When Lauri Tanner was a child, the oldest of five siblings constantly read the Nurse Nancy book series and took the lead in caring for her younger brothers and sisters. As an adult, her life continues to be focused on her greatest love: taking care of people.
As president and CEO of the nonprofit pediatric specialty hospital Ranken Jordan, Tanner leads the care of some of the community’s most vulnerable young patients. And she doesn't know how to do the job halfway, fully jumping into the role each moment of every day. When she’s not in business meetings, the extroverted leader can be found playing Wii baseball and Guitar Hero with patients. And even while she is in her office, kids interacting in the nearby play therapy space will pause to wave and blow kisses to her through the glass wall. “I love what I do,” she declares.
Maintaining a close relationship with patients, their families and hospital staffers members has become the key to Ranken Jordan’s success. During Tanner’s 12-year tenure as CEO, the hospital has grown from an annual revenue of $5 million to $55 million. And she is leading a capital campaign that will fund an expansion project to nearly double the hospital’s size—from 34 to 60 beds. “I have a vision. I can see where I think things are going to go, and I love to make it happen,” she explains. “And I’m good at seeing talent in people. I love helping people reach their maximum potential, whether that be employees or kids and their families.”
Ranken Jordan’s patients range from newborns to 21-year-olds, with diagnoses such as genetic disorders, brain and spinal cord injuries, and victims of drug abuse and violence. “They really are the most medically complex children in the community,” Tanner notes. “They need that transition between intensive care units and home. We help families with how they are going to navigate life. It’s not about what they cannot do, but what they can do.” Tanner also thrives under the financial challenges of the hospital, where 85 percent of patients rely on the Medicare system. To that end, she also works in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., to improve the government's Medicare policies through serving on the American Hospital Association's Regional Policy Board.
Despite her strong medical, business and leadership skills, Tanner will be the first to say she didn't seek to be a hospital CEO. “If you would've told me 20 years ago I’d be doing what I’m doing, I’d tell you that you were crazy,” she says with a laugh. But when the Nashville native came to St. Louis, Saint Louis University's School of Nursing made an impression on her. “My last day of nursing school, my professor stood up and said, Lead from a position of nursing. It really stuck with me.” With her nursing degree in tow, and a strong interest in business and finance, she went on to earn a graduate degree in nursing administration.
That combination of experience led her to move throughout the medical industry, from bedside nursing at multiple local hospitals to the administrative side of health care at Ranken Jordan. “I’m always a nurse at heart, and I lead from a position of nursing--always,” she notes. “But my true calling has been on the leadership side.”
As a health care leader in the community, she also is known as the ‘neighborhood nurse’ and dedicates time to mentoring students at SLU School of Nursing. "I am coaching them in their future careers,” she says. “People think they can’t have their dream job, and I’m here to tell you, you can.” Nursing is a tough job that doesn't receive enough recognition, she adds. “People always ask me, Who takes care of caretakers?, so I do that, too.”
Nursing has provided Tanner with the opportunity to be a bedside caregiver and lead Ranken Jordan. “I get up every day thinking that I want to make the difference. And it’s just so great when you can help people fall in love with the kids at Ranken Jordan.”