Olson retiring as RCH CEO after 2 tenures over 12 years
‘I think the family atmosphere is what I'll remember most’
ROCHELLE — Rochelle Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer Gregg Olson has announced his retirement from the hospital. His last day will be March 31.
Olson has served as RCH’s CEO since January 2020. He was also the organization’s CEO from 1999 to 2007. He was CEO of another institution in Wisconsin in the years in between. Olson has had a 42-year career in the medical field. Olson told the News-Leader March 15 that it has not been made clear to him who his successor will be at RCH.
"I wish the best for this hospital,” Olson said. “We have a lot of talent here with our staff. That's what I'm going to miss the most, is our staff. Whether it's our general staff or physicians and providers, I'll miss them all. That's going to be hard for me. I have a lot of good relationships here. I am going to miss these people dearly. They give absolute quality care, they're great at what they do and this hospital is a true asset for the community."
Olson called making the decision to retire “difficult” due to his love for the hospital, its employees and the community. He said he will miss walking around the RCH grounds and interacting with staff. He’s learned over his 42 years that the best way to be a CEO was to be visible and available to employees to meet their needs.
In retirement, Olson and his wife plan to do some traveling and thinking about their future. He plans to stay in Rochelle and connected the community. He’ll continue to serve on the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation (GREDCO) and City Police & Fire Commission Boards.
“I'm the type of person that needs a purpose,” Olson said. “I think volunteering and giving back now after all these years is appropriate. That's something I really want to do. Beyond that, I don't know. I have a daughter in Texas I plan to visit.”
Olson said he “really connected well” with Rochelle during his first stint as CEO and felt very comfortable. He came in as interim CEO from SwedishAmerican's corporate office and was hired permanently. From 1999 to 2007, RCH started its multispecialty center, which brought in specialists from the region to see patients locally. It also opened its walk-in clinic around the same time. Both services were new to the city at the time.
"It's been exciting to see this place grow,” Olson said. “We are truly a community asset. My belief is if we can offer the services here in a competent fashion and play to our strengths, that makes a difference to people. Our numbers have jumped and I think it's exciting for the hospital and the community. We're offering orthopedic services that previously weren't available to the community. That makes us a stronger community. It's exciting to me seeing the care being delivered at such a high level and people being satisfied. Because that's why we're here. Because of the patients."
Olson called coming back to RCH as CEO in 2020 “a delight.” He returned to find familiar faces, and new ones he enjoyed getting to know.
March 2020 brought the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Olson called “probably the most stressful time” in his career. At the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 “engulfed” RCH and its employees’ time and energy, he said.
Olson was impressed with the resilience and commitment of RCH staff during the heights of COVID-19.
“It was a dangerous situation and people were dying,” Olson said. “Our staff came to work every day and did their jobs and took care of our patients. I think our organization did a phenomenal job with the pandemic. The whole entire team here worked towards that. It was truly a team effort. Even though it was difficult to watch and understand what was going on in our society, I was just so impressed with the people here at RCH. I will never forget what they've done. The lesson learned is, 'It's your staff. That's what makes things happen.’"
On top of the pandemic, Olson’s three recent years as CEO also included the implementation of Epic, RCH’s new electronic system. The implementation took months and Epic is used by a large part of the healthcare industry. Epic has allowed RCH to be compatible with other hospitals and medical facilities around the world and country.
The pandemic brought about staffing shortages in the medical industry, which was another of Olson’s priorities in the past three years. He said that the situation has improved locally and he hopes that will continue.
“Our HR department has done a really good job keeping our facility staffed,” Olson said. “We're in a more comfortable place with staffing than we were when things were really bad with the healthcare workforce nationwide. I pray and hope that we're fully back to normal here soon.”
Since announcing his retirement plans to RCH staff, Olson has found it difficult to make his usual walks around the hospital where he talks with employees.
“It's been emotionally difficult for me,” Olson said. “Every day I go home and I'm drained. I am going to miss these people dearly. I think the family atmosphere is what I'll remember most. People care about each other. The camaraderie and teamwork have been consistent over my total number of years here. It's all about excellence and providing great patient care. The commitment of the staff and their caring nature is my main takeaway.”