Garrett’s ‘opportunity’ at Parkview Huntington coming to close soon

Parkview Huntington Hospital’s retiring chief operations officer, Darlene Garrett (right) chats with ultrasound technologist Hannah Wyatt (left) and receptionist Leigh Ann Jones in the office area of the hospital’s radiology diagnostics department. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published June 26, 2014.

When Darlene Garrett began her health care career in 1978 as a night nurse on the medical-surgical unit at Caylor-Nickel (now Bluffton Regional) Medical Center, she had no idea that 20 years later she would eventually serve as chief operating officer of an entire hospital in Huntington.

"I had a lot of opportunity to work with terminal cancer patients," Garrett recalls. "That was an experience that really helped me make a decision that my career in health care was the correct one for me, because of the rewarding experiences from being a night nurse."

She later moved into management, developing the facility's hospice and home health care program. That effort produced an opportunity for her to become vice president of operations at Bluffton.

Garrett did her doctoral research at Parkview Randallia Hospital in Fort Wayne and was impressed with the internal functions of the hospital.

"Working with their nursing staff on my dissertation, my topic was burnout in nurses, which was very common in the 1980s and '90s, because health care was changing," she says. "Nurses were doing much more at the bedside and it was a topic that identified the other variables that were important to support those nurses, to prevent burnout."

Garrett and her husband happened by the construction of the new Parkview Huntington Hospital and she remembers remarking to him, "‘I wonder if there's an opportunity for me at that hospital.' ... The ad was there within 30 days, and it was just like it was timing, but an opportunity where I wondered if I could become the COO or a leader at Parkview through Parkview Huntington. And it all just kind of fell in place."

From 1999 to her projected last day on July 3, Garrett's accomplishments at PHH are extensive, beginning with the hospital's move from Etna Avenue to its Stults Road location in April of 2000. Most recently among its national awards, Parkview Huntington received a 100 Top Hospital Award in 2010 and again this year and was also awarded this year with the 100 Top Hospital Everest Award.

Garrett feels her biggest accomplishment has been her involvement in the care of Huntington County residents.

"That's a major accomplishment," she says, "but I think beyond that direct patient care, the ability to work with the board and also our leadership team and our medical staff in accomplishing so many improvements and enhancements in our patient care services at Parkview Huntington. The opportunity to see what's happened from '99 to now is pretty amazing.

She's also proud of leading the hospital in giving back to the community, most notably by forming branding partnerships with the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA in 2008 and the Boys & Girls Club in 2013.

"Those kinds of things are the direct result of what we have done at the hospital, and the capabilities to return that to the community," she says. "It's the partnerships within the community that are extremely important and help us fulfill the mission of the hospital."

While Garrett hasn't yet nailed down any concrete plans after she retires, she will plan to spend time with a son living in Chicago, a son in Orlando, a daughter in Virginia and six grandchildren.

"That will be the first day of the rest of my life," she says with a laugh. "I haven't really made any decisions. I'd like to do some consulting. I think that would be an opportunity ... but I have no formal plans. It's just things that I may do."

Tom Karst, who serves as Parkview Huntington Hospital's chairman of the board of directors, says Garrett's shoes will be hard to fill.

"I won't say ‘replace her' because we can't replace her," he says. "But we're looking at both internal and external candidates."

The board is searching for someone with a strong health care background who will also be active in the community as well as be a strong leader for the hospital team.

"It's hard to see Darlene walk out the door with her experience and knowledge, but the person who comes in will have a different background and could take things in a different, better direction or follow down the same path," Karst says.

The hospital board plans to have a new COO in place on July 7.

Complete caption: Parkview Huntington Hospital's retiring chief operations officer, Darlene Garrett (right) chats with ultrasound technologist Hannah Wyatt (left) and receptionist Leigh Ann Jones in the office area of the hospital's radiology diagnostics department. Garrett's last day on the job is July 3.