Keith Hustak, PA-C

Keith Hustak, PA-C, worked clinically in primary care and orthopaedic surgery for eight years, prior to deciding he had a different mission. Although he enjoyed patient care, he wanted to make a difference at the healthcare system level where he could be involved in decisions affecting policy and procedures.

He says: “I questioned the decisions of the organization I was working for at the time, and I had suggestions that were not being considered seriously. So, I decided to earn my MPH with a goal to get into leadership, where I thought I could make a difference in the wider healthcare community.”

While still working as a PA, Hustak traveled from Kentucky to Ohio for two years to earn his Masters of Public Health degree from Ohio State University.

He and his wife, Melissa Hustak, PA-C, moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be closer to family. There Keith was hired as a PA at Spectrum Health, a healthcare system that is also the largest employer in Western Michigan and includes 12 hospitals, and multiple treatment facilities, urgent care centers and physicians’ practices, as well as its own health plan.

Spectrum has had tremendous growth in the last five years, which aligned with Hustak’s plan to move into operations. During the last four years, he has held positions as operations specialist, director of operations, corporate director for physician alliance and now VP of advanced practice provider (APP) services. Spectrum has over 700 APPs, which by their definition includes 375 PAs and also those who work as NPs, audiologists, optometrists and psychologists.

“As the workforce is evolving, APPs are on the front lines of care,” Hustak says. “Spectrum wanted to make sure APPs work at the top of their competency and make sure that their voice is heard. My role is to break through barriers to hire the right people, onboard them so they are welcome and secure, and make sure they are properly utilized, recognized and retained. I want to improve APP satisfaction as we all know that happier and inspired providers deliver higher quality care to patients.”

“Keith models the combination of humility, self-doubt, restless curiosity, and courage to explore beyond accepted boundaries to drive the organization to relentless improvement despite colleagues’ preferences for stability and familiarity,” says Dr. Seth Wolk, system chief medical officer at Spectrum Health. “At a time when organizational survival requires disruptive change, leadership requires inspiring others to act in unfamiliar and often unwelcome ways.”

Hustak has a five-point plan to create what he calls a “super workforce.”

1) Recruit: solidify strong partnerships with top programs and recruit heavily from these schools.

2) Mentor: build a mentoring program that allows APPs to be mentored and trained by more seasoned providers in those critical first two years at Spectrum Health. This will allow APPs to eventually see more complex patients, improving access.

3) Support: Embrace team-based care by solidifying the roles and responsibilities of all providers in a care space.

4) Recognize: Educate Spectrum employees and patients about APP value and abilities and reward individuals who make a significant difference.

5) Retain: Hire PAs and others who will want to spend their entire career at Spectrum by giving them a voice, making them feel valued and allowing them to do the things they went into healthcare to do.

To support this plan, Hustak created a career path framework to encourage continuous growth of APPs throughout their career. He developed a mentorship program to help guide mentoring clinicians, so they can reassure new providers, and reassess new graduates during their first two years in clinical practice.

Colleague Sue Laham, PA-C, says “Keith has been vital to the advancement of APPs at Spectrum Health. His leadership on our Career Path Workgroup led to the formation of a new leadership structure allowing APPs to report to a fellow APP instead of an office manager, as well as ensuring that APPs have a voice in all critical decisions. His transparency and enthusiasm are creating positive changes in the culture of our system by focusing on work/life balance, mentorship and team based care.”

Hustak still works part time as a PA-C some nights and weekends doing primary care through virtual visits. He says, “It’s important to me to be grounded in patient care and understand the challenges of my colleagues.”

Hustak is actively engaged with various organizations throughout the country to share his ideas and learn from others who are also promoting success of PAs and NPs.

“When a PA or other APP starts their career at Spectrum, I want them to have good work/life balance, benefit from a strong mentorship program, receive fair compensation, and have the opportunity to grow so that they will spend their career here.”