Call it a personal mission statement, a guiding principle, or simply a purpose. Keith Hovey calls it his “why.”
“My ‘why,’ personally and professionally, focuses on helping everyone I encounter live their best possible life. From a professional standpoint, I accomplish that by ensuring access to quality healthcare,” he says.
Keith Hovey serves as the associate general counsel (AGC) at Capital Health, a New Jersey–based healthcare system with two hospitals, a flagship outpatient facility, and a network of primary and specialty practices. But before graduating with a law degree from Seton Hall, the New England native spent years providing bedside care for critically ill patients in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit at Tufts-New England Medical Center. In fact, the Jersey transplant hails from a long line of nurses on his mother’s side. He’s also half of the first father-son duo to graduate from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
As the first new graduate in the demanding cardiothoracic ICU, traditionally reserved for more seasoned nurses, he reviewed and revised outdated policies and instruction manuals. Doing so convinced him that other young nurses could thrive in the demanding clinical environment—provided they had access to evidenced-based educational materials and a robust training program. As a result of Hovey’s work, the nurse manager began hiring additional newer nurses.
This success sparked a culture shift within the organization—but also something within Hovey.
“I realized I could have a greater impact on patient outcomes and quality of care, were I in a position to drive change and influence policy,” Hovey explains. He found that opportunity in the law.
After graduating from Seton Hall’s law school, the Pirate alum first worked in the business litigation department at a large New Jersey–based firm. There, he argued multimillion dollar cases in federal and state trial and appellate courts. His successes earned him inclusion on New Jersey’s list of SuperLawyers and Best Lawyers.
Keith Hovey later moved to a midsize firm and represented healthcare clients and providers, including nurses and physicians (before various licensing boards) and nursing home abuse victims. Years of such work taught Hovey that his dual experience as a nurse and a litigator could help improve delivery and patient outcomes from within a medical organization. From there, he joined Capital Health in 2019, uniting his skills and passions in law and healthcare.
As AGC, Hovey provides legal advice to administration. His nursing background earns him credibility with clinicians and increases his efficacy in drafting policies and contracts, not to mention helping solve problems.
“My time working in the ICU gives me a unique perspective as to how the legal advice I provide has a practical application to the providers responsible for patient care. And it allows me to really understand the impact my advice will have on the patients themselves,” he says.
Hovey’s ’why,’ particularly personal, sits top of mind after living with a chronically ill father. Despite extensive medical ailments before passing at age 57, Hovey’s father obtained a master’s degree in nursing, taught nursing students, served as president of the New England Chapter of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, and even taught martial arts. These accomplishments, however, were only made possible because Hovey’s mother, a highly qualified nurse, provided her husband the necessary care he needed.
Today, Keith Hovey works to ensure others have equal access to such care. “I cannot live out my ‘why’ of helping every human being live the best possible version of themselves like my father did unless I can help them receive the healthcare they need,” he says.
At Capital Health, Hovey started a program designed to change the evaluation process for noncompliant patients by identifying and removing social and economic barriers. Now, embedded social workers work with patients to help them identify the sometime- hidden financial, emotional, and mental challenges they may face. Then, those social workers can help patients access the available community services and additional specialists needed to improve their outcomes.
When not advocating for patients at Capital Health, Hovey champions the voices of patients and his fellow nurses at the Statehouse. He chairs the political action committee for the New Jersey State Nurses Association and works to provide education to nurses about the legal and legislative process, enabling them to advocate for themselves, colleagues, and patients.
“The only time you ever truly fail is when you stop moving forward,” Hovey says—a well-known truth he learned competing in triathlons. While training for Half Ironman races, he recognizes overlap with his work at Capital Health. Both endeavors require a good team, a plan, proper execution, the expectation of the unexpected, and the willingness to seek the input of others.
“I have to rely on and trust in my preparation. No matter how well prepared I feel, I know I’m going to face adversity,” he says. “The goal is to just keep moving forward.”
Keith Hovey’s training program emphasizes the need for athletes to have an evolutionary mindset, to be the best versions of themselves. The AGC brings this same focus to every area of his life. Intellectually, that means getting a master’s in public health. Physically, that means completing another Half Ironman. Professionally, that means helping Capital Health fulfill its mission to improve the health and well-being of the populations it serves.