By Blithe Wiley
As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, grow and overcome challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic, St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital is on a path toward success led by a female executive at its helm. As CEO of St. Luke’s Baptist, Vicki Gulczewski is not only shaping how healthcare is delivered in San Antonio, she is also paving the way for more women to lead in administrative healthcare roles across the city.
Gulczewski, RN, M.S.N., was named CEO in August 2022 of St. Luke’s Baptist, which is recognized nationally for outstanding care programs, including its comprehensive stroke center, orthopedics, women’s services, and for its highest-level (Level IV) of Maternal Care and Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
In addition to ensuring high-quality healthcare for all patients, Gulczewski said she believes that, in her position as CEO, it’s also important to be a strong role model for the youth in the community. “They are the next generation of leaders for our city,” Gulczewski said. “I believe girls and young women need to be exposed to any and all opportunities that boys are exposed to,” she said. “They need to see successful women in all career fields and understand that they too can be or do anything they set their mind and heart to. I’m always looking for ways to encourage women, particularly young women,” Gulczewski said.
Gulczewski was recruited by the Baptist Health System while she was still a nursing student completing her RN diploma in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “I wanted to move somewhere much warmer for a career opportunity,” Gulczewski said. “When I visited San Antonio, I immediately loved the community, the activities, the people, and the culture.”
She started her career with Baptist Health System at the downtown Baptist Medical Center, later moving to the Baptist North Central Hospital. She primarily worked in adult and pediatric critical care during the course of her 16-plus-year nursing career. “I absolutely loved nursing,” she explained. “I’ve always been committed to providing the very best in patient care.”
She recently celebrated her 30th anniversary with Baptist Health System. During the course of her distinguished career with Baptist Health System, she has held a number of leadership positions, both as an RN and as a hospital administrator. Clinically, she has led healthcare teams through her roles as Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Critical Care, charge nurse of adult intensive care, and pediatric intensive care coordinator.
Prior to being named Chief Executive Officer of St. Luke’s, she served as the hospital’s Chief Operating Officer since 2015. As COO, she supervised daily operations of the hospital, including support and clinical services, surgical services, neurosciences, and cardiology services.
Over her healthcare career, several nursing and physician leaders at Baptist encouraged her to advance into a leadership role. Gulczewski considered pursuing a leadership path in clinical care but ultimately determined she would have even more impact on patient care as an administrative leader.
Over the years, Gulczewski has been very involved with a number of professional leadership organizations, including the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the Texas Nurses Association. She found her involvement with these groups not only helped her keep abreast of healthcare trends but also provided her with rewarding professional and personal relationships with other healthcare leaders, particularly women.
In addition, her career path with Baptist Health System has been positively impacted by women leaders in nursing, clinical care, and hospital administration. “I’ve been very fortunate to have really strong relationships with other women leaders,” Gulczewski said. “For me, it was very impactful to see close up how they became leaders and how they excelled in these roles.”
Gulczewski has always been very passionate about inspiring girls and young women to seek out leadership roles in their careers. She has worked with women leadership groups to present to high school and college girls on the career subjects of nursing and hospital administration.
Gulczewski attributes much of her career success to her commitment to Baptist Health System’s parent company, Tenet Healthcare’s mission, vision, and values. These values are: Integrity, Transparency, Innovation, Quality, and Service. “I live these values every day. By upholding these values, I am able to navigate any situation successfully,” she said.
Gulczewski’s advice for women who aspire to be in a leadership role in the healthcare industry? “The number one most important attribute you must have is a positive attitude,” she said. “Also, you need to want to learn, and you need to be coachable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to ask for help. Last, always believe that you can be and do anything you set your mind to. With this belief, you will succeed.”