Make no mistake: Dr. Juliette Erickson is one busy individual. Not only is she currently filling three different roles –caring for patients as a family medicine doctor in private practice, driving to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia two days a month as a member of their palliative care team, and serving as hospice medical director at Harbors Home Health and Hospice– she’s raising five children with the support of her husband.
As of January 1, she’s added a fourth job – Chief of Medical Staff at Grays Harbor Community Hospital. In this one-year position, she acts as an advocate and representative for the physicians within the hospital system. It’s a role that includes regular interaction with the hospital’s CEO and board of directors as well as doctors practicing across a wide spectrum of disciplines.
“My main role is helping physicians do a great job and advocating for them,” says Erickson. “It’s about improving the quality of care. I get to be a voice at the table that’s coming from a physician’s perspective and, through that, also from a patient’s perspective.”
“We want to improve communication,” she says. “I’m available to listen and I’m approachable. Part of my job is to make recommendations to both the hospital and the doctors on best practices.”
Erickson was a natural choice for the position, which touches on many different branches of medicine. “I’m in one of the few specialties that have a good reason to pick up the phone and call just about anyone in the hospital to help my patients,” she says. “I call the ER on a regular basis, and there’s not a department that I don’t talk to – surgeons, gynecologists, etc. They’re able to tell me what’s going on from their perspective, and that gives me a unique take on the situations here at GHCH.”
After she graduated from a family practice residency in 2002, Erickson and her husband got out a map of America and started looking for where they wanted to live. “We are both military brats, and we didn’t have anywhere in the country that we needed to be,” she says. “We started looking for fun places to live.”
Grays Harbor, they noted, was located both directly beneath a national park and on the water. “We called the hospital, and they put me in touch with Family Medicine of Grays Harbor,” she says. “The hospital sponsored my first-year salary and helped to pay my student loans. And I got wonderful, high-quality, smart doctors as partners. I am very grateful for the hospital’s initial financial support. Without that, my move here to Grays Harbor would have been impossible, and I would be in another community, somewhere else. ”
Helping to grow the hospital was a large part of her motivation in taking the Chief of Staff role. “I really like Grays Harbor Community Hospital,” she says. “It has such huge potential for growth.” It was also a chance for her to increase her leadership skills as part of her personal journey. “I wanted to develop public speaking skills because that’s something I don’t enjoy,” she says. “Mainly, the question was, ‘How can I help?’ We need more primary care physicians in this community.”
The role involves a lot of meetings as well. “As Chief of Staff, I attend meetings for surgery, ER, quality control and the board of directors,” she says. “I get this peek behind closed doors into things that I’d never normally see. I’m very much a learner, which is why I have four jobs.”
Although her primary function is dealing with members of the medical team, her biggest goal remains advocating for patients. “I’m really doing this so we can continue the mission of the hospital and deliver high-quality, compassionate care for the patients,” Erickson says. “These are the questions I ask: How can I make this patient’s day better? How can we structure the work of the hospital to make the patient’s day better?”
Given a workload that would be daunting to the average human, it helps that Erickson clearly loves her jobs – all of them. “If work was something that I was doing just to earn money, I couldn’t do it,” she says. “I leave each day energized and happy, and I’m constantly learning.”
Support makes all the difference, she maintains, both on the home front and in her work life. “Once you get past three children, you’re outnumbered,” she laughs. “It’s different when they get to the stage where they’re fully formed humans and can dress and feed themselves. My husband is a stay-at-home dad, and having his support is huge.”
In the office, her support staff keeps her moving forward. “Without them, there’s no way I could keep track of myself,” she says. “I have a lot of great people helping me on a daily basis.”
For more information about Grays Harbor Community Hospital, visit www.ghcares.org or call 360-532-8330.