Salve Success: Nicole Paliotti, master’s in healthcare administration
Nicole Paliotti ’19 (M) recently left a six-figure job in marketing and sales and completely changed her career path to work in health care at South County Health in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. It’s a decision that has ultimately been one of the most rewarding journeys she’s ever taken both personally and professionally – especially in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which she is now fighting head on.
Paliotti’s pivot to healthcare administration
After earning a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Johnson & Wales University, Paliotti climbed the ranks at Schneider Electric for 10 years, starting out as a field marketing specialist and making her way into a sales position responsible for driving new business growth within New England.
She had made it. She was successful, she had a great paycheck and she was providing for her family. So what made Paliotti pivot? And why did she choose healthcare?
Seven years ago, Paliotti’s mother received an abrupt cancer diagnosis and died within two years in a large health care system where Paliotti and her sister felt they had to constantly remind the hospital that their mother needed attention. Not long after her mother’s death, Paliotti’s father passed away in his sleep after visiting the emergency room because his feet started to turn blue – only to be dismissed by an understaffed ER and told to follow up with a cardiologist.
“[My parents] were both young,” Paliotti said. “I was an orphan at 35 years old.”
These painful experiences were the catalyst for Paliotti to realize that unless more people were willing to work in health care to change and improve the system, more patients would inadvertently fall through the cracks like her parents. And even though she came from a non-clinical background, Paliotti realized with her marketing and business background that she could still make a difference.
Finding a new career through Salve Regina’s graduate program
As Paliotti began looking at master’s programs for health care administration, she fell in love with Salve Regina because of the flexibility of the program. As she dove into the master’s program, Paliotti was impressed with how well-rounded it was in its scope of education, especially since she’d already gotten an MBA. The classes were both enlightening and engaging, and she also loved the small faculty-to-student ratio.
“In most of the classes I took, I was the only person not currently working in health care, and it was very interesting to hear their perspective,” she said. “I learned even more than the average student being brand new to health care, because I would hear their stories and their experiences.”
During her last semester in the program, Paliotti landed an internship at South County Healthcare. Through this internship, she procured an interim position as an analyst of infection control, employee health and professional development. She left her job in marketing and sales and has never looked back.
“I’m basically rebuilding my career, but it’s something I feel passionate about,” she said. “And I actually love getting up and going to work every day.”
While an interim analyst, she ran the entire flu clinic for the hospital and offered invaluable marketing and business advice. And her hard work paid off. Paliotti was offered her dream job at South County Healthcare as the facilitator of performance excellence and strategy in February 2020. Her intention was always to get into leadership, and in this position she can truly speak to the systems that she wants to improve.
Healthcare administration amidst coronavirus
Video: Paliotti is shown briefly in this video that was produced by South County Hospital at 4:02. She is actively leading and helping in the infection control and prevention team, which is mentioned in this video and is a key player in helping reduce the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Things took a sudden turn in March, however, when the coronavirus pandemic hit America. Now, more than ever before, Paliotti has seen how important healthcare administration and leadership is to keep a hospital functioning in the midst of a crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving situation that changes not only by the day, but literally by the hour,” said Paliotti. “We are working around the clock to prepare for the worst case scenario, but we are hoping for the best. There is a lot of misinformation out there right now.”
Paliotti is fortunate to have done her internship at South County Healthcare within infection prevention, because now as a leader, she is stepping up to help fight coronavirus with the skillsets she gained both at Salve Regina, during her internship and during her interim position at the hospital over the last year.
“I feel as though I am where I was meant to be, supporting them right now,” said Paliotti. “I send out daily communication to our entire staff – that is important because everyone wants to stay as informed as possible. The anxiety level is very high right now among employees, and we are doing our best to inform and support them.”
Paliotti is meeting with the hospital’s COVID-19 task force every day, and she is learning firsthand how challenging it is communicate and administer within a crisis. Every day is a new lesson in what it means to operate effectively within a health care system.
“When you are dealing with many, many different personalities in a critical situation, it is important that everyone’s input be heard when making very important decisions, but it can also be a challenge to get everyone on the same page,” she said. “I’ve met some amazing people in this field during this crisis and am receiving on-the-job training that people with 40 years of experience have never had to deal with. It is scary, but at the same time I feel like I am learning so much and will be very well prepared for future events.”
Paliotti urges everyone to stay home, as it is crucial in the efforts to fight the pandemic’s spread. The social distancing measures are frustrating to the average person, as she well understands, but she is seeing firsthand the ways that these precautions are helping to slow the pandemic within Rhode Island’s health care system.
“COVID-19 isn’t about you, it is about others,” Paliotti said. “Your actions affect the people around you. This is why social-distancing is so important. You can be a carrier of the virus and not even know it and give it to others.”
Hospitals are on the frontlines of an unseen battle, and there are many Salve Regina grads working hard during this pandemic — be it as nurses, staff members and health care administrators and leaders.
“Be patient. Be kind,” Paliotti said. “Just know that every health care worker is doing their best to protect and care for their community. Our frontline health care workers are true heroes.”
Each Thursday, SALVEtoday will provide tips for success as well as success stories of current students and alumni to encourage and uplift the University community during this time of remote living and learning. #salvesgotthis #salvesuccess