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Patricia Peña Sam – U.S. Acute Care Solutions

Diverse approach helps USACS meet medical staffing challenges

It was almost 20 years ago that Patricia Peña Sam found herself at a career crossroads while working as a case manager and executive team leader for a social service agency that worked with at-risk youth.

From coordinating education, leadership and volunteer opportunities to helping prepare agency clients for the working world, the job was nothing if not rewarding. Sadly, due to a lack of funding, Peña Sam was laid off in 2004.

Fortunately, she had worked with people at what was then VEP Healthcare Inc. So, she not only landed on her feet with a new job; Peña Sam dove headlong into business administration, credentialing, scheduling, and recruiting emergency medicine physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners for facilities in California.

Peña Sam hasn’t looked back since. Now the vice president of integrated acute care recruiting for U.S. Acute Care Solutions, which acquired VEP in June 2021, she’s leading a team of eight recruiters who provide medical staffing for facilities large and small throughout the U.S.

“I love talking to people, finding the needle in the haystack. I love matching a clinician to the hospital. Some hires I did are still in the same hospital,” Peña Sam says.

Providing the providers

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Canton, Ohio, physician-owned U.S. Acute Care Solutions now serves nearly 9 million patients in more than 500 locations in 38 states. The organization’s physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants offer everything from emergency and inpatient hospital care to telemedicine and post-acute care management.

Its clientele is equally diverse: large providers such as Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago and the Advent Health system in Florida, as well as smaller community health care facilities such as WMHS Advanced Lakeside Medical Care in McHenry, Maryland.

As Peña Sam adds, full-time physicians USACS places also become part owners of the company. She and her team recruit physicians specializing in non-emergency acute care.

“We are the bridge between the practice and the patients,” she says, adding it takes an average of 120 days to recruit and onboard a care provider.

Peña Sam’s recruiters connect with would-be employees by attending medical conferences and visiting residency programs. Not only can USACS offer a wide range of hospitals and facilities to work in; it also looks to match recruits with the right environment for their skills—and in a place they’d want to live.

Recruiters interview a candidate before making a referral to a hospital or health care facility. The candidate will then interview with a facility’s leadership or search committee. If all goes well, USACS will help set up a site visit, and even assist candidates with housing and school searches if they’re relocating and have children.

Diversifying the company

Peña Sam is helping lead USACS’ efforts to diversify its leadership and staff. For example, she helps train USACS’ management using curriculum developed in partnerships with universities and corporations.

In addition, Peña Sam helped create a subcommittee to provide a path for women to have more leadership opportunities. The subcommittee has worked with HR to create a standardized process for publicizing job openings and candidate pools are becoming more diverse because of improved skills and job training. There’s also a new program where the USACS women leaders work with other women who are new to leadership roles.

According to Peña Sam, there’s been tangible progress in diversifying leadership—such as the appointment of Lori Fauvie as chief human resources officer in January and Dr. Jayne Kendall being named chief of clinician engagement in April 2022.

There are also new HR policies such as eight weeks of fully paid leave for new mothers, and four weeks of primary caregiver leave at 50 percent pay and with flexible scheduling. Two weeks of paid parental leave is provided to a father, partner or spouse as well as adoptive or surrogate parents, along with at least three months of flexible scheduling after those leaves.

Success is no accident

Peña Sam says USACS has an advantage when it comes to diversifying the caregivers it provides because of the geographic range of the facilities it serves.

“It can make it easier for women or people of color when they join because there is the chance to relocate,” she says. “In terms of the patient care, diversity can bring connections to patients who have been unused to seeing people like them as physicians.”

Peña Sam likes to say she came to HR and recruiting “purely by accident.” A native of Mexico who moved to California when she was 12, she earned a bachelor’s degree in international and global studies from California State University, East Bay while working as a chiropractic assistant and billing specialist. In 2021, she earned an MBA from St. Mary’s College of California and became a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

In 2002, Peña Sam joined Vallectios C.E.T., where she counseled at-risk youth on life and job skills. She also helped create the agency’s industrial advisory board. That helped bring her into contact with VEP, where she worked from 2004 to 2014 in her first tenure.

Peña Sam briefly left the company from 2014 to 2016 when she became senior recruiter for TeamHealth. She returned to VEP as director of provider and staffing services in February 2016.

When USACS acquired VEP, Peña Sam was promoted to her present role as the company split its divisions into providing emergency and non-emergency staffing solutions.

“I’m someone who likes to come into an organization and see how I can improve what’s there. That’s what happened when I came to USACS,” Peña Sam says. “We’re developing well-trained, high-quality managers who understand the unique needs of the women on their teams.”

View this feature in the Vol. III 2023 Edition here.

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