Keri Chelf, CCO for CuraHealth enjoys working in an environment with more personal interaction.

by Traci Chapman

Keri Chelf’s life has taken a lot of recent turns – a new employer, a new position, even a new way of looking at patient care. And, it’s an exciting learning experience every single day, she says.
“I felt a need for a different perspective – a little more hands on experience, the experience of handling finance aspects, managing different departments and, of course, new employees and a new company,” the new Curahealth Hospital chief clinical officer said. “It’s been exciting, challenging, and I’ve enjoyed it.”
For Chelf, a major change has been the difference in her previous work at Integris Health Network and the long-term acute care practiced by Curahealth.
“My background was short-term care, which is what you generally see in most hospitals,” Chelf said. “There, you’re looking at an average stay of two to three days – while some people can stay a little longer than that, it’s more the exception than the norm.”
“Because of the short-term nature of that care, you’re really much more ‘site-neutral’ when it comes to our interactions with our patients and how much we can get involved in who they are and what they might be facing in dealing with their conditions,” she said. “It also is quite different when it comes to admission criteria and CMS guidelines.”
Curahealth’s long-term philosophy is very different, Chelf said. There, patients typically stay about 25 days, some longer, depending on need. Those individuals are facing conditions and treatment like wound care, respiratory and pulmonary issues, which can also mean more complex emotional needs they might have in dealing with a chronic, many times very difficult condition, the CCO said. That presents a challenge to Chelf and her staff – but also an opportunity.
“We really get the chance to get to know our patients – we get to practice that truly hands on care and can develop close ties with them and their families,” she said. “We get to know their families, see their progression, and that’s a real positive.”
“It’s just something I really enjoy about working in this environment because it feels very gratifying to have that more personal interaction, and it’s something that motivates me in seeing how the staff deals with that,” Chelf said. “It’s not that other nursing staff doesn’t care, not at all, but this environment provides such an opportunity for a deeper relationship with our patients.”
The changes began for Chelf when she joined Curahealth in November. That timing, in itself, was fortuitous, she said, because the hospital had just been purchased by the Dallas-based firm in October from long-time operator Kindred Healthcare.
The Oklahoma City hospital was one of 12 long-term acute facilities acquired by Curahealth in a $27.5 million sale.
That ownership change meant her staff was also going through a transition, dealing with the normal ups and downs involved with any acquisition. While that posed its own challenges for Chelf, she said the shared experience helped forge a bond between all of them.
“It can be difficult for anyone getting a new boss and for me, coming in with a new staff, that’s not always easy either,” Chelf said. “But, we’re working together to reorganize and restructure, get things running with more efficiency, and I’m proud of everyone for getting on board and making the best of that challenge, while making sure our patients always get the very best care.”
“We have a great staff, a lot of people who have worked at this facility for a long time and who are very, very committed to our patients, and that’s something that makes any kind of transition easier,” she said.
Curahealth’s acquisition also offers a unique practical experience, not just for Chelf, but for all of the hospital’s staff – paper charting.
“It is a huge difference to do paper charting versus electronic charting – I’ve never experienced that,” Chelf said. “It’s interesting because you know the workflow of the hospital in a very different way, but it certainly does take some getting used to.”
Chelf said as she has worked through her own transition, she’s reflected back on her time at Integris, where she began working in 2009. After eight months in the intensive care unit, she worked in pediatric critical care and neurostroke, beginning as team manager and then clinical director for more than three years.
“It was a very positive experience and something I’m grateful for in coming to this new challenge,” she said.
Chelf earned a BSN at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 2009 and began working towards her master’s in healthcare administration from Oklahoma State University in 2016.
She has lived in Edmond for six years and has four children.
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