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Meet Karen Miller, Chief Quality Officer and Data-Driven Decision Maker

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Karen Miller joined Aurora BayCare Medical Center in 2001 as a hospital supervisor. At the time her children were still young, so she was committed to only working part-time. Working at the hospital was a great opportunity for her to start someplace fresh, as her family had just moved to the area. As fulfilling as staying home and raising her two children was, in 2006 Karen was given the opportunity to lead BayCare Clinic’s quality department.

Driving Quality Improvement in Healthcare

Despite her hesitations to get back into the workforce full-time, Karen eagerly signed on after meeting with the then Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Paul Summerside. She quickly realized that for the quality team to thrive, she'd need to expand it.

Now her team stands strong with nine members, which isn’t very common for health care clinics. The investment in this department has been a real hallmark of BayCare Clinic's commitment to quality.

“The federal and state governments have a lot of regulations that govern the hospital and that hospitals are required to comply with,” Karen said. “There are very few regulations affecting clinics. And so subsequently, a lot of physician practices don't have a quality department. They defer all their quality stuff to the hospital and don't really look at how they could improve things better in the clinic setting.”

Karen’s role as Chief Quality Officer at BayCare Clinic is multifaceted, involving troubleshooting clinic problems; overseeing quality improvement projects; and creating a culture of safety, continuous learning and improvement among healthcare providers and staff.

Under Karen’s direction, BayCare Clinic’s quality department prioritizes using patient feedback and data to drive decision making while implementing quality improvement initiatives. This results in better physician engagement and collaboration, along with positive outcomes for the clinic.

Karen’s philosophy of managing quality in a healthcare setting is rooted in her belief that most people who go into healthcare, from front desk staff to physicians, do so because they care about people.

“They certainly suffer burnout, but they originally went into this field because they’re people who care about other people," Karen said.

Based on the data she’s collected throughout her career, Karen knows that helping staff members find a solution to improving quality makes life easier for them and positively impacts patient experiences within BayCare Clinic.

Changing Lives Beyond Her Workplace

Beyond her professional endeavors, Karen’s involvement in community organizations reflects her commitment to making a difference in her community. She currently serves on the board of the NEW Community Shelter and runs a special needs choir and game night group called The Shining Stars in De Pere. Karen recounts one memorable game night for a girl who loved to play Uno.

“We played Uno and she had a lot of difficulty recognizing six from nine, but we just ignored it. You could put a six on a nine. You could put a nine on a six, whatever you wanted it to be. And she won. And she was truly just the most ecstatic person because she said she'd never won at Uno before that,” Karen said.

Breaking Barriers and Finding Balance

As a woman in healthcare leadership, Karen acknowledges the struggles and challenges presented to women. Although the glass ceiling certainly still exists, Karen’s leadership journey at BayCare Clinic has proven that women can bring just as much value to the executive boardroom as men.

“I think the proof is in the pudding. For the size of the executive team that we have, almost half of us are women,” she said.

Karen’s story, among many others, underscores the resilience and adaptability required of women in healthcare who often juggle demanding work schedules with traditional familial obligations.

From breaking barriers and glass ceilings to balancing her work and home life, she realized you can’t have everything. Her journey points out the integral contributions women have made in the healthcare industry and the importance of creating supportive environments that enable women to thrive personally and professionally.

"We have to start thinking outside the box and offering more flexibility, allowing more women to balance the joys of family with the pride that comes with fulfilling employment,” Karen said. 

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2024