Ask Ginger Carroll about her position as West Marion Community Hospital’s CEO and her smile gives her away like a poorly disguised poker tell.
“I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to lead West Marion Community Hospital in an exciting time of growth,” says Carroll, who officially took over the position on Dec. 1, 2007. “It’s a terrific challenge and it keeps me energized.”
While Carroll is the first woman to hold the CEO spot in Marion County, it’s not her first time at the executive dance. She was the CEO of a 100-bed hospital in Scott County, Tenn., as well as chief nursing officer and chief operating officer with hospitals in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The Greensboro, N.C., native moved to Ocala in 2003, serving as the chief nursing officer for sister hospitals West Marion and Ocala Regional Medical Center (ORMC).
H. Rex Etheredge, the CEO of Ocala Regional Medical Center since March 2007, was well aware of Carroll’s qualifications when the position at West Marion opened up.
“I knew firsthand what an outstanding job Ginger did as chief nursing officer at ORMC,” says Etheredge. “Her greatest asset is her people skills. I considered her the ideal candidate for the CEO position.”
Personal and emotional experiences led Carroll to her health care career, which has now spanned three decades.
“When I was 16, my grandmother developed cancer and I helped take care of her,” says Carroll, 51, with a soft hint of her North Carolina accent still evident in her inflection. “Then when I was a senior in high school, I went on a church mission to El Salvador for 10 weeks. It was an amazing and heart-wrenching experience to see how little these people had in terms of quality health care.”
The trip sealed the deal, and Carroll knew that she wanted a career taking care of folks.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Carroll spent a decade as a critical care nurse. As she became immersed in the nursing profession, she felt the need to take on a leadership role as well. Chalk up another degree, this one a master’s in business management from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.
“I like to think of my career as the fusion of my clinical hands-on experience with administrative roles,” says Carroll. “And I like to think that it has been a productive one.”
But once a nurse, always a nurse. Carroll prefers to start her day not with an executive meeting, but with hospital floor rounds.
“I call it getting my nursing fix,” she says. “I have a need to know what’s going on with our staff and with our patients. I’ll pick a different floor every day and just make the rounds, talking to people.”
With 300 employees and up to 85 patients at capacity at West Marion, Carroll has a lot of information gathering to do on her daily morning rounds. And what do the patients comment about the most? That would be the much-maligned topic of hospital food.
“Fortunately,” says Carroll, smiling, “I hear a lot of compliments about it.”
Once her daily rounds are done, Carroll settles into her office to tackle the day’s to-do list and, like any good CEO, look ahead to the future. The latter category for Carroll includes West Marion’s three-year expansion project.
“This corridor west of I-75 is one of the fastest growing areas of Ocala and we intend to keep pace with that growth,” says Carroll. “We will continue to expand, and we are actively recruiting the best physicians and nurses available.”
And while Carroll does thrive in her current CEO role, there is also the inevitable stress that comes with the job. That’s why she and her husband of 31 years, Steve, enjoy getting away to their Melbourne beach house.
“We surf fish and river fish, and I just love it,” she says. “It’s just you, nature, and the fish.”
But after a relaxing respite, expect to find Carroll back doing what she does best—taking care of people.