healthcare culture

Cultural Evolution at St. Charles Health System

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The vision for St. Charles Health System is “Creating America’s healthiest community, together.”  “The Leader Within” program plays an integral part in forming and supporting a culture that can fulfill this vision, as well as the mission, values, and strategy. 

Leaders at St. Charles Health System believe they have the power to make a life-changing difference for each member of their teams. They have the opportunity to inspire caregivers, family members, colleagues, and patients to greater engagement and well-being. Individually and collectively, leaders can bring hope to the community, beginning with their individual spheres of influence. 

Program Design 

As a learning experience, “The Leader Within” focuses on reflection and dialogue. Participants in the program identify and explore their individual unique talents and core values. The idea is that by looking within and taking ownership of our authentic selves gives participants the perspective and power to lead others in a way that provides stability, creates hope, and promotes meaningful change. 

Offered three times per year, this six-session course meets for three hours each week, with each session building on the one prior. As a part of the course, participants develop a leadership manifesto and craft a leadership story. To support them in the learning process, each participant schedules up to three individual coaching sessions with the facilitator. 


To maximize participation and dialogue, cohorts are limited to 16 learners. Participants are nominated by senior leaders who select individuals they consider high-potential leaders. Because one of the goals is to provide participants a way to expand their network across the St. Charles Health System, program managers strive to have representation from each level of leadership, as well as representatives from various locations. To date, more than 250 individuals have graduated from the program in the last three years. 

Learn More 

To learn more about the program design, check out this video of graduates describing their experience of “The Leader Within” program.   

In addition, The Community Express: Healthcare Fast Track  at the ATD 2016 International Conference & Expo will offer a taste of “The Leader Within” program. You can join me and other panelists to learn more about leadership trends in healthcare.   

Finally, if you’re interested in hearing more about the cultural formation process at St. Charles Health System, join me for the ATD 2016 session, “Spark Their Hearts: A Road Map to Reigniting Your Culture.”

About the Author
Nancy Pennell is vice president and chief learning officer for St. Charles Health System in Central Oregon. She has a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and has spent nearly two decades in healthcare directing operations for managed hospitals, heading organizational development for a system of over 30,000 employees, and serving as a senior healthcare consultant for Gallup. She has also worked in corporate planning and sales management for two Fortune 500 corporations, senior management for several smaller businesses and operated two businesses of her own.
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