Having grown up in rural Ohio, Susan Ball remembers how parents advised her that if she went into nursing, she would always have a job. They both served on hospital boards, and as she became aware of the healthcare profession, she embraced the opportunity. Nurses, she thought, were simply angels.
“It was one of those professions I always looked up to,” she recalls. “They were just the best people, who cared for others and made them feel better.”
Ball currently serves as executive vice president, chief administrative officer, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Cross Country Healthcare, a healthcare staffing and technology-enabled talent acquisition agency based in Boca Raton, Florida. However, if not for her nursing career, she might have missed her opportunity to go to law school. Ball was providing home care for a patient in recovery from open-heart surgery, when he asked her what she would do if she could do anything. Go to law school, she replied, but she couldn’t afford it.
“He said, ‘If you can get into law school in New York, you could live in my co-op that is rarely used,’ so I seized the opportunity and did it,” Susan Ball says. “It was something I had always wanted to do.”
While there, she found connections from her nursing work directly to her future legal career. She had collaborated with the legal team, while working on a risk management project at Duke University; malpractice was one possibility going forward. Today, malpractice litigation is one of Ball’s many responsibilities, but the care-first perspective has been most important and has informed her full career track.
“It’s the best of both worlds, because I’m contributing to the health of our communities through a different channel,” says Ball. “Everything I do helps get care to the bedside.”
At Cross Country, Ball’s responsibilities are numerous and varied. She provides support to the board of directors, CEO, and executive management; oversees legal issues and risk management; and drives talent development for emerging leaders throughout the company. She prioritizes a competitive, growth-focused culture, where she can help associates identify their career goals and provide insight along the way.
Susan Ball has been on the team for over twenty years of Cross Country’s thirty-six year history. When she joined, there was no legal department and the company had just gone public. She’s seen tremendous changes throughout the industry and the company—particularly in the last handful of years. In 2019, with growth slowing, founder Kevin Clark returned to the CEO role to right the company’s course.
“We weren’t keeping up with the industry,” Ball recalls. “We’ve always had a great brand reputation built on integrity and the quality of our healthcare workers, but we had lost some passion over the years.”
By Clark’s side, Ball helped guide a massive change management process. That meant finding the right roles for the workforce, bringing in new talent, and undergoing a massive digital transformation that eventually positioned the company to succeed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Cross Country is stronger, more competitive, and more tech-savvy than ever.
“Culture matters tremendously and by instilling leadership and confidence we strengthened the company to operate together as one Cross Country,” she adds.
Cross Country was deep into this renewal when the COVID-19 crisis began. The company pivoted to remote work overnight, but already had some infrastructure and protocol in place. With thousands of hospitals across the US, they became leaner, closer, and stronger than ever.
“It’s never been more important to have leaders in healthcare like Susi,” says Joe Agnello, CEO at Lockton Founders Series. “Her passion for helping others shines through in each interaction. It’s phenomenal to see the difference she and the entire Cross Country Healthcare team are making in millions of lives across the country.”
Ball is especially excited to see young leaders growing into their potential. She mentors a number of associates across the organization. As they identify what they really want to be doing, Ball helps them chart a course to get there and seize the rewards along the way. “I’ve had such phenomenal mentors and I want to pass it along,” says Ball. “I want people to develop their careers. What does the employee want, and how can I help them get there?”
Ball’s ability to identify and cultivate talent is one of her most prized skills. For instance, she noticed an early-career executive assistant who was bright, detail-oriented, and ambitious; Ball brought her along on small-value malpractice claims and eventually helped her learn to interview law firms, evaluate claims, and eventually negotiate them to settlement. Today, that woman is the vice president of risk management.
She isn’t the only one to which Susan Ball has extended a hand. Her lasting legacy, she hopes, will be that Cross Country leaders are always willing to invest in their people.
“It’s the same company, but today it’s completely different because we’ve invested in people,” Susan Ball says. “Taking an interest in people has helped us attract and retain good talent, create more shareholder value and, ultimately, deliver better results at the bedside.”
“I feel very fortunate to be where I am, because every single opportunity that’s been put in front of me I’ve said yes,” she adds. “I never shy away from an opportunity. That’s what I try to instill in the people I mentor: You gotta try. You gotta find out.”
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP: “Susan is one of a kind. She is a truly innovative leader in the industry and we have been honored to work with her closely for many years. In addition to being an accomplished practitioner, her collaborative nature, commitment to excellence, business acumen and personal integrity are all unmatched.” —John Terzaken, Partner