Soula Banich, vice president and chief operating officer of IU Health North Hospital, is back from maternity leave. Here’s how she’s managing a demanding role while keeping what’s important to her at the forefront.
By Charlotte Stefanski, firstname.lastname@example.org, writer for IU Health's Indianapolis Suburban Region
In more than 14 years at IU Health, Soula Banich has been a little bit of everywhere.
Starting out at IU Health Methodist, she first joined the team in a leadership role with Food and Nutrition Services.
Then, year by year, she worked her way through the system, going to Riley Children’s Health and then the Indianapolis Suburban Region, where she currently serves as vice president and chief operating officer (COO) of IU Health North Hospital.
No matter the role or location though, Banich has always kept three things at the forefront: Faith, family and work.
A new chapter for a COO
Last winter, both Banich and Juan Guzman, vice president and COO of IU Health West Hospital, took on the task of regionalizing their roles within the Indianapolis Suburban Region (ISR), which includes IU Health North, Saxony, Tipton and West hospitals.
The role of COO is a mixture of things, including meetings with other leaders and stakeholders to ensure goals are being met and also working with physicians and their service lines.
An important piece for Banich has also been getting out and meeting team members where they’re at.
“The people piece and that connection and relationships are huge. It's bringing together our culture,” Banich explained. “I'm interacting with folks, especially our frontline team members, in order to drive those outcomes that we need to achieve to meet the needs of the community.”
And on top of her work, Banich also recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to her third child, Maria—her five-month-old who she calls a “sweet little surprise.”
There’s also her oldest, 10-year-old Loukas and eight-year-old Ana. Both are heavily involved in sports at their faith-based school.
“We’re just trying to balance it. Well, still trying to figure out how to balance it. I think with the third in the mix, it's a new chapter—a different chapter, probably the hardest chapter of how to prioritize faith, family and work,” Banich said. “You won't always get it in that order. I’ve really tried to put them as the sole purpose of why I do everything. It's a bit hectic, but the best chapter of life thus far.”
Keeping a balance
With three children and an executive role, the word “balance” might not be the right fit. It’s more of an integration for Banich.
Sometimes, it’s 24 hours a day. To manage her work and home life—her mantra of faith, family and work—she sets both priorities and boundaries.
“I don't do it perfectly. I think the most important thing is, day-by-day, what are your top things you need to do that day?” she said. “What is most important, not what is the most urgent.”
Banich does this for both work and home, listing the three most important tasks each. She also checks herself to ensure she’s not placing a false sense of urgency on a task. It helps her filter out the unnecessary items.
To keep organized, Banich utilizes her calendar, blocking off things off like work projects and baseball games. That way, if she knows she may not be able to complete tasks during the workday due to a school event, she can schedule it for later that night.
Having a career and three children also means everything won’t be done perfectly, which has been hard for Banich to let go of.
“I think when you continue to advance in your career, like we're overachievers, we want to get things done,” she explained. “I really have to prioritize what's important to me. What’s a must-do versus what’s nice-to-do.”
Sticking with IU Health for 14 years
When you stay with an organization as long as Banich has, she says your values have to align with your employer’s.
She holds those values closely—both in treating team members with love and respect and aiming to be one of the healthiest states in the country.
For Banich, it’s also been about the people. Whether it be downtown or in the ISR, it’s been her goal to create relationships at work.
“I think one of the most important things I would tell other leaders is to get to know people,” she said. “Create relationships with people—we need each other to get the job done.”
Once she began working at IU Health North, Banich could feel something different about the hospital’s team members and work culture.
She walked onto a leadership role as the only non-nurse team member, but she remembers the team being inclusive, collaborative and welcoming.
Banich encourages her fellow leaders to continue to foster that environment. As target goals in healthcare continue to get more aggressive, getting to know others can help them be achieved.
“If someone's intriguing, or you want to learn more about what someone does, grab a cup of coffee with them,” Banich said. “Don't let a title get in the way of doing that. Create those relationships, because it's our relationships with each other that is going to get us to where we need to go.”
Don’t doubt yourself
For women who might see a little bit of themselves in Banich—whether it be because they’re mothers, career driven, or both—the biggest advice she could give is to not doubt yourself.
Over the years, she’s heard plenty of conversations where women say it’s not the right time because they’re pregnant, or because their children are too young, or that they can’t be a good mom and have a demanding career.
“I've stopped some of them and said, ‘Well, tell me why. What do you think?’” Banich said, adding it’s all about the priorities you put in place.
There will never be that “good time.” If it’s a role you want to go after or an impact you want to make, she says to leave the excuses behind and go for it.
That doesn’t mean everything will run smoothly all the time though, and that’s okay. Banich has found herself running to a baseball field in heels to catch the last half of her child’s game after a day of meetings at work.
The key is to ask for help when you need it, whether that be at work or home.
“Asking for help doesn't show signs of weakness, so ask for help if you need help,” she said.
Lastly, she encourages her fellow team members to take advantage of opportunities, even if they’re scary. Every new role comes with a bit of uncomfortableness, but don’t let that get in the way.
“Force yourself to do it. Take the opportunity to learn—just don't pass it up,” Banich said. “Don't pass up those types of opportunities to continue to learn and to push yourself.”
Hard work continues to happen
As team members ring in the new year, Banich knows 2022 has been a difficult year in learning to balance and manage through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the year, teams have been asked to do more—and in different ways. From expansion projects to an early respiratory virus season, it’s been a lot.
She thanks all her IU Health team members for stepping up and doing amazing work every week, throughout the weekends, and even on holidays.
“They are what brings me joy, and my purpose—being able to make things better for them and supporting them to be able to serve our patients—gives me purpose for my work,” Banich said. “I just greatly appreciate them and everything they do.”