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Randy Barymon Wants Services Delivered to See Five Rivers Thrive

4 min read

Randy Barymon joined St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Center as its new hospital administrator on Dec. 1. He has spent the past 23 years working within the St. Bernards system at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro, beginning as a radiology transporter.

Barymon received his bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State University in 2009, becoming a registered MRI technologist. He then earned a master’s degree in management, strategy and leadership, and a national certification for nurse executives from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. He entered nursing in 2012, advancing to his floor’s nursing director the following year.

St. Bernards began leasing Five Rivers in 2019. How has it changed how Five Rivers operates?

It was a homecoming of sorts. The Olivetan Benedictine Sisters, who oversee St. Bernards, emigrated from Switzerland to Pocahontas in the 1880s. Around the turn of the 20th century, they moved to Jonesboro and started a hospital that continues serving the region today within a larger health care system. When St. Bernards Healthcare stepped in to help Five Rivers, it ensured Randolph County residents would still have needed health care access. The staff here appreciates that history and St. Bernards’ efforts to keep us going. In fact, we had a 100% retention rate when St. Bernards took over.

What challenges has Five Rivers faced amid the pandemic?

Our greatest challenge continues to revolve around staffing. As it did at hospitals across the state, the pandemic forced us to hire travel nurses to supplement care for an influx of patients. We at Five Rivers, however, were accustomed to taking care of our own friends and family, just as we had done for decades. Now, we had travel nurses here who were not as familiar with the community, and we had to adjust to a culture change.

Elsewhere, supply chain disruptions still create bottlenecks for receiving routine health care items. We stockpile where we can, but all too often, we find ourselves in short supply. … Thankfully, PPE availability has grown, thanks in large part to the efforts of domestic manufacturing. Still, securing other basic items like tubing, needles and syringes is a challenge, and nothing goes to waste.

How has St. Bernards worked to face challenges specific to rural hospitals?

COVID-19 has simply exacerbated existing problems. Consequently, our agreement with St. Bernards, finalized in 2019, could not have come at a better time for both parties. Financial stability has challenged hospitals across the country, and rural hospitals have endured the most instability. With financial instability comes a struggle to maintain an exceptional level of quality. St. Bernards’ presence in Randolph County helps shore up the financial side while installing a familiar brand that people trust.

What are the best strategies for retaining health care employees during a pandemic?

Listen to employees. Know their needs. Reassure them they have the proper equipment and PPE to maintain safety. As a clinician myself, I enjoy being in a smaller facility because leadership works alongside staff. I cannot hide in an office, and I want our team to know they can approach me with their concerns, however large or small.

What essential services must a rural hospital be well equipped to provide?

Rural areas lean on access to emergency services. In fact, emergency access is often a key consideration when a person moves to or decides to stay in a rural area. It is a safety net of sorts indicative of a thriving community. Our emergency room has stayed busy since I took this position. These volumes immediately reminded me of the role that rural hospitals play in identifying medical issues and stabilizing people before taking further action.

What are your goals as the new administrator of Five Rivers?

Most importantly, we are promoting our services throughout Randolph County, including senior care, stroke care and our BreakThru Medical Withdrawal Management, which helps stabilize withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, opiates and benzos. Many residents simply do not know how our capabilities have evolved, and I want to focus on service education.

Second, we aim to boost our nursing competency to care for more critically ill patients. There are obvious education, technological and financial components that accompany this goal, but we believe this investment will pay dividends.

Third, we must steward our resources well. Medical equipment remains in short supply while demanding premium prices. Meanwhile, we continue operating within a challenging hiring environment. Proper stewardship will ensure the viability of Five Rivers for decades to come.

Lastly, we will explore new opportunities, charting our course for the next several years. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unchanging reality for the near future. Health care organizations must learn how, where and when to expand. One thing we all know: We cannot stay where we are.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned?

You have to build meaningful and lasting relationships. I always go back to the early part of my career in health care, because I had a key misconception of strong leaders. In my mind, they were stoic, not real people in a sense. That idea was a misstep. Thankfully, through experience and good mentors, I learned how to build relationships while leading. People have to know you are there for them because you care about them. The organization then grows into a thriving and competent community where the members look after each other.

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