February 21, 2020
From PA to President: David Claeys’s Career Trajectory
How PA David Claeys Ended Up Running a 632-Bed Hospital
By Kate Maloney
David Claeys, PA-C, served in many different hospital roles before his October 2017 appointment as president of Beaumont Health, Dearborn, a 632-bed hospital. He found the “self-driven and self-directed” aspect of PA school to be a strong foundation for lifelong learning.
Starting Out as a PA
Claeys had a degree is hospital administration from the University of Detroit-Mercy and was working as a respiratory therapist when he decided to go back to PA school. “I love helping people,” he says, but he was looking for a “natural next step to get more involved with direct patient care.” After returning to his undergraduate alma mater and completing the PA program there, Claeys found himself enjoying his expanded opportunities – he was able to work in many areas of medicine, and with all patient ages and abilities. He found his work as a PA “helped me grow and develop professionally and personally.”
As a PA, Claeys worked extensively in cardiothoracic surgery and interventional radiology. He found constant motivation in his work: “I really enjoyed my professional relationships with my peers, staff, and physicians. It was rewarding to see patients go home and [to see] how relieved they were [that] their health concerns had been addressed.” While his focus remained on his personal relationships with patients and providing first-class health care, Claeys also used his time to develop his own leadership skills. He was fortunate to have “great mentors who taught me a lot about critical care medicine and surgery. They taught me about leading patient care teams and how to help staff treating our patients.”
Transitioning to Administration
When the director of imaging services position at Beaumont Hospital, Troy, opened up, Claeys’s colleagues encouraged him to apply. His educational background, his on-the-job experience, and his own desires “to get involved in the administrative part of health care” seemed like a natural fit. Even so, Claeys was surprised to be given the opportunity, but “quickly realized the impact I could have on a large number of patients and their families, as well as the staff who worked for me.” He wanted to make a difference and have a positive impact on patient care, so he was determined “to operate that department to the best of my ability.”
Claeys’s selection as director was only his first stop in hospital administration. He found himself personally and professionally fulfilled while he worked to “accomplish positive results in quality, safety, and operational goals for the hospital overall,” and continued to serve in increasingly responsible administrator roles. In October 2017, Claeys was appointed president of the 632-bed Beaumont Health, Dearborn hospital. In his current role, he greatly enjoys facilitating teams at the strategic level: developing, implementing, and testing plans that lead to positive patient outcomes. Still, though, the best part of his day is when “I’m rounding and I get to sit down and spend time with the teams on the front line.”
Claeys’s hospital presidency is informed by his education and experience. His hospital administration education and his PA work experience allow him to see both sides of the equation when it comes to providing care to patients. As a former clinical staff member himself, he can uniquely relate to their needs. He spends a considerable amount of his time rounding on patient floors, talking to patient-care teams, clinical staff, patients, and their families; he is committed to “keeping in touch with the purpose of what we do in health care.”
Claeys embodies the tenets of a dedicated PA. He advises those interested in leadership positions to be patient, learn where and from whom you can, and volunteer to take on additional assignments. Reach out to senior leaders in your organization, and be willing to put in extra work to get ahead.
As a hospital president, Claeys sees the roles of PAs only expanding in the future. “I think the entire U.S. health care system is realizing the value of PAs, and it’s likely there will be a higher demand for PAs than ever before,” he says. And with more PAs moving into leadership roles like Claeys’s, PAs will only become a bigger voice in health care.
Kate Maloney is AAPA’s senior manager of corporate communications. Contact her at [email protected].
Find more hospital administration and employer resources at Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management (CHLM).