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More hospital CEOs are sticking around, but for how long?


Fewer top executives have left their hospitals in 2022, according to a new report on executive departures.

If a hospital’s chief executive officer wanted to consider a career change, 2022 would offer plenty of reasons.

Hospitals have seen tremendous financial difficulties over the past year, and more than half of hospitals are expected to end 2022 in negative margins. Hospitals saw a peak of COVID-19 cases early in the year, and now they’re seeing a “triple-demic,” with plenty of patients with respiratory viruses, the flu, and yes, COVID-19.

At the same time, many hospital and healthcare CEOs are sticking around.

So far this year, hospital CEO departures have dipped a bit, according to a report released last week by Challenger, Gray, & Christmas Inc.

From January through November, there have been 97 hospital CEO exits, down from the 104 departures seen in the same period in 2021, the report stated. In November, 12 hospital CEO exits were announced.

Among other healthcare companies, there have been 106 CEO exits, also down from 114 in 2021. Six exits were announced in November.

The number of CEO departures among all industries is the lowest since 2017, according to the firm, which tracks executive exits. Through November, companies have announced 1,135 CEO exits in 2022, which is an 8% drop from 2021 (1,231 exits). It’s the lowest figure in that span since 2017, when 1,065 CEO exits were disclosed.

Of course, with a new year, and new challenges ahead, some chief executives may be refining their exit strategies, said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“We may begin to see large numbers of CEO changes as we enter 2023 amid an economic downturn. Companies are shoring up succession plans to enter the storm,” Challenger said in a statement.

The number of healthcare CEO departures was the third highest of any industry sector, while the number of hospital exits was fourth. The sector with the most CEO departures was the government/nonprofit sector, with 246 departures.

The most common reason for CEO exits was retirement, with 286 winding down their careers, while 256 stepped into other roles in the company, such as a board chairman or some other C-level post, the report stated. And 82 said they left for new opportunities elsewhere.

A little more than a quarter (26.4%) of the new CEOs are women, which was on par with 2021. In 2020, women accounted for 23% of the new chief executives.

Organizations are willing to look outside their companies for new chief executives. This year, 541 CEOs came from outside the company, while 515 top executives were promoted from other roles within the organization.

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