SOMERS POINT - A nursing career has led Linda Kenwood to a high executive position - chief operating officer - at Shore Medical Center, underscoring the increasing importance of nurses in the changing world of health care.

Kenwood, of Somers Point, has been the medical center's chief nursing officer for the past two years, initially in an interim capacity.

In her new role, she will oversee all of the medical center's operations, from its surgical pavilion and cancer center to its outpatient services and radiology department.

Her appointment is the latest in a health-care trend toward putting clinicians, doctors and nurses in administrative roles where they can apply their experience coordinating caring for patients to the hospital's business strategy.

"In the last 10 years I've noticed more nurses that have assumed responsibilities and moved into the (administrative) role as well as executive roles. I think it has a lot of advantages," Kenwood said.

The roots of nursing are in direct patient care, she said. Nurses coordinate with all medical disciplines inside and outside the hospital, including social workers and rehabilitation specialists.

"It just makes sense. When you look at that role, it's really about managing those operations that impact patient care to improve outcomes," she said.

The hospital recently named David R. Hughes, former chief financial officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., to the position of chief financial officer.

Kenwood formerly worked at Magee-Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh and Prentice Women's Hospital, Presence St. Joseph's Hospital and Chicago Lying-In Hospital in Chicago.

Kenwood has administrative experience from her time as vice president at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Va., where she supervised 500 full-time employees.

She also supervised a 200-bed community hospital called Sentara Careplex Hospital in Hampton, Va.

She joins a leadership team that includes President and CEO Ron Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Jeanne Rowe. Kenwood came to Shore Medical Center in 2012 as a consultant to serve as an interim chief nursing officer.

The health-care industry is undergoing a major change with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but the effects on hospitals remain to be seen, she said. With more uninsured patients now getting insurance coverage, hospitals could see fewer patients in their emergency rooms.

"It's hard to say. There's a lot of thought that folks will use health care more than they have in the past. But there is also a suggestion that might not be true," she said. "I think we're going to see increased movement to outpatient care with a focus on community service."

Shore Medical Center is working to improve its electronic records-keeping. And Kenwood said one priority will be to improve services to mentally ill patients in South Jersey.

"When you see a change in the economy, you see a rise in mental health problems and addictions," she said. "We see a lot of these patients. Where do they go after they leave us? As an organization we need to come together and work with federal funding and grants to provide greater community services. It's very much lacking."

Kenwood describes her management style as team-oriented. But whatever the issue, patient care comes first, she said.

"It doesn't matter what role you hold in this organization. We're here to do the right thing for the patients," she said.

When she is not working or spending time with her family, Kenwood said she enjoys yoga and taking walks on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

"I love the community. I feel very blessed," she said.

Contact Michael Miller:

609-272-7217