S.H.E.: Balancing life at work and home

Spectrum Health United and Kelsey hospitals President Tina Freese-Decker. Daily News/Stacie Rose

The word “balance” brings to mind several images – scales in equal measure, a well executed yoga pose, an up-to-date checkbook, to name a few. But balance is a state many working women seek to achieve in their daily lives, too.

Consider what it would take to maintain a good marriage, care for two young children under the age of five and work out five days a week, while overseeing two growing hospitals.

This delicate balancing act is part of a day in the life of Spectrum Health United and Kelsey hospitals President Tina Freese-Decker.

Weekdays typically begin with a half hour walk at 5 a.m. and a start to the work day between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Work typically concludes around 6:30 p.m. In addition to long work days, Freese-Decker attends night meetings, but tries to limit those to two a month to cover each hospital and not negate from time with her family.

Freese-Decker always envisioned her life as it is. She not only runs Spectrum and Kelsey hospitals efficiently, but she also was named American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE) Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year and both hospitals have earned high accolades in national rankings under her guidance.

Despite managing a schedule that many would deem overwhelming, Freese-Decker enjoys a fulfilling life outside of her career, as well. 

“I try to be a good mentor and take time for myself,” Freese-Decker said. “I go on vacation, turn my phone off, don’t access my email, don’t read text messages.”

By Freese-Decker modeling a balanced life, staff members understand the necessity to have time away from work as well. It is Freese-Decker’s outlook and the fact that she has a talented staff that creates the cohesiveness necessary to create a healthy work environment.

“We have an excellent team, I could not do what I do without them,” said Freese-Deceker, who often can be found making rounds with physicians or interacting with patients. “They are so smart, so talented and so dedicated to our mission. I am so proud of them.”

It isn’t just team members at both hospitals that have allowed Freese-Decker to excel in her position as president. Freese-Deceker and her husband have worked well together as a couple in order to have a meaningful family life.

Upon the birth of their first child, Freese-Decker’s husband left his position at Spectrum Health to stay home full time with their children. Upon completion of additional schooling and their children entering school full time, her husband will return to the workforce. 

When Freese-Decker’s husband completes his master’s degree, he hopes to teach elementary education.

Freese-Decker also attributes her success to having an even keeled personality and strong community support. She enjoys being involved in community events such as parades and road races, but remembers to not take too much time away from her family.

Paving the way into a male-dominated field, it also helped to have good mentors. Freese-Decker looked to leadership from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rick Breon and Vice President John Mosley – both of Spectrum Health. Also, former C.E.O. of Priority Health Kim Horn and Pennock Hospital C.E.O. Sheryl Lewis Blake. 

Pooling all resources and recognizing the importance of down time has allowed Freese- Decker to manage a very busy, yet, fulfilling life. It is her hope to continue expanding in the community she serves by educating residents and focusing on preventative health care.

“Spectrum Health offers good benefits, maternity leave, provides a good life/work balance so I can set aside time for my family,” Freese-Decker said.

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