Tammy Hernley, photo courtesy of Southern Health Partners.
When Tammy Hernley began working with Southern Health Partners 14 years ago, it was as a PRN nurse at a local jail. Correctional nursing was a brand new experience to her, and at first, she admits she felt a little overwhelmed by it. But soon, Hernley realized she’d “finally found a home” for her career — not least of all because of the amount of support that Southern Health Partners has offered her.
“I am very lucky to have found this company and to have had them embrace me the way that they have,” Hernley explains. “From the owners to HR and everyone in between, Southern Health Partners has been my biggest supporter from the very beginning… we genuinely care about all of our employees, because we are one big family.”
Working here has come not only with a culture of support and collaboration, but also with some key advancement opportunities. After becoming a traveling nurse with SHP, Hernley was made a Regional Manager, then Regional Director and, finally, VP of Operations over Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia, the role she’d held for the past five years. They’ve also provided her with tuition reimbursement, making it possible for Hernley to continue her education and pursue her life-long dream of becoming an RN.
“I feel like this company gives me room to grow and succeed which, in my opinion, is why people leave one company for another,” she says. “(But) these things are what Southern Health Partners is built on.”
Recently, Hernley spoke to us about what else has helped her to grow her career without job hopping, and she also shared her No. 1 piece of advice to anyone who’s moving into their first leadership position.
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what were you doing previously?
First of all, let me say that I absolutely love my job and everyone I work with. My job consists of many different tasks, depending on the day and what’s going on. I oversee Southern Health Partners’ facilities in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia. I work hand in hand with regional managers to ensure our facilities are running smoothly, have the required amount of staffing and troubleshooting for any potential problems, and, if any are found, getting these issues corrected.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at your company, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
I started my career with Southern Health Partners almost 14 years ago as a PRN nurse at the local jail where I live. At first, I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed and was not sure correctional nursing was for me. After a few months, I got offered a part-time Medical Team administrative position at a correctional institute but continued to work weekends at my local jail to get full-time status. I loved working at the CI and felt like I had finally found a home.
About a year later, I was offered a travel nursing position covering many states. Although this job kept me away from home a lot, I really learned a lot and got to work with so many different people. I feel like traveling prepared me for my next endeavor with Southern Health Partners as a Regional Manager, where I covered Alabama and Georgia.
Next, I was promoted to Regional Director, then VP of Operations over Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia. I have been in this role for about five years now, and I feel like I am one of the luckiest nurses in the world to have been given the extraordinary opportunities that Southern Health Partners has given me. I have and continue to work with some of the finest, most dedicated, hardest working nurses and ancillary staff. These people make me look good, but they also inspire me to work hard for them in return.
What were your initial thoughts when you learned you were moving into a leadership role?
If I am honest, I would have to say that I was very humbled and excited, but scared to death, too. I knew I was capable because I had a great team of leaders who took interest in me and allowed me to learn and grow from them. I felt like I would be setting the stage for other LPNs moving up the ranks behind me, as I was the first to be offered this incredible opportunity. I absolutely had to succeed — not only for myself, but for them as well.
How has your day-to-day work changed since you went into leadership at Southern Health Partners, Inc.? What about your overall approach to work?
My day-to-day work has definitely changed since working in a leadership role. I would say the biggest change would be that I am not as involved in patient care as I once was. As for my overall approach, it has changed, as well. Now I work from home a lot, which is great but does require self-discipline. One thing about me, though, is that I don’t expect more than I am willing to give and I think my team knows this. I still love to roll my sleeves up and get to it just like any good nurse would.
Managing people — especially if you’re new to it — is not easy. How has your company helped set you up for success?
Managing is different and does require a totally different approach and mindset. I am a doer, so for me, learning how to delegate and hold people accountable was huge for me. It is very hard sometimes to ask someone to handle something for you, then stand back and allow them to give it their all. But as a manager I must, because I know this is how I help that person grow to become a shining star. I had and continue to have so many good people in my corner, and as I said earlier, I am very lucky to have found this company and to have had them embrace me the way that they have. From the owners to HR and everyone in between, Southern Health Partners has been my biggest supporter from the very beginning. The company believes in searching for and supporting all of its employees, no matter how small the role. Afterall, these individuals are our leaders for the future, and Southern Health Partners embraces this motto.
How is this kind of support reflective of the overall culture at your company?
Southern Health partners has always had an open-door policy for all of its employees. We all work together for the common goal of prudent patient care at an affordable price. But it goes beyond this; we genuinely care about all of our employees, because we are one big family. Who wouldn’t want to work for a company who treats you like family and also allows you to express your views and ideas with respect?
Tell us about your experience as a nurse with SHP. Do you feel safe while you are treating patients? How does it compare to other experiences you've had in nursing?
I love the autonomy of being a nurse with Southern Health Partners. As a nurse working in a correctional facility, it is imperative to maintain your skillset. Southern Health Partners does everything in their power to ensure our nurses are highly trained and able to function in their role by providing training throughout employment.
As I said earlier, I have been employed with Southern Health Partners for almost 14 years, and I can honestly say that I have never felt afraid for my safety. Southern Health Partners does a fabulous job with training so that all employees are aware of the environment they are working in. Most facilities have training that must be completed upon hire as to the jail environment. If the company hears of any situation in which a staff member felt unsafe, this is handled with the jail administration to solve the issue quickly.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to advance your career without job hopping?
I believe that if it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it. I can honestly say I have not once given a serious thought to leaving Southern Health Partners to go work for another company. I feel like this company gives me room to grow and succeed which, in my opinion, is why people leave one company for another. They feel like there is no room for advancement or the opportunity to do something different. These things are what Southern Health Partners is built on.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at your company?
This is an easy question; I stay with Southern Health Partners because the company has stayed with me. I have been afforded the opportunity to grow on so many levels. My bosses have trusted me with so much and I feel like I owe the same in return. I believe if a company is loyal and treats their employees with respect, then most employees will give the same in return.
What is your No. 1 piece of advice for others who are moving into leadership?
Please don’t take yourself too seriously. Prepare yourself for the simple fact that things are going to go wrong, despite your best intentions. You just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn something from this and push forward. Trust yourself and always respect others. I cannot stress this enough. These are keys to success in my opinion.
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