By Katie Bahr
The summer after his first year in college, Rick Metzger (MMHC’12) took a job as an orderly at Huntsville Hospital in Alabama. He never imagined that the job would lead to a 25-year career that reaches the upper echelons of the healthcare field.
“I was all set to head back to the university after the summer job ended,” Metzger said. “Then the person they hired to replace me didn’t show up for work. Huntsville Hospital said they’d help pay for my education if I’d stay and keep working. From then on, I was working full time while I was working on my undergraduate degree.”
That was 1994. Metzger, now vice president of operations and surgical services at Providence Hospital in Mobile, progressed steadily through his career: becoming a scrub tech, getting his nursing degree, taking the lead as a clinical coordinator, ascending to director of surgery in the women’s and children’s unit, and finally becoming a service-line director at the 971-bed level-1 trauma center.
“I spent over 22 years at Huntsville Hospital (before moving to Providence) and got to experience pretty much every level of staff and management roles,” Metzger said. “I’ve been exposed to a lot of leaders, and so many in the hospital setting only have a finance background or only learned about the healthcare world in school. The best thing about my current job is that I’m getting to truly use my master’s degree while being fundamentally grounded from my clinical background.”
Being a nurse and a clinician, Metzger’s next logical step in education would have been a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). His career had already given him depth in the clinical space, however, and he felt he needed to understand the business side of healthcare to make the biggest difference.
“I wanted something to diversify my acumen,” he explained. “With a business degree, I not only have the depth of clinical experience, but the breadth of education to see the larger picture.”
Vanderbilt’s Master of Management in Health Care gave Metzger that breadth of business knowledge that he needed to be able to succeed as a healthcare executive. He says he uses the full spectrum of his degree every day in his role as vice president at Providence Hospital.
“You don’t hone in on one area; that’s the beauty,” he said. “The MMHC program gives you just the right amount of expertise to understand the things that work, the things that don’t, and what to look for to make an impact. There are folks that work in accounting or marketing that are a lot smarter about those areas, but as an executive I need to understand whether their choices are working for all of our operations.”
Metzger credits Huntsville Hospital for giving him the background for success and Vanderbilt’s MMHC for widening his career path and giving him the ability to advance. “Huntsville Hospital will always be home. They really set me up for my career,” he said. “But having the Vanderbilt brand on my résumé opened up doors. You still need the background, the knowledge of healthcare, but the MMHC helps people look your way. You combine that with a strong clinical background, and recruiters will constantly reach out with opportunities.”