Trisha Montague will lead Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest, soon to be under construction in Springdale. She took over as the hospital’s senior vice president of regional services in November. She is overseeing key leadership positions and the on-site construction of the 225,000-square-foot, 24-bed hospital on 37 acres near Arvest Ballpark.
She was chief nursing officer of Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, where she was the executive leader on a $150 million renovation project.
• Date and place of birth: July 23, 1954, in Corpus Christi, Texas
• Family: partner Michael Watson
• Education: bachelor’s of science in nursing from Loretta Heights College in Denver and master’s in nursing administration from University of Colorado
• First job: waiting tables at a family restaurant
• Word or phrase that best describes me: empathetic
• If I was on a reality show it would be: Top Chef
• Favorite movies: “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and “Out of Africa”
• Cruising music: blues and classic rock
• Favorite animated character: Nemo
• Dream vacation: a month in the countryside of Italy and France
• Bad habit: I’m a bit of a procrastinator
• Pet peeve: dishonesty
• If I had an extra hour each day I would: walk
• What’s always in my refrigerator: cheese and lemonade
Q. What’s the most important aspect of a children’s hospital?
A. What really differentiates taking care of children is that your patient is the whole family and how that particular patient defines their family — mom, dad, grandma, aunt, guardian, sibling. Pediatric health care is all about understanding the comprehensive nature of a child — who is involved in their life and how those people influence their ability to get and stay well. The family is part of the health care team. Everything we do from design and policy development to how we actually provide care, we are thinking about it from that aspect.
Q. What is your approach to creating a new hospital in Northwest Arkansas?
A. We learn as we go. We have an amazing foundation with Arkansas Children’s Hospital [in Little Rock]. We have a very clear vision about what we are doing here. We’re trying to bring that excellent care that has been provided for over 100 years closer to this fastest growing part of Arkansas. There are so many children and families up here that have to travel to Little Rock or leave the state. We don’t want them to have to do that and want provide that excellent care right here in Northwest Arkansas. We’ve talked about keeping the great things about Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and if there’s one or two things that aren’t so great, leaving those there, and creating our own unique greatness here. This is not an extension. We are building Arkansas Children’s Northwest. It will be its unique self. What an incredible opportunity to start from a blank slate and create a special environment.
Q. What does the hospital look like in five years?
A. It’s going to look amazing. We will be three years into it since we open in two years. I feel 100 percent confident that we will be talking about the expansion we are ready to start. I really believe this place will take off. The growth here is big and there are a lot of kids here. We know they are going to keep coming and we know we are going to do something special for them that doesn’t exist now.
Q. What led you into the medical field?
A. I’m one of those corny people. I wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl. It’s all I ever really wanted to be. I started out as a pediatric nurse when I graduated from nursing school and I’ve been working with children’s hospitals ever since then. I got into the nursing administration aspect somewhere along in there and now I’ve had this great opportunity to expand my reach beyond nursing through the whole hospital.
Q. Do you miss the one-on-one patient interaction?
A. I miss it every day and still think about it every day. Being a nurse is such a gift. I loved every minute of it. It’s a great profession and you can do so much with it. It’s all about taking care of people at their most vulnerable time. They trust you to do the best you can for them. I realized that early on. It felt like a covenant for me.
Q. Did anyone help shape your career path?
A. My father. He was a person of remarkable integrity and love of the world and life. He was my star, my shining point through growing up and college. I strive to be the kind of person that is strong and true and considerate. He was an engineer and had a very difficult childhood, but somehow came out of that as this really special person. I aspired for him to be proud of me.
Q. What advice do you have for the younger generation?
A. In my role as a nursing leader working with younger nurses, one of the things I learned the hard way is to not sweat the small stuff. It’s a simple thing but can be hard to do. I think as we mature and grow, we think “Why did I worry about all that stuff?” Don’t worry about the little stuff. You are doing something bigger than you and it will be OK. Keep your perspective.
Q. What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
A. I’ve always been open to opportunities in my career. As a young person, I was settled and had a great life in Denver, where I went to college. Someone offered me a position in San Francisco and I was like, “Sure, why not?” So on my own I packed up and moved. I’ve done that a few times. Those are obviously risky maneuvers as a young, single woman. It’s given me an incredible breadth of understanding of health care and people and experience. I try to use that to be a better person and a better leader.
Q. If you weren’t a nurse, what else would you be doing?
A. I was blessed to do my dream career. I would have been called to some type of service. In my little secret fantasies, I’m a singer.
Print Headline: Montague to lead new Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Springdale