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Faces of Leadership

Andy Cochrane

In college, Andy Cochrane initially planned to pursue a career in TV and radio, but he wound up majoring in marketing and communications at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. It led him to various jobs in sales and advertising, but, “I just didn’t feel like it was my calling,” he says.

When he realized that he wanted to do something more service-oriented, Cochrane went back to school for a master’s of science degree in healthcare administration, which he felt was “a good blend of business and service to others.” In the two decades since, he’s never looked back. Today, Cochrane is in his third year at the state-of-the-art Maple Grove Hospital, which was Minnesota's first new hospital in nearly 10 years when it opened in December of 2009, according to Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Maple Grove Hospital, which is jointly owned by North Memorial Health Care in Robbinsdale and Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis, specializes in delivering babies and emergency room services. Cochrane arrived in Maple Grove from Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in Houston, Texas, which, during his two-year tenure as CEO, went from 68 beds to 119.

Cochrane, an Illinois native whose resume includes top positions in various hospitals in Texas and Virginia, was attracted to the Maple Grove post in part for the opportunity to "define a culture and hire people into that culture with similar views, with the belief that it drives excellence in patient care."

It's About Relationships

The hospital’s culture is characterized by its relationships to patients and their families and between people within the organization. “Usual attractions like the birth center and new, nice rooms only get you so far,” he says, adding, “When people come back and ask for the same nurses because they’ve developed relationships with them, it starts being more about that.”  

It also goes for the hospital internally. There’s an understanding that everyone, no matter his or her title, is important. To convey that message, he says, it's important to engage employees, physicians, and volunteers when making decisions or implementing new policies.

Be Present

Leaders also need to be on hand in person, says Cochrane. “You can’t do it through emails and memos. It’s about being accessible, being visible and being approachable,” he says, adding that the hospital’s leadership team puts forth an effort to make the rounds around the building at least a couple of times a week.   

“People want to work in a place where they know who the leadership is and can talk to [him or her] about issues and be listened to,” he says.

On the flip side, many of the hospital’s new employees have been patients or a visitors at the hospital at one point or another. “There’s no better marketing for a hospital than someone who can experience it and wants to be a part of it,” he says.

Expansion Is the "Easy" Part

Despite tough economic conditions, the hospital has continued to grow, and it's in the only market in Minnesota that's in a position to do so, he says. Already the community hospital has increased from 180 employees to 620, according to hospital information.

Further, it's adding another floor that will be completed by the end of the year. The project, which has a $20 million price tag, includes more beds for adult medical/surgical patients, a bigger nursery, additional labor and delivery rooms, and an operating room, according to Cochrane.   

"The move is unusual in this market. Other hospitals have undertaken expansions, but generally not added licensed beds," according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. It's happening a couple of years earlier than it was originally planned because “We want to be sure we’re staying in front of the demand,” says Cochrane.

The easy part is lining up equipment, furniture and technology, he adds. “Keeping a commitment to hiring the right people is tougher." Although it’s more time-consuming, “I think we’ve done a really good job of staying on top of that,” and the hospital has gained a reputation as a “a place that provides great care."

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

However, no matter what, “There’s never enough time to make sure that you’ve done everything you wanted to before you open the door,” he says, adding,  “It becomes a great exercise in prioritization, making sure the important things are done.”

Cooperation Added to Competition

Cochrane says that working in healthcare in Minnesota has its advantages. It's a progressive healthcare scene. “The focus is on excellent patient care and partnerships with providers,” he says, adding, “There are other markets where that’s not the case.”

For example, it’s a different atmosphere in Texas, which he describes as competitive. “It’s competitive here too, but people are willing to look for ways to work together to avoid duplication and other things that make healthcare expensive.”  As a testimony to that, the state’s healthcare costs are among the lowest nationwide, and the quality is high. “It’s a tribute to the providers in the state and how they approach their work every day.”

At Maple Grove and elsewhere, “We’re a part of a lot of people’s lives,” he says, adding, “The ability to influence and work with people who do that right beside the bedside every day is very fulfilling.”

Anna Pratt is Development Editor of The Line
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