Dianne Doyle - President and Chief Executive Officer

Written by Evan Duxbury

Dianne: on Leadership

In your time at PHC you’ve held 7 positions between St Paul’s, MSJ and Hornby. Do any stand out as a favorite?

One of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had was when I became the Head Nurse of the brand new, 35-bed cardiac teaching unit at St. Paul’s. This was the first teaching unit in the hospital and I was responsible for hiring the staff, writing up and delivering new staff orientation and creating a patient teaching program for pre- and post- coronary care and open heart surgery patients.

It sounds like that position was a great bridge between your clinical and leadership roles. Do you have any advice for somebody looking to become a leader?

Leadership isn’t about the position, it’s about behavior; anybody can be a leader at any time, in any situation. No matter what your title is, there will always be opportunities to develop your leadership skills and to put them into action.

However, to be hired into a formal leadership role you’ll need to ensure you have the credentials and the education. I obtained a Masters degree and several certifications in health care management, which were a big part of how I first became an executive.

In addition to the education, you’ll need to make yourself noticed in the organization. Seek opportunities inside and outside of your department to add value and be mentored. Whether it’s volunteering to do a reflection, helping with party planning, or whatever, you have to go beyond to add value and get noticed.

What don’t people know about being a CEO?

I don’t think people realize how much of an honour it is to be chosen to lead at PHC. I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to represent the vision, achievements and skills of so many committed and inspirational people.

Part of being a CEO is accepting a responsibility to advance the long-term vision and success of the organization. This is very challenging to do in a way that makes everybody feel valued and recognizes all the incredible contributions of our people. 

I know it’s impossible to satisfy everybody when we have to balance so many competing interests, needs and opportunities. Still, it is difficult to accept that sometimes the decisions I make aren’t understood or appreciated by the people I admire so much and am most trying to support.

How does your role differ from your counterparts at the other health authorities?

All of the leadership positions at PHC are different from those of other health authorities. This is because we have to deal with the ambiguity that comes from balancing our commitment to supporting the goals of the regional health authorities while also being a separate legal entity responsible for owning, operating and managing our own organization. This is the dance I feel I dance every day.

The challenge for me and for our leaders is to figure out not only how we survive this ambiguity but how we can thrive with it. I think we’ve done an exceptional job of turning this barrier into the opportunity that allows us to continue to stay focused on excellence in care, research and teaching.


Dianne: On Mental Wellness 

If there’s one thing you could change in health care, what would it be?

I wish health care didn’t exact such a heavy toll on our people’s personal lives. It seems impossible to work in the complexity of the health care system without being affected. Our work isn’t like a typical Monday to Friday 9-5 job that you can forget when you leave the office, that’s just not the context we work in. From what I’ve observed and from personal experience, people in healthcare sacrifice a lot to achieve the organization’s vision and goals.  I know you asked for “one thing”, but the other thing I wish we could do more of is recognition.  We have been increasing our recognition activities, but it is challenging in a diverse and large organization.

How does that sacrifice differ from a clinical setting to an administrative one?

I’m not sure it does. No matter where you work in health care there is a bottomless pit of needs we need to respond to with finite resources and time.

I often get asked how I balance life with this role, but I don’t have a good answer. I’m not sure I have found that balance. I know that, like others, I’ve definitely had to make sacrifices in my personal life.

What makes you most proud about your tenure as CEO?

Our staff does so much amazing work despite many external pressures. Of all the things we’ve achieved in my time as CEO, I’m most proud of how our staff have stayed committed to advancing PHC, and stayed focused on those we’re trying to serve, while keeping the culture of our founding congregation intact.

Over the past 15 years, BC’s health sector has undergone huge transformations – from the formation of health authorities, to consolidation, to cost containment through continuous improvement and innovation.  PHC has not only navigated successfully through this change but thrived and contributed to provincial and global solutions in partnership with health authorities and the Ministry of Health.

What is it about mental wellness that has led it to become such a prominent issue for you and for PHC?

PHC’s culture has always included a holistic care approach: body, mind and spirit. I experienced a real “aha” moment when I realized that as we continue to play a bigger role in the delivery of mental health to our patients, it only makes sense that our staff who are supporting that care would also require supports related to body, mind and spirit

Health care is so complex and so demanding that we need intentional strategies to help our teams deal with the stresses involved. I’m excited that PHC is at the forefront of this work; heightening awareness, removing stigmas and making sure we have the resources to identify and assist staff who are in need. I applaud the group who heightened my (and the organization’s) awareness of how much more we need to be doing for the mental wellness of our employees.


During the interview, Dianne expressed her appreciation for the recent mental wellness advertisements produced by Bell Canada for their “let’s talk” campaign. You can find these here: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/end-the-stigma/videos/