Leading St. Anthony’s with a Servant’s Heart
Beverly Bokovitz, CNO, promoted to Office of the President
“When you walk in to a new situation like this, it’s like drinking water from a fire hose.” – Beverly Bokovitz, MSN, RN, Office of the President, St. Anthony’s, St. Louis.
SOUTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY – Beverly Bokovitz’s first day on the job as CNO for St. Anthony’s was in the midst of a blizzard she jokingly refers to as “snow-mageddon.”
“It was brutal; it was wild,” said Bokovitz, MSN, RN. “I really walked into the fire. Actually, it was a great way to come into the organization because I really got to see it under stress. Everyone rose to the occasion beautifully.”
On July 1, Bokovitz added a new post to her plate when she was elevated to St. Anthony’s Office of the President.
“Bev has done a stellar job revitalizing our nursing department,” said St. Anthony’s CEO Michael Rindler. “Her promotion is affirmation of the importance of clinical leaders leading the new St. Anthony’s and recognition of the profound importance of nursing in our future development.”
Bokovitz replaced Jack Mitstifer, MD, who moved into the role of senior advisor. “Jack’s leadership was instrumental in transforming our Emergency Department,” said Rindler, adding that St. Anthony’s would “further benefit from his expertise as we continue to improve our emergency services.”
The first-of-its-kind Office of the President leadership model in St. Louis has four members: Rindler, Bokovitz, CMO David Morton, MD, and Christopher Bowe, MD, president of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. As a team, they operate the 767-bed comprehensive healthcare complex, Level Two trauma center and four urgent care clinics to serve residents in nine Missouri and Illinois counties centered on St. Louis.
“The biggest challenge in the first six months, as in any new role, was getting to know everyone,” she said. “When you come into a new role like this, you want to be there for everyone. I’m a people person. My challenge was finding time to meet everyone’s needs and develop relationships.”
Bokovitz tempered the high adrenaline rush of the challenge by practicing patience.
“It takes a little bit of time,” she said. “You have to step back a little bit. But when you walk in to a new situation like this, it’s like drinking water from a fire hose.”
Rising to the Top
Bokovitz didn’t take the traditional path to healthcare executive. In fact, growing up, she dreamed of being a broadcaster. Bypassing college to get married and start a family, she didn’t consider a nursing career until she worked as a nurse’s assistant when her children were very young.
“I fell in love with the profession and pursued a nursing degree to be an RN,” she said.
Bokovitz didn’t consider medical school because “I didn’t see it as anything I necessarily had a draw for,” she said. “Nursing touched my heart. I really love taking care of patients. Then once I got into management and leadership, I loved that, too.”
Her first job was cardiac nurse at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Soon after joining, clinic administrators noticed leadership traits in Bokovitz that she didn’t even notice.
“It was pointed out to me to consider becoming an assistant nurse manager,” she said. “I’ve been very lucky in that every role, I’ve gotten a promotion and been able to take advantage of additional leadership opportunities. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to gravitate to a field where you feel needed and valued. Being a nursing leader and hospital administrator has really worked well for me.”
Bokovitz also focused on education past a nursing degree earned from Cuyahoga Community College. She earned a master’s degree in nursing from Case Western Reserve University as an adult and geriatric nurse practitioner, and is working on her doctorate in nursing leadership from Waynesburg University, which she anticipates completing by year’s end.
A valuable in-between post to facilitate well-rounded skills as a C-suite leader, she served as COO/CNO of Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Ohio.
“I really enjoyed the COO role,” she said. “There was a challenge to it, and I like challenges. I worked with all departments, including IT, human resources, security, and a whole range of hospital operations. The role was invaluable to my growth. As a result, I’m more strategic with a better global view.”
Immediately before joining St. Anthony’s, Bokovitz served as senior vice president and CNO from 2007 to 2013 for the Akron General Health System in Akron, Ohio. Under her leadership, Akron General’s nursing division earned Magnet Status in 2013 from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
In mid-spring, St. Anthony’s rolled out the American Nurses Association-sponsored DAISY Award Program to reward and celebrate the extraordinary clinical skills and compassionate care given by nurses.
“We thought we might have two or three nominations,” said Bokovitz. “We had 78! I was floored! Patients want to talk about the people who provide such good care. The letters were so heartfelt; it was amazing.”
DAISY winner Allyson Anderson received this nomination from a patient: “Allyson listened to everything I said and never left me in pain. She had an awesome bedside manner and calmed me down when the pain or anxiety was too much. She was also great with my husband and children, and gave the children games to occupy themselves while she took care of me. My children wanted to stay with her! Seriously, she deserves a lot of recognition and did an amazing job! In every aspect, she always had time for the patient – me!”
Bokovitz also championed the hospital’s successful hand hygiene program with a high priority on improving quality and reducing the risk of passing on infections to patients.
For the fiscal year beginning July 1, the leadership team is focusing on integration into the Office of the President, along with strategic goals that involve focusing resources on cardiovascular and other services lines, managing costs, and maximizing revenue.
“My passion has always been meeting the needs of the community,” she said. “We’re responding right now to family-centered group feedback related to issues from education to presence in the community, to hospital direction and room for improvement. It’s going to be a great year.”