Lynn Oswald still recalls her days as a registered nurse in the newborn nursery of The Fort Hamilton Hospital, in Hamilton, Ohio. This was 1980; dads-to-be still smoked and paced in the waiting room, and newborns were kept in an observation nursery.
But there was one little boy Oswald will never forget. “Newborns choke a lot as they’re getting used to the outside world and get a little blue around the lips. You intervene and they’re OK. With him, the color changes were critical. The blue came up his chest and his neck.“
She put him into an incubator and called the pediatrician. “He told me the only reason I wanted to put the kid into an incubator was because I didn’t want to bother with taking it out to the mother. Back then, doctors were in charge, and nurses did whatever they said, no matter what. But I told him if I was going to take him out of the incubator, it would be from his direct order. So the doctor let him stay.”
Oswald took care of the baby, and he had no further problems that night. But when she came back the next day, the baby was gone.
“I asked what happened to him and was told that he had died from a congenital heart defect. It wasn’t anything anyone did. They just couldn’t fix it. Today they can. But that really left a mark on me. I felt very bad about what happened.”
Oswald then dedicated herself not just to health care, but also to changing the administrative culture. “Decisions made regarding patient care should also include the perspective of those who working directly with patients.”
After earning her Master in Hospital and Healthcare Administration in 1986, Osborne remained at Fort Hamilton, moving into management and eventually becoming its CEO. When ownership of the hospital changed and senior administration replaced, she found herself in unfamiliar territory—without a job.
“I decided no matter what my opportunities looked like, I would not discard any of them.” That’s when the phone rang. It was Dr. Paul Keck at the Lindner Center of Hope, a nonprofit mental health center.
“Fort Hamilton and the Lindner Center of Hope are at two ends of the spectrum,” she says. “I thought, Oh no, it would be so difficult. But from my first interview I was taken with their mission and people. I knew it was right for me.”
Oswald has been the executive vice president of the center since 2011, carrying on her mission to bring expertise and compassion to health care administration. “I’ve always felt I could do something different and I could be a person who could change things.” And even change herself in the process.