Next Up Podcast: The truth about being a parent and C-suite executive (pt. 2)

Hello and welcome to Modern Healthcare’s Next Up, the podcast for women in healthcare who are headed for senior leadership. My name is Kadesha Smith, I’m your host. I’m also the CEO of CareContent, a digital marketing agency for healthcare organizations.

Today, we are talking about balancing being a C-suite executive and a parent. This is something we’ll also be discussing at the upcoming Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference, which takes place July 22nd and 23rd. And if you stick around until the end of this episode, I’ll share a discount code to get 15% off the conference fees.

Previously on Next Up, we turned to an expert in both the parent role and the C-suite role: Sally Deitch. She is Group CEO at Tenet Healthcare. Tenet has 65 hospitals, more than 450 outpatient centers, and 108,000 employees.

Meanwhile, Sally has five sons at home, ranging from seventh grade to college. And she has three dogs. I don’t know how old the dogs are, but let’s say she has her hands full.

Last episode, Sally discussed how she juggles these two roles, including how she sets boundaries, who she leans on for support, and how one role actually helps her be successful in the other.

This week, we’re continuing that conversation. We’re discussing how much women should disclose about their parenting responsibilities to their employers. And how to deal with mom guilt, and how health systems can support parents who are also aspiring to the C-suite.

SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we get into our discussion, I’d like to acknowledge OnTrak, the sponsor of this episode.

Ontrak is a behavioral healthcare company that identifies people who need more care and treats them for up to 52 weeks. With therapist-led care, members return to health. Payers get a return on investment.

Learn more, save more, help more at

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Now, let’s dive into our conversation with Sally Deitch. Again, Sally is the Group CEO of Tenet Healthcare. And she’s sharing her insight on being both a dedicated parent and a dedicated C-suite professional — and how health systems can support both endeavors.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Let’s shift to talking about your personal boundaries. This might be at work and could be at home, but how do you say no and still preserve that perception that you’re engaged, that you’re ambitious, that you’re a team player?

SALLY DEITCH: That’s a great question. I think it’s one that evolves over time. I think for the young careerist who is looking to not only make changes — make a move. For me, I guess there’s kind of always been certain little rules. Like, any time I moved into a new role and it was kind of an assessment. If there was a new role that I was interested in or looking at — was number one in my head knowing that really that first year in a new role is incredibly challenging and is going to require an incredible amount of time. You’re trying to learn something new, you’re trying to establish your boundaries. You’re trying to establish, kind of, what does that work world look like? You’re making changes, HR changes — you’re impacting an organization.

And so again, the discussion back with your partner and your family is — this is what I’m contemplating, this is what it’s going to mean and it’ll be, I mean, truly a lot of work for one year. So, that was always kind of my starting point. The second piece — and as I moved into different positions — was really the defining of what, for me, was quality family time. And quality time with my kids.

I tell this story a lot. When my kids were young — and I would say probably up until they were 10, 11 — my time with my kids was in the morning. And I would have this conversation whether it was with my boss, whether it was with my governing board, whether it was with my doctors — but saying, I value this time with my family in the morning. And it’s not that I can’t do 7 a.m. meetings, because I can and I will if I need to. But I try not to schedule anything before it was 8:30 or 9:00.

My routine was, I would get up at 5:30 in the morning, I would shower and get ready for work. So, I’d be fully pretty much ready for work by say, 6:30 in the morning. And at 6:30 in the morning, I’d start waking up kids. And I’d wake up the kids and, you know, it’s time to get ready for school and then I’d meet them all in the kitchen. And I was a short order cook in the morning. Whatever they wanted, I would make them for breakfast. For some, it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For others it was, I want a quesadilla. For this one it was, I want pancakes and bacon. And I made pretty much whatever they wanted. I would make lunches while they were eating.

And we’d talk about the day and what’s going on and, you know, what things do you need help with. And just, kind of, getting them all ready to go for the day. And for me, it was important to get food in them. That was my time with my kids. And so by 8:00, they were ready to go and they were out the door, had their lunches. And then I could finish up whatever I needed to do and head to the office. For me, that was just incredibly important when they were little.


SALLY DEITCH: For anybody I’d say, you have to find those times and define what it is for you that equals quality time with your kids. And then being able to communicate that to your boss or to other key stakeholders in a way that’s not — look, this is what I’m gonna do. But I think most people respect that, especially when they have children of their own.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: And then what about your own self-care. What do you do for you?

SALLY DEITCH: That’s where I think your partner really comes into play. For myself and Greg, now that the kids — although I would tell you, there probably was not a lot of, you have time to recharge and everything else when the kids were little. It can be draining and there are times I’m sure, I probably either sat in a shower for an extra 30 minutes just to get away from somebody or tried to lock myself in a bathroom or whatever. Just, I needed a little bit of time. But as they have gotten older, that’s when I see that not only, kind of, the fruits of that quality time when they were young — it has created very close relationships as we’re older. But now they’re to the age where, you know, we say to them, “We’re leaving for the weekend and you’re staying with Big Sam.” And Greg and I leave. It was even very spontaneous a month ago where he called and said, “We’re gonna leave on Friday afternoon and we’re gonna come back on Saturday evening.” OK. And we left.


SALLY DEITCH: And that’s what we do.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Going back to just talking about mothers and pursuing that professional goal, some mothers are perceived as being less committed to their work because they set some of the boundaries you’ve discussed. How much should women disclose about the demands of their family life, especially when they want to be perceived as suitable for a leadership position?

SALLY DEITCH: There’s a balance to it. I think one of your first statements when we kind of started this and it is true — are there times that I’m sure people have been passed over for a job because of their family life? Yes. There’s got to be, you know, kind of the give and the take — understanding I want to pursue my career and these things are very important to me. What am I willing to sacrifice or adjust to get there? Because the demands of the job are going to be the demands of the job.

First off, I think you have to assess — like I said, starting a new role — are you capable and able to give the amount of time that is needed? Especially in that first year to make the impact, establish your foundation, from which you’re going to work forward. And that’s a personal assessment. I don’t think that anybody — nobody, man, women, doesn’t matter, has the — I’m not gonna call it a right, but if I do my own self-assessment and go, OK Sally. You know, this is going to be a tough year moving forward. I’ve got a bunch of kids that are starting different grades. Is it really the right time for me to be pursuing a change in my job? That is a purely personal assessment.

So number one, I think you have to really be very self-reflective. And look at it honestly and say, can I dedicate the time that is going to be needed and will my family support me doing that during this time? And if the answer is no, then it might just not be the right time for you to pursue that. Next, I think working with anybody that is your boss and your leadership — and I would always say whether it’s male or female, however you want to define it — I would always say you need to approach it not from the standpoint of this is what I’m gonna demand is going to happen. But what is your relationship like with that individual? And unfortunately, you know, many people come in and say, “This is what I can and can’t do.” And they establish such strict boundaries right off the bat that it really is a turnoff for many employers to think, well, how can I depend on this person if they’re already telling me what they can’t and can’t do?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: That’s when there has to be a give and take.

MID-SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we continue our discussion, I’d like to again recognize Ontrak, the sponsor of today’s episode.
With just 5% of people accounting for 44% of healthcare costs, Ontrak identifies and treats those people for up to 52 weeks. With this unique sort of support, your members can achieve true behavior change and better health that can last a lifetime.
Learn more, save more, help more. Visit
Now, let’s get back to our discussion.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: So on the flip side, then, if you are in leadership, you have a team that reports to you. They’re high-performing professionals, right? So there’s no question about their integrity. There’s no question about their commitment. But they have two very important and demanding roles. How can these health system leaders support these parents? What have you seen work? And what advice would you give to those leaders?

SALLY DEITCH: For most, especially in really high-performing organizations, it isn’t about punching a time clock. It’s about the quality of work and being able to accomplish said expectations and goals. When leaders are able to do that and they’re actually able to show the results, then it isn’t so much about the time, you know. Or are you here at this time and you leave at this time?

That’s what I’m saying, I think that critical time is kind of establishing your personal credibility and your ability to do the role before you just walk in with demands. So, for any high-performing organization, that to me is the key. Show me you can execute, show me you can meet the targets and deadlines, or accomplish the goals or execute on the tactic. Show me you can do all that because that doesn’t have anything to do with punching a time clock.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Is there any final advice? Any final words of wisdom that you would give to women who are aspiring to senior leadership, but also want a family or already have a child or children?

SALLY DEITCH: I know that the word “mentors” is used a lot. I’m not a big fan of mentoring, but I am a big fan of coaching. Really, if you think of a true coach, somebody that can provide you feedback, push you in certain directions. But finding a really good coach, and a lot of times that’s not your boss. That could be somebody else, really is somebody to bounce things off of. They don’t even have to be in the same industry. But these are the things I’m thinking about, these are the things I’m struggling with, these are the things I’m trying to balance and — you know, trying to get somebody’s objective opinion and coaching of how to maybe approach something. And that person has to be very honest with you about what they think they’d be looking for or maybe how to best deal with the situation. I am very much in favor of people finding the right coach for them. That is the person that helps kind of mold you into what you become in the future.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: That’s great. And that goes back to, who’s the most important person in your village, aside from your partner? It looks like a coach should be a part of that roster.

SALLY DEITCH: Absolutely.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for sharing this insight.

SALLY DEITCH: Thank you for having me.

OUTRO COMMENTS: Thank you, Sally Deitch, for that insight on navigating the roles of healthcare C-suite executive and mom.

We’d also like to again thank this episode’s sponsor, Ontrak.

We’ll be expanding on this topic at the Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare conference, July 22-23. If you register with the code (NextUp), you’ll receive a 15% discount off the conference fees and any conference add-on opportunities. To register, go to

Again, I’m your host, Kadesha Smith, CEO of CareContent. We help health systems reach their growth goals through digital strategy and digital content.

Look for more episodes of Next Up at, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcatcher. Thanks so much for listening.


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