HOLLAND — Every morning — even before she has her coffee or her morning jog — Judeth Newham asks herself, what does the organization need today? If the answer is “me,” the day proceeds.
This question and its answer are what have kept the president and CEO of Holland Community Hospital in her job for the last 10 years. “The saddest thing is when the leadership needs of the organization change but the leadership doesn’t. So I always try to stay very close to who I am, what my skills are and what the organization needs,” said Newham.
The fact that the organization took Newham from the vice president of nursing and made her into one of the few women CEOs of a major hospital in the area was no small feat. “It was a very courageous thing for the board to do and I thank them because back then it was not something that usually happened. I didn’t have the background but they saw the potential in me and gave me the chance,” Newham explained.
Growing up in Australia, Newham knew at the time there were only a few acceptable options for women: teaching, nursing or homemaker. She chose the one with more one-on-one contact.
As a nurse in Australia one of her first jobs was on an aboriginal settlement working with children, medicine and nurturing. “This experience was what showed me what my mission and focus in life was,” said Newham. “I new I wanted to care for people and I wanted to have that one-on-one contact with those I was helping.”
Her years of nurturing gave her a non-traditional hospital CEO background, but one that has built a respected community hospital that is able to stand on its own.
“We can provide what the community wants and what it needs. I think that is one of the most important parts to being a health and healing organization,” she added.
When asked about possible mergers and her feelings regarding the recent hospital mergers in Grand Rapids and on the lakeshore, Newham preferred to accentuate the positive.
“I supported the Spectrum merger because I felt it was good for the community, but I think we are fine. We are able to provide what our community needs, including the extra special programs such as preventive methods. This way we are not only treating the effects of an illness or accident but working to prevent it in the first place.
“I feel a merger should be an act that will result in gaining something for both parties. We looked at the idea extensively and in the end decided the only thing we would gain would be pain.”
The welfare of her hospital, employees and patients is something that has always been important to Newham. “Patient experience matters a lot to me. I think it is vital to a hospital to be able to provide the best in all services to its patients and if it can’t then form a partnership where those needs can be met.”
One of Newham’s favorite pastimes in fact is wandering the halls of the hospital and talking to patients. She simply introduces herself as Judy and asks what their story is. “Many patients are a bit taken aback and find this to be an unusual practice, but I am still a nurse at heart and I think it is important to know if you are meeting your patients’ needs,” she said.
Employee support is another aspect Newham prides herself on. She said when the Balanced Budget Act hit, she had to ask her employees to help take some of the hurt. “I couldn’t have asked them if we hadn’t had a relationship. We have a wonderful medical staff, they are loyal and dedicated and that in turn makes us a dedicated, loyal hospital,” Newham stated. “I see good things to come in the future with these 1,400 people behind me.”
While keeping herself loyal and dedicated to the hospital, Newham also works to keep herself dedicated to her family, husband David and son Joelyon; and community involvement she said she is “overly involved” in. However, realizing that life is too short, Newham also has decided to celebrate the fun aspects of life. “I love to run with my husband and I now take time for journaling and other activities. I realized that after 50, or before for that matter, nothing is certain so it is important to make time for the fun things in life.”