“My heart swells with gratitude for what Capella has done for me. I’m so proud to be a Capella graduate.”
Elisabeth Klar, CPLP, PhD, earned a PhD in Organization & Management from Capella University in 2013. She’s currently the director of talent management at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, and serves on Capella’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences Advisory Board. The board is comprised of health care leaders, all of whom have deep experience in nursing and health care. Its mission is to guide the university on curricula and other educational initiatives.
As part of their ongoing conversations for the work on the advisory board, F. Patrick Robinson, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and Jennifer Dixson Hoff, vice president and general manager of the College of Nursing, Health and Behavioral Sciences, talk with Klar about her career, the biggest challenges in health care, and advice for others working in the field.
Q. Why did you pursue a PhD?
A. Well, my dad has a PhD, and he’s always been a mentor to me, encouraging me to get a PhD and get outside my comfort zone. He wanted me to be the best that I could be.
Also, as I moved through my career, I realized I wanted to help organizations become more strategic. I knew that in health care, amid all the ongoing changes, there was a need for strong and thoughtful leadership. And coming from Capella, I really felt like I could be a change agent.
Q. Why did you choose Capella?
A. Capella is student-centric, which meant a lot to me. My education was not just an exploration of theoretical knowledge, but it also focused on outcomes from a practitioner mindset.
As I went to through the curriculum, I gained experiences and connections that would help me in real life. My Capella education provided me with real-life skills that I could apply immediately to my work.
Q. Why did you join the advisory board?
A. Serving on the board is a way to give something back to the university. I’m so grateful for the experience I had at Capella. But there’s also a personal and professional benefit: Interacting with other board members is a learning and growth opportunity for me. I get to connect with brilliant peers in health care who are looking at things in new ways, and I get to shape health care education for a new generation of caregivers who are entering the workforce.
As an employer, I appreciate that Capella has created a board that is immersed in the industry and interested in education that meshes with real-life experience.
Q. What is the focus of your job?
A. I lead talent and workforce strategy for a health care system that employs more than 18,000 people. It’s all about getting the right people in the right roles, equipping them with the right information, and developing them so they can thrive.
We believe in growing talent within the organization. We hope that when people come to work for us, they’re not just taking on a job, they’re taking on a career where they can ultimately make a difference over a span of many years.
Q. What’s the best part of your job?
A. I’ve always been a people person. My favorite part of my job is when I realize I’ve made a difference, even if it’s in the life of just one person. I like it when I can see that they’ve had an opportunity to learn or grow or gain an insight.
I work with a lot of physicians, nurses, and people on the front lines of health care. I like seeing them bring their best selves to work. And I can see how their talents help us serve patients in amazing and unexpected ways.
Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges for the health care workforce?
A. I focus on engagement—the emotional connection to the work. Employee engagement is truly important. There’s a vital correlation between employee engagement and patient satisfaction and quality of care.
But I also worry about burnout. Health care is transforming quickly, so the demands on caregivers are very high. We expect employees to be adaptable and agile, and that requires a lot of change and time, and may lead to stress and burnout. Employees have to take time for themselves—to focus on personal wellness, fitness, and family.
Q. What advice would you offer someone who wants to advance in health care?
A. Be curious. People who succeed in health care want to learn as much as possible about every aspect of health care, not just their particular field. You should also develop your sense of self-awareness. You need to find ways to learn new skills and fill in gaps in your knowledge. Networking is a great way to do this.
I strongly suggest finding a mentor—someone outside your discipline who can listen carefully and offer advice. Use them as a sounding board to figure out what you personally bring to the table, and then leverage those traits as much as possible.
Learn more about Capella’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences Advisory Board.