industries. And so with that, you know, you’re trying to always find people, both here locally, but also look beyond the local market for talent because people are moving, people are changing jobs, people are thinking through, you know, what they’re going to do next. 

So our biggest challenge is really are trying to make sure that when we bring someone into the organization, that we have them stay for a long period of time. And so we do that in a variety of ways, making sure that we’re talking to employees about why they’re staying. Our long-tenured employees have some of the best advice on why they continue to stay here, and so we garner a lot of ideas from those individuals through what we would call stay interviews.

Gone are the days where exit interviews are the norm because you’re asking an employee when they’re ready to leave an organization what we could have changed to help retain them, but really listening to our employees and trying to understand those who are staying with us for long periods of time for tenure beyond what we would normally see in the industry, is where we try to focus our efforts and then replicating those experiences so that we can retain staff. 

Erik Gudmundson: Doctor Pinsky, as a medical professional, what do you think of Ed’s answer? Are we on track? Is there anything you would add to it?

Karen Pinsky, MD: I think Ed’s spot on. There no doubt that caring for patients well in this day and age means that you’ve got to give of yourself. And sometimes that giving of yourself to your patients, absorbing and being empathetic to their pain or their suffering, their distress, their family’s distress, that takes a lot out of you. 

And I think increasingly, maybe because of COVID, maybe because of societal changes largely, there’s a little less tolerance amongst both our employees and our patients sometimes for what those interactions look like. So it takes an emotional toll. It’s satisfying. It’s gratifying. I don’t think you’re gonna find too many healthcare providers who won’t say and nurses and ancillary staff who won’t say this is a very gratifying profession. That’s a very gratifying experience to take care of patients, but it’s also draining. It’s emotionally draining. And I think we’re really starting to address that, that the depth of how that impacts our physicians in particular, our nurses in particular.

Liam Dempsey: So speaking of hiring, I expect that given the size of at least the hospital staff and the like that you are always hiring. But, what is the best way for folks who might be interested in a career with you? Where should they go to find out more? Where can they find opportunities of what’s available, what you’re looking for?

Ed Callahan: So the best way is to reach us through our careers page, and that website is [pennmedicine.org/careers]. You can search positions by ZIP code, by job title. And once you apply for a position, a recruiter reaches out, talks through what you’re interested in, and then hopefully move on to meeting with a hiring manager. But really, that’s the first step in getting to the careers page, seeing what’s out there, and seeing what might be a good fit for you if you’re interested in joining Chester County Hospital.

Erik Gudmundson: And how do you work with local educational institutions to help create the labor force that you will need tomorrow. I’ve been impressed at hearing stories of some of the local high schools where they do things like they’re actually exposing the students who think they’re interested to, you know, blood. And suddenly like, woah. Woah. Woah. No. I have no desire to be a medical professional whatsoever. Or maybe they wanna go into a different type of medicine that doesn’t involve them coming into such close contact with bodily fluids. But how do you work with local educational institutions on creating that labor force and the workforce of tomorrow?

Ed Callahan: So we’ve always had partnerships with nursing schools, other schools that are providing education for some of the ancillary services like radiology, pharmacy, those sorts of things. But more recently, what we’ve been looking to do is look for some non-traditional routes for the labor force. 

An example is, through Technical College High School, Brandywine campus. We’re meeting with them actually this Friday to talk about potential coop opportunities for some areas like culinary arts, like building trades, like public safety, to really try to find those individuals who may not have thought that a hospital had a career for them, and to bring them into the institution, let them see and and learn from us, and then hopefully stay with us. So those are some of the nontraditional opportunities that we’ve been looking at more recently. 

In addition, you know, outside of actual formal relationships with some of the schools, we’re looking at untapped audiences. So an easy example is our volunteer programs. We have teen volunteers here from the local high schools as well as from some of the universities, and we’re working with volunteer services and others to get in front of those individuals and let them know about the career opportunities that exist here. Because often they’re here for that immersive learning experience and then they’re going on to school and maybe not thinking about returning here. So while they’re a captive audience, we wanna be sure to talk to them about what’s available here for them as a career.

Liam Dempsey: Yeah. I’m really liking what the focus on the skilled labor, the skilled trades, focus that you’re doing. We’re hearing a lot of folks in all sorts of industries realizing the value and the need to make sure that they have professionals to meet those needs. So I’m loving hearing about that outreach. Thanks, Ed. 

I wanna change our focus from what you folks are doing and talk more about patients for a moment. From a patient perspective, does finding the right doctors, the right nurses, right medical care team, does it really make a difference to patient outcomes? It might make us happy, but does it make a medical difference? And if so, what quality should we look for when seeking medical care? I think doctor Pinsky, I’ll probably ask you to start on that if you don’t mind.

Karen Pinsky, MD: Sure. I’d be happy to. There’s a wealth of data, published data that recognizes a couple of things. First of all, I’m going to say this somewhat gratuitously, but, women physicians tend to have better outcomes than men. Not in every case, but in many cases. 

So, I would say, you know, gravitating towards, you know, gender-specific physicians. I’m not saying there aren’t fabulous men who are physicians out there, but it isn’t is a well-published fact. I think more importantly and perhaps maybe a little less globally, I would say it’s really important that your healthcare providers and the team around you, can relate to you. 

And that sort of, you know, that we’ve segued away from employment, really, it speaks, exactly to what Ed’s been trying to do. And I think what we’ve all been trying to endeavor to do, which is develop a workforce that represents and looks and acts and comes from the community that we serve. And so there’s also really great data to suggest that, if a patient who is black goes to see a physician or interacts with a nurse who is black, they’re likely to feel more comfortable, reveal more, in terms of what their needs are and for their health care, and ultimately have a better experience.

So the accountability and the responsibility is on us as providers of healthcare to make sure that we are engaging our community to make sure that our employees,represent them. And so, I would say that’s important. 

Personality is important too. I think, you know, some patients want a physician who’s gonna just tell them the answers. They want a medical team that is just going to drive for them. And others really wanna have a much more participatory experience. More and more, especially with our younger patients, they really want what’s called shared decision-making. They want to sit down, explore the options, and then make the decision really in conjunction with their healthcare team. I like that approach. Some of our older patients really aren’t as comfortable with that approach. They’re more traditional, and they just want the doctor to give them the facts and tell them what to do. But I think the important part of all of this is you need to find a physician and a health care team that suits your own personality, your own needs, and ideally resembles you in some way.

Erik Gudmundson: That’s a deep answer and that it can really be understood, and applied in a few different ways. And I wanna go back to how Liam started it. He was asking about positive outcomes, and I wanted to go on that point and just ask about consistency as well as positive outcomes because we all want positive outcomes, but we also want consistently positive outcomes. I know that’s entirely too much to ask, and that doesn’t come by accident. I’d like to know how you drive towards consistently positive outcomes in your organization and we need to be candid about it. Despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes things in any industry can go wrong. How do you handle mistakes and learn from them when things do not go perfectly well, or at least not perfectly the way that you expected? And I’d like to hear from both of you.

Karen Pinsky, MD: Sure. I’ll jump in, and then I’m really eager to hear Ed’s perspective as well, but certainly the Chester County Hospital and Penn Medicine, globally is focused on becoming what is called a highly reliable organization or HRO. And the models out beyond health care are industries like the nuclear industry or the airline industry, where generally speaking, though they are complex and high risk, they have relatively few errors. And so in health care, we endeavor to be very consistent, very intentional about using standards, using evidence when we treat patients. 

And this is incredibly important. When there is a mistake, when there is something that doesn’t go well, we need to be able to feel comfortable talking about it so we can learn from that mistake. We’ve known over the years that punishment and discipline around true human error does not actually achieve better outcomes. And in fact, worsens outcomes because there isn’t an opportunity to learn from the mistake.

So we’re really growing as an industry and recognizing that the more we talk about where we have failures or opportunities for failure, we wanna catch them before we fail, but opportunities for failure and we recognize those, the better off we’re going to be.

Ed Callahan: Yeah. And just adding to what Doctor Pinsky shared, I think with the high reliability, journey that we’re on from an employee perspective, trying to ensure psychological safety for employees is really important, and that starts with the relationship that they have with their manager. Of course, if that relationship is strong and one that the employee is comfortable with, they’re more likely to come forward when a mistake is made or to bring up a concern that they have that could lead to a potential mistake. So ensuring that those relationships are developed early on and really built upon as the employee stays within that department or within the organization are important. 

And also making sure that we’re looking at not just where we see employees speaking up, but where we don’t see employees speaking up. I think when you think about psychological safety, it’s as much about the incident that you may have in one area as it is about not having incidents in another and really trying to figure out is there psychological safety in that space? And if not, or if it’s not as good as it could be, how do we help develop it or foster it in a different way? Because as Doctor Pinsky mentioned, you know, I I started my career as an EMT almost 20 years ago, and I can remember a number of times where I was afraid to speak up because you were afraid of reprimand, you were afraid of disciplinary action.

And today as an HR team here at Chester County, we’re looking at not necessarily, you know, what we thought the intention was if a mistake is made, but really what led to that mistake? Was it a process issue? Was it a systems issue? If, you know, most people aren’t waking up in the morning coming to work with ill intent, of course, and so really looking at did the process fail, did the system fail, how do we fix that, and how do we ensure that that person feels emboldened to speak up next time if something comes about that they’re not comfortable with or that they have a concern about?

Karen Pinsky, MD: Ed’s answer was far better than mine. Yeah. Great. Great. I like the way you put that.

Liam Dempsey: I think they were both fantastic answers. I was quiet because I was listening. That was, there’s a lot shared there, and I love the focus on simplifying your answers, and honesty to prevent future failure. And I can honesty to prevent future failure. And I can imagine what a challenge that must be to constantly foster. Right? Secrecy likes the darkness, and we constantly have to try to encourage people to embrace the light. And I know almost nothing about your work culture. I’m not trying to paint you in a good light or in a bad light, but it’s a lot of work to build what you’re talking about. So thank you as a patient of the hospital, I love what you’re doing, your commitment to excellence. Thank you.

How has telemedicine impacted Penn Medicine in the healthcare industry in general? It kind of exploded on the scene from a patient perspective during COVID, and I think there’s been a lot of positive from where I sit because it is in some ways, it’s much easier to get to a doctor or to a medical health professional. But I expect there have been some challenges as well. I wonder if you folks can talk us through that. What’s the good and the challenging about it?

Karen Pinsky, MD: I think it has (Sorry to speak over you). I think it has really improved access, and certainly patients who feel comfortable with the technology can make appointments more easily. Don’t have to worry about transportation. There’s definitely some sort of, you know, internet deserts and, connectivity deserts. 

And so we do have populations that aren’t as comfortable with technology and that does pose a challenge. So I would say that’s one of the downsides. But it has certainly improved access. I am a bit old fashioned, and so I think that there are some specialties and disciplines that lend themselves more easily to a telemedicine encounter than others.

The one thing I can say is Penn Medicine uses it fulsomely, particularly for employees to avoid having employees seeking out health care or going to urgent care or emergency departments needlessly. And I don’t, Ed, I don’t know if you wanted to talk about that a little bit, how we have after-hours availability for our employees to seek out telemedicine care.

Ed Callahan: Yeah. As doctor Pinsky mentioned, you know, Penn Medicine On Demand is a service available to our employees. They’re able to connect with, make an appointment, connect with a clinician almost in real-time, and have those needs met, and also for telepsych services. So if an employee, back to some of what we mentioned earlier, is dealing with a behavioral health issue or something related to needing emotional support, they’re able to connect with EAP providers via telemedicine as well, and so I think that’s really important for our employees to help keep them going, of course, make sure that they’re able to to be their best so that they can care for our patients. So trying to make that access easier for them is something that we’re always thinking about.

Karen Pinsky, MD: And in the hospital proper, we do use telemedicine for some of our subspecialty consultations as well. So it has expanded not just access outside the hospital, but even internally, It expands access if we need sort of a particular subspecialist, a genetic counselor who perhaps needs to meet with a family on the inpatient side, or a geneticist for our NICU patients, neurology consultation as well as psychiatry consultation. So rather than having a physician here who might not be leveraged to their fullest, we do have the ability to use telemedicine to provide these subspecialty services for those appropriate disciplines where you can have mostly a verbal interaction.

Erik Gudmundson: My primary care is with Penn Medicine. And during the pandemic lockdowns, I had no choice but to try telemedicine, and I was completely surprised by how well it worked and how smooth and easy it was to get the service and treatment that I needed. So it’s fascinating to think about all the different innovations that are happening, and probably are happening at a quicker pace because of all the pandemic lockdowns that were necessitated there. 

One of the other developments that we’re seeing is that the days of independent community hospitals seem to be over or at least coming to an end, Chester County Hospital has been part of Penn Medicine for some time. How does Penn Medicine differentiate itself from other expanding networks in our regions, such as Mainline Health and ChristianaCare?

Karen Pinsky, MD: I’ll take the first part of the question, and then, obviously interested to hear Ed’s perspective as well.

I would say we are very proud to be part of Penn Medicine and, being a part of Penn Medicine, and we’ve been a part of Penn Medicine for almost 11 years. It’ll be 11 years in September, has been just really an incredibly positive experience, I think for the hospital, but also for the people in the community. I think Penn Medicine distinguishes itself in a couple of ways. It’s a very progressive institution. I think the research base and the fact that we’re constantly the beneficiaries of some of the translational work that’s happening where there’s bench research that’s literally getting applied to therapies that are being offered to patients in the community. 

We’re about to embark on having our cancer center join the larger Penn Medicine Cancer Center. They’ve always been part of it, but we will by making this change, which is really more of a logistical change, allow some of the clinical studies that are done in cancer patients, comparing one group of patients on one therapy to another group of patients on another therapy. We’re gonna be expanding the access of our  oncology, our cancer patients to some more clinical studies. So, I think being part of Penn Medicine really has given it’s opened many, many doors and windows for us to bring sophisticated and very progressive therapy and studies to our patients in this community.

Ed Callahan: Yeah. And as we think about the opportunities for employees, you know, I think one of the most interesting things for me is to see the number of employees who have the ability to move around based on changes in their career or their life circumstances. 

Myself, I started at Princeton Medical Center in Princeton, New Jersey, which is part of Penn Medicine, and then transferred here. But I’ve seen a lot of staff who were in Center City and at some of our downtown institutions. And as life changed and they looked for schools for children that they had and they’ve grown, they’ve been able to move out into suburban areas like Chester County, like Princeton, or Bucks County, and then take their career with Penn Medicine into those areas. And so I think when you look at Christiana when you look at mainline from an employment perspective, that is one major benefit that we have over some of our competitors, in addition to the great culture, like doctor Pinsky mentioned, the innovative research, the many of firsts in, you know, the medical history that has been made in the past and is continuing to be made now.

Liam Dempsey: So I’m gonna throw a tough question at you now, or I think it’s gonna be tough, particularly given the number of local businesses and nonprofit organizations that you and your colleagues at the hospital must work with on a regular basis, what is an area of business or nonprofit that more people should know about? I think I stumped the Merrick.

Erik Gudmundson: Might need to have the Jeopardy theme music. I don’t know if we could get that license for this podcast. 

Karen Pinsky, MD: Exactly.

Liam Dempsey: Could help.

Karen Pinsky, MD: We’ll have to pose our answer in the form of a question. I’m not sure exactly, you know, I do believe that, sorry, I keep circling back to the themes we were already talking about, but I do believe that there are community-based organizations to help the members of our community, whether it’s a food bank, transportation aid, grants or opportunities to have programs and have people tap into those programs. 

I’m not sure that we have a great process right now to make sure that we’re connecting people to those organizations. I can’t tell you which organizations. I can just tell you, I know it’s a resource rich community with a lot of caring, organizations, and I’m not sure we’re connecting our population to those organizations as well as we should. Didn’t really answer your question, but I’m sticking to it.

Erik Gudmundson: No. That’s a fair answer, and I do see that you are doing more outreach to community organizations and to the community in general. And one of the ways that I’ve witnessed that is through the Chester County Community Foundation’s idea council, because you’ve both been active at organization to help amplify the message about all the positive things Penn Medicine is doing for the Chester County community. So we appreciate and thank you for that.

I wanted to ask you about your enormous expansion of the Chester County Hospital building. Tell us what you were looking to accomplish. Did you meet that goal? And what’s next?

Karen Pinsky, MD: Some of that is really easy to answer. Before we built our newest wing, which we called the pavilion, our operating rooms dated from the 1920s. So we opened the building during the very beginning of COVID, that was 2020. And the operating rooms we had been in were a 100 years old. And, it wasn’t quite as bad as those old pictures you see with surgeons without masks and the big amphitheater, but it was close to that. And so we really needed modern, larger rooms, in our operating space. And so our procedural platform is really enviably beautiful at this point. And most surgeons who walk through it, are quite impressed. Just the equipment that one uses during surgery to do, for example, a knee replacement. It’s just expanded. And so having bigger rooms and having better air circulation and some natural light so the patients don’t feel like they’re in a cave, has really helped us in that regard. 

We also wanted bigger and more capacious rooms, so and more places to put patients. Our intent had been to close down some of the older beds and keep some of our patients in the newer beds. And then COVID hit, and we needed to use all of the beds. And then the hospitals in some of the areas around us closed. And, of course, we have not yet closed many of the beds that we had intended to when we built the pavilion. So, those are the 2 things I would mention.

Ed Callahan: Yeah. And I wasn’t here during the expansion, but certainly, I think, you know, from my perspective in HR, it’s always nice to have both the old and the new. There are certainly employees who appreciate the history of an institution like Chester County Hospital, but also love to see, as doctor Pinsky mentioned, the new space in which they can work and deliver the care that they’re coming to provide to our patients.

Karen Pinsky, MD: I will say, however, that now that we are bigger, it is not rare for me to hear generally an elderly couple walking down the hallway saying, oh my goodneess. This place has gotten so big. It takes forever to get from point a to point b. It used to be a small hospital. And so there are some people that bemoan, the fact that we’ve grown so much. And, that’s a good thing and a bad thing. We we wanna be everybody’s hometown hospital and community hospital, but we also wanna make sure that we can deliver the promise of of more contemporary and progressive care. And so hard, to hard to know, but we we do have patients who sometimes are not as happy with the expansion.

Erik Gudmundson: I bet those same patients, while being vocal about the change, are now thrilled they can avoid a drive to Philly and only have to navigate an unfamiliar elevator as opposed to unfamiliar roads, parking garages, traffic, and still receive top notch care from the specialists that they need.

Liam Dempsey: Mhmm. Yeah. So so here’s gonna be our last question. And as I’ve listened to you, doctor Pinsky, and you, Ed, speak today, I’ve been been impressed by a few things about your answers. Is one, you’ve really spent time thinking about this. You really work hard intellectually to achieve positive outcomes, a great workplace, a great local community hospital. And from your tone of voice, and we have video going here, and I can see the the concentration and the smiles on your faces where appropriate, that you’re really passionate about what you’re doing in your day job. So I wanna ask you both of the same question, but I’ll ask you to answer it differently. And, Ed, I’ll ask you to go first because you’ve gone second on every time. So I’m gonna ask you to go first this time. What’s the best thing for you about working in health care? What about it inspires you to keep working and as you’ve talked about, keep improving and keep giving of yourself?

Ed Callahan: I think for me, it’s really about making that connection with people and watching people get better. And from my perspective in HR, as I said earlier, I started out as an EMT. I’ve been in health care all of my life. When I was a provider, it was about making sure that patients were taken care of and making sure that they got the care that they needed in the right setting at the right time, and then hearing about the outcomes that they had because I was part of a small community where we knew everybody, and so that was meaningful to me. 

And as I’ve transitioned into an administrative role and in HR, it’s really about helping other people do that. It’s about seeing new nurses. It’s about seeing, you know, the person who’s having a career change come in and realize they can make a difference in somebody’s life. We’re asked to care for people at really vulnerable times in their life, and that’s a special thing. And to watch people step into that space and do it with empathy and do it with love and come out of it better for providing that care, that’s what keeps me going.

Liam Dempsey: And doctor Pinsky?

Karen Pinsky, MD: I honestly cannot imagine doing anything else. I know there are some days that are hard, but waking up every morning knowing that I get to come here to go to work, I know it sounds really Pollyanna ish and somewhat ridiculous, but I honestly, it’s just an honor. It’s, I feel really privileged to come here and know that everything that I’m doing is focused largely on making this place as good as it can be for the patients in our community. It’s not easy work, and it’s, I would say, getting increasingly more difficult for myriad reasons. But you don’t, all you need is one patient to say thank you or in my case as a pediatrician, you know, one child to look better tomorrow than they did today. And it makes all the difference in the world. So I truly, if I had it to do all over again, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Liam Dempsey: Doctor Karen Pinsky, Chief Medical Officer, and Ed Callahan, Chief Human Resources Officer, both at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital, thank you both for your time today. Really, really appreciate it. 

I’ll ask you both to share where our folks can learn more about you and your practice or hospital. And doctor Pinsky, I’ll start with you. Where’s the best place to learn about your practice?

Karen Pinsky, MD: Well, right now, I practice at the Chester County Hospital as a pediatric hospital. So I would say just going to our Penn Medicine Chester County website, and there’s plenty of opportunity for them to learn everything they need to know about me and about this hospital.

Erik Gudmundson: Thank you very much, both of you, for your time today. We really appreciate you and and all the, everything you do for the community and, of course, all the answers you gave us today. Ed, how about you? Where can we find more information about you and, what you do at the hospital?

Ed Callahan: As Doctor Pinsky mentioned, the best places to learn about HR and what we do here is [pennmedicine.org/careers] to learn about our opportunities and also what the HR team is doing both here at Chester County and at other hospital entities throughout the system.

Liam Dempsey: And thanks to our listeners for tuning in today. We really appreciate your time and attention. We appreciate you being a big part of our Start Local community.

As a reminder, we’ll include show notes and links to everything we talked about over on our website at [startlocal.co]. That’s [startlocal.co]. We publish a new episode every fortnight, and you can catch our show wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. You can even tell your smart speaker to play the Start Local podcast. 

Thanks everybody for listening.

That’s it for us for now. Goodbye.

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