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CEO Bruce Murphy Talks Recruitment, Expansion of Arkansas Heart Hospital

4 min read

Dr. Bruce Murphy is CEO of Arkansas Heart Hospital, which has about 30 clinics. It opened its $55 million Encore Medical Center in Bryant in 2021, which today houses its Bariatric & Metabolic Institute. Before becoming CEO in 2011, Murphy had a nearly 30-year career as a cardiologist.

Murphy earned a doctorate in biochemical pharmacology in 1980 and his medical degree in 1981 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Your 26th location, in Texarkana, Texas, opened this year. How do you decide it’s time to add a new clinic?

From record-high obesity rates and overuse of alcohol and tobacco to cultural complexities and more, there’s nearly endless capacity to treat cardiovascular disease and the secondary conditions it presents in and around Arkansas. To realize our mission, it’s essential that we reach different communities, even those outside the state, to extend our high-quality care. Our expansion into Texas was done in response to the pent-up demand we identified in the area. We saw a tremendous opportunity to impact the quality of life for the citizens of Texarkana and beyond. This location is another step forward in our mission to transform the health care landscape.

Has Arkansas Heart been able to recruit enough health care workers?

When it comes to building a team that will address the cardiac needs of all Arkansans, enough will never be enough. To answer the call and provide the highest level of cardiology care necessary for all patients, we are rapidly expanding — both in physical spaces and the services we provide — so we’re constantly looking for qualified workers to join our team. As with all health care providers, our greatest challenge is a talent shortage — from food services to nursing and beyond. The health care industry can be trying under the best of circumstances, but add in the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and providers worldwide have experienced years of struggling recruitment efforts. When we recognized these shortages, our executive leadership team evaluated the barriers that keep people from entering or staying in a career in the medical field. Among others, we identified the immense physical strength needed to support patients, plus the emotional and mental effects our work presents. Knowing the long-term effects these can have on our team members, we are expanding our existing employee wellness programs to offer monthly massages, nutritional and exercise support, and spiritual support to team members at each location. In tandem with our other employee benefits, these resources provide a way for team members to care for themselves physically, spiritually and emotionally, because we know that we can’t care for our patients unless we first care for ourselves.

What’s the one thing about heart health you most wish people knew?

You don’t have to wait until you experience a medical emergency to have your heart checked. From our free community pop-up screenings to our suite of clinical imaging and testing, we aim to identify heart disease before it’s too late by providing screenings to relatively asymptomatic people. Coronary and peripheral vascular diseases usually have no symptoms until they enter their terminal phases. We found that screening and education have substantial consequences in rural Arkansas, where a majority of our patients live.

What is the toughest part of your job?

Many have asked me which job is harder — cardiologist or CEO. Being a CEO is undoubtedly a harder job. You don’t know how often I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, thinking about everything that needs to happen to ensure our success. There is no safety net for us to fall back on except our wits and ambition.

What kind of reception has your bariatric center at Encore in Saline County had? Is it living up to expectations?

We are incredibly proud of Encore Medical Center and the successes experienced since its opening in 2021. Most notably, the hospital, home to our Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, was accredited as a Comprehensive Center of Excellence by the Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Accreditation & Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP), a joint Quality Program of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. The MBSAQIP standards, Optimal Resources for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, ensure metabolic and bariatric patients receive multidisciplinary medical care, which improves patient outcomes and long-term success. MBSAQIP-accredited centers offer preoperative and postoperative care designed specifically for patients with obesity. The program continuously reviews surgical data to improve the structure and outcomes expertise necessary to provide safe, efficacious, high-quality care to all metabolic and bariatric patients. We are grateful that this accreditation has recognized our dedication to patient outcomes. We look forward to continuing to care for bariatric patients from across the state and region.

When you recruit a physician, what qualities are you looking for?

When identifying new physicians, we aim to attract young physicians who have high energy, are still teachable and bring new approaches. I want the physicians who were the best in their programs and have been supported and taught by industry leaders. With these physicians on our team, we can continue leading the state in bringing the latest techniques and technologies to our patients.

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