Once a quarter, Patricia “Pat” Campbell pours herself a glass of dry wine and meets with her team for a virtual happy hour. They bring their pets and children to the screen, play trivia games (Campbell says she usually finishes last), and don’t talk about work. “It’s important to try to stay connected,” says Campbell about her staff, which has been working remotely for more than one year.
Hosting virtual get-togethers is one of many adaptations made for Campbell’s team to keep up spirits and maintain camaraderie during this challenging time. “I try to treat my team like an extended family,” she says. Campbell is executive director of employee benefits, HRIS, wellness, work/life EAP and recognition at Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles, one of the largest nonprofit academic medical centers in the US which is consistently ranked as one of America’s Best Hospitals by US News & World Report.
Needless to say, leading several teams of the human resources department of a large, extremely busy medical center during a pandemic isn’t easy, nor will the added workload from the pandemic ease up any time soon. A new COVID-related hurdle is managing remote staff who moved out of state and figuring out how to comply with labor regulations, tax issues, and other employment issues in more than a dozen states. Campbell sits on an out-of-state workers task force in addition to her tremendous workload. And yet, through the stress of it all, Campbell manages to remain keenly attuned to the needs of hospital employees.
“Every day when I wake up, I want to make a difference for our employees by providing what they need for themselves and their family,” Campbell notes.
She adhered to that philosophy even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the industry and the world at large by upturning workplaces. Years ago, she redesigned the company’s wellness program to make it more inclusive. “We actually expanded it so that people could earn incentives if they simply went to the doctor and got a check-up, or did their dental preventive screening, or volunteered,” she explains. Her goal was to encourage people to think more broadly about wellness, especially those who are unable to participate in conventional wellness activities such as joining a weight loss program or participating in fitness challenges.
The result? “People feel like they have more choices on how they can help themselves,” Campbell notes. Additionally, employees followed through on their wellness commitments and earned money toward their Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). “They feel as though they can reduce their stress, we can reduce some of our worker’s comp claims, and it didn’t cost us anything to add those additional pieces in there.”
During the pandemic, Campbell oversaw the implementation of other programs to benefit employees. “We put in some additional pay practice guidelines,” she explains. “If anyone got COVID or a member of their household got COVID, we kept them home. They didn’t have to use sick time; they got paid no matter what.”
“Every day when I wake up, I want to make a difference for our employees by providing what they need for themselves and their family.”
Campbell and her team also designed a “crisis care” program to reimburse expenses for short-term childcare or caregiving assistance. It allows employees to pay a friend, family member, or someone else to tend to an ailing relative or watch children to alleviate some of the burden of juggling work and managing family responsibilities.
In the early months of the pandemic, she helped create the Employee Resource Pool (a redeployment of staff members) and volunteered, ahead of her team, to become a frontline worker. It was important to her, especially during a time of heightened anxiety, to experience the work and allay any fears of volunteering during COVID-19. “I wouldn’t ask anyone on my team to do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself,” she says.
For a month she worked from 5 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday wherever she was most needed. She did temperature checks and handed out masks and hand sanitizers to people entering the medical facility. “It felt good to interact with those who had to come in to do patient care,” Campbell says.
Friendliness comes naturally to Campbell—she’s the kind of person who greets people every morning and chats up strangers in the elevator. Her rapport with people was even the key that opened the door to a career in human resources. She started her path at an insurance company and was hired by an HR firm because “I came across as so customer focused,” she says.
That might be a credit to her Mississippi upbringing where hospitality is embedded in the culture, but it’s also a natural extension of a leader who values coworkers and is a fierce advocate for her team members. “I’m a firm believer in paying people what they are worth and what the market calls for,” she says, “and I fight for them with regard to that.”
In her more than five years at Cedars-Sinai, she’s cultivated a diverse department of more than twenty HR professionals and values the life experiences and different perspectives they bring to the job. “I do believe in hiring the brightest and smartest people I can find, even if they’re smarter than me,” she says. “Many of them have strengths that I don’t have, but it makes for a well-rounded team.”
“This time has shown strength and outside-of-the-box thinking that none of us could have seen coming.”
Campbell’s outside partners can attest to her ability to step into any HR environment and combine the best and brightest to build the perfect team. “When the long time HR team turned over, Pat stepped into a very complex benefit environment,” explains Drew Erra, senior vice president at Aon. “She quickly assessed the most critical issues, built strong internal relationships, and partnered with our team to ensure the benefit programs were being appropriately administered.”
Now Campbell has spent more than three decades in healthcare, and her off-hours are also spent in the same field. She’s on the board of directors of the Osborne Head & Neck Institute—a nonprofit that seeks to improve lives around the world through ear, nose, and throat surgical care, including complex oncology conditions.
That mission sits close to home for Campbell: she’s paying her time forward as a former patient treated by the founder, Dr. Ryan F. Osborne, for salivary stones, a procedure that was made easier because of Osborne’s kindness and compassionate care. Currently, the organization is busy fundraising for a capital campaign to build a new state-of-the-art facility in Los Angeles.
Pulling from her personal experiences as a patient and her philosophy as an HR leader, Campbell has been able to make a difference inside and outside Cedars-Sinai. Between encouraging better health practices and navigating a pandemic, she’s found something that can keep people together amidst any challenge: resiliency. “This time has shown strength and outside-of-the-box thinking that none of us could have seen coming.”
Outside of HR
When Patricia Campbell isn’t flexing her HR muscle inside Cedars-Sinai, she’s expanding a different kind of skill set at home. Campbell grew up on a farm, and to relax, she loves cooking new cuisines and adjusting recipes to include fresh produce and good spices. She also enjoys time with her family and bringing them with her on tours of comedy clubs. She says, “Laughter, to me, is great medicine.”
Aon’s Executive Benefits Practice has spent forty years developing expertise in the design, funding, and administration of benefits for physicians and executives to best meet the unique needs of tax-exempt hospitals and health systems. The tailored enrollment, communication, and administrative services we offer optimize the benefits our clients provide to their key employees, and this is how we set ourselves apart. At Aon, we take pride in our staff, which includes specialists in compliance and human resources, insurance product development and underwriting, healthcare operations, and benefits administration. We work together to deliver the highest quality products and services in the benefits consulting marketplace.
Whether it’s delivering a high-value employee assistance program or responding to a workplace or community crisis, Empathia brings competence, compassion, and commitment to those we serve. We do important work driven by a more important mission–improving lives and helping people. We are proud to support exceptional partners like Patricia Campbell.
Since 1947, Milliman’s expert guidance and technology solutions have empowered clients to protect the health and financial well-being of people everywhere. We engage with clients to enhance healthcare systems, manage emerging risks and advance financial security, so millions of people can live for today and plan for tomorrow with confidence.
TRI-AD delivers a total benefits administration solution. Our hallmark has been the development of long-term relationships with clients and a superior service experience for plan participants. We enjoy collaborating with Pat to help generate better outcomes for Cedar’s employees. TRI-AD congratulates Pat for her accomplishments and wishes her continued success!
Congratulations to Patricia Campbell and Cedars-Sinai for their extraordinary leadership and innovation within the healthcare sector. With a mission to be America’s Retirement Company®, Voya Financial is grateful and proud to be your partner in providing retirement plan solutions that help create a better financial future for all employees.