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New president settles in at Angel Medical

fr gorbyFor someone who has spent most of her life in Ohio, moving to the mountains of Western North Carolina has been a dream come true for Karen Gorby.

“I absolutely love it. It’s great to wake up and see the mountains,” she said. “I think my family is getting sick of me posting pictures on Facebook all the time.”

Gorby moved to Franklin about two months ago to continue her long health care career at the helm of Angel Medical Center. As the new president and Chief Nursing Officer, she is responsible for overseeing patient and nursing care at the rural hospital. It’s a role she is quite familiar with after working at large health care systems in Ohio. Most recently, she served as the administrator and CNO at Mercy Memorial Hospital, which is the largest health care provider in the Ohio. 

Gorby received her nursing degree from Saint Josephs College in Maine and her master’s in business administration from Wright State University in Ohio. As the oldest of five children, she said nurturing others was always something that came naturally for her — making a career in nursing a perfect fit. 

“Anytime someone got hurt, I was the one to help them,” she said. “I never wanted to do anything else. To be a nurse you have to have that passion and it has to be what you’re meant to do.”

While nursing was her first passion, she found being a hospital administrator allows her to have a larger impact. While a nurse can have an enormous impact on a couple of patients at a time, an administrator can have a larger influence over the health care system. 

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“As a leader, you can look at the system and at how you can affect change for the entire patient population and a community,” Gorby said.


Forging ahead

Before she even arrived in Franklin, Gorby said she came up with a 90-day plan for her new position. The first thing on her list was getting to know her staff at Angel Medical and getting out in the community to connect with other leaders and health care providers. With the rapid changes happening in the health care industry, she said it was important to be aware of the services available in the community and figure out what the opportunities are. 

“Our goal is to keep people healthy, but we don’t want to duplicate other services in the community,” she said. “We want to look at how we connect with those organizations to keep people healthy and educated.”

Another goal was to work on some recruiting for a more permanent nursing team as opposed to traveling nurses. With one more nursing manager joining the team this month, Gorby said that goal is close to being accomplished. Having a permanent team will help with continuity and also build more trust in the community. 

“That will be key in moving forward and continuing to elevate the quality of care,” she said. “There’s been a lot of change here and we need to get back to having permanent people here to stabilize the leadership team.”

One of AMC’s strengths, Gorby said, is the staff already in place. She has found everyone to be engaged and committed to learning new ways to do their job even better. But even the staff has been a little hesitant over whether Gorby is here to stay or just passing through like the others before her. When asked by a staff member whether she would be staying in Franklin, Gorby quickly said, “Yes, I already bought a house.”


About Angel Medical

Angel Medical Center is a not-for-profit critical access hospital under the Mission Health umbrella. As a rural health facility, AMC can only have 25 inpatients at any time and employs about 250 people. The full-service hospital serves Macon County and surrounding areas. Because of its isolated location and large aging population, Gorby said AMC plays a vital role in the community. 

“Our population is the second oldest population in Western North Carolina and with that comes a lot of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, which means people are more prone to having strokes,” she said. 

Gorby was pleased to report a major accolade AMC recently received that tells her the hospital is moving in the right direction. iVantage recently included AMC in its list of Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the nation. It was only one of three North Carolina hospitals to make the list.

“That looks at our market penetration, our quality patient experience and financial performance,” Gorby said. “With 700 other critical access hospitals in the country, it’s really an honor.”

Gorby said the community has been very supportive of Angel Medical, but she has fielded many questions about Mission’s role in the local hospital. While the Asheville-based health system operates AMC and five other hospitals in the region, Gorby said Mission gives AMC the flexibility to make local decisions that are best for the community.

“Mission is our foundation. They help us do what we need to do for the community and enable us to make sure we have the tools to provide high-quality care,” she said. 

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