Next Up Podcast: The Truth About Being a Parent and C-Suite Executive (Pt. 1)

Hello and welcome to Modern Healthcare’s Next Up, the podcast for women in healthcare who are headed for senior leadership. My name is Kadesha Smith, I’m your host. I’m also the CEO of CareContent, a digital marketing agency for healthcare organizations.

Today, we are talking about two important but very different roles. One is being a C-suite healthcare executive, and the other is being a parent.

For many women — and that includes me — the time to build your career and your family overlap. We’ll be discussing this topic at the upcoming Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference, which takes place July 22-23. At the end of this episode, I’ll share a discount code to receive 15% off the conference fees.

This is an important topic because I know I’m not alone, and many women feel that parenthood can complicate their professional progress. A lot of moms also suffer from mom guilt — not being able to devote their time exclusively to their families. But at the same time, some of us feel the pull to accomplish goals that we have outside of our families in order to feel whole. Fortunately, there are ways to manage this. For me, it starts with a mindset and knowing my boundaries.

In this episode, we’re talking to Sally Deitch about how she has managed motherhood and C-suite life. Sally is the Group CEO at Tenet Healthcare. Tenet has 65 hospitals, more than 450 outpatient centers, and 108,000 employees. In addition to all that, she has five sons, ranging from middle school to college.

Prior to her current role, Sally held other C-suite positions at Tenet Healthcare, including Chief Nursing Officer and Market Chief Executive Officer, for a total of 20 years.

SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we get into our discussion, I’d like to acknowledge OnTrak, the sponsor of this episode.

Ontrak is a behavioral healthcare company that identifies people who need more care and treats them for up to 52 weeks. With therapist-led care, members return to health. Payers get a return on investment.

Learn more, save more, help more at

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Now, let’s dive into our conversation with Sally Deitch on being both a dedicated parent and a C-suite professional.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Hi, Sally. How are you? Thank you so much for being here.

SALLY DEITCH: I’m great, thank you for having me. This is a wonderful opportunity.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: I feel honored. I was reading that you have five sons and 100,000 employees, and I just felt honored that you would make the time.

SALLY DEITCH: My kids probably thanked you for getting me out of their hair for a little bit.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Oh! Understood. So, I’m going to start with just a couple of key data points and then I’m going to dive into questions for our discussion. 

70% of mothers with children under age 18 are in the US labor force. Roughly 27% of working moms have said they’ve been treated as if they weren’t committed to their work, compared with 20% of working dads. And then the last point is that around 1 in 5 working moms have said that they’ve been passed over for promotions or for important projects because they have children.

So, I want to start our discussion with your story. How did it come to be that you’re a mom of five boys and a veteran in the C-suite? Was that your plan? Did that just sort of happen? Tell me just a little back story.

SALLY DEITCH: Oh, yeah. It was never planned that way. So, a little history and background. As you know, I am a registered nurse and I started nursing when I was very young. Out of college, 22 years old. And I didn’t have my first child until I was in my 30s. So number one, I had a lot of time in my 20s. And I have such a love and passion for hospitals and taking care of patients that if I could spend 24 hours a day at a hospital, I would have. I just spent more and more time at the facility, and wanted to learn new areas and new departments. I can say most of my 20s, if I look at it, was about not only learning healthcare and learning how to be a great nurse, but — how did a hospital actually work to take care of a community?

And that, kind of, was the starting point for my career. So, by the time I was 27, I was a Chief Nursing Officer. And again, could really spend a lot of time in the facility. And then once I started having children in my 30s, it changes very quickly. And as you know, I have five sons. So, most people would always say, you know, how do you do this? How did you balance having kids, and a husband, and dogs, and a home with the job that it came with? And at the same time, moving through my career and went from a Chief Nursing Officer to a Chief Operating Officer to a CEO. And then responsibility for groups of hospitals and markets — it all has kind of moved, it seems like, at lightning speed after that.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: You have dogs, too. How many dogs do you have?

SALLY DEITCH: I have three dogs on top of that.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Well, let’s talk about balance because that is always the question for women who have their eyes on a leadership position but also want children. They want family, they want the dogs. How do you decide when to focus on one and pull away from the other? Is it a constant juggle? How are you prioritizing?

SALLY DEITCH: It changes based on times in my life. And I think that’s probably the most important piece to kind of work through. And I will tell you, you know, starting off — there’s working with your partner and that was key. My husband, who not only is an incredible man but is an incredible partner, and his understanding of what drives me. And as he tells me all the time — the thing that makes Sally happy is that I have to not only go to work, but I have to be in the midst of the chaos and the crazy and the change and the, you know, the things that make me very passionate about taking care of people.

And if I don’t experience those things, then I’m unfulfilled not only professionally but I think it bleeds over to my personal mental health and well-being. So number one, I’d say it’s having very direct and honest conversations with whoever your partner is about what drives you professionally. And what’s driving you to excel or to move to the next level. And why that need is important for you from not only your mental well-being, but as you see yourself through your own eyes — what does that look like?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Absolutely. And it sounds like that partner has to be accepting of that, right? They can’t expect you to sacrifice this very important aspect of your spirit and your identity because it might be demanding for them.

SALLY DEITCH: You’re right on. And so I think that was for me, kind of, the first point. Then once having children — and everybody is different. And the realization that everybody is different when it comes to their experience as a parent. I can tell you, with my first child, I did the whole I’m gonna take my full allotted time, and I’m gonna be home, and really embrace the aspects of motherhood that I thought I would. I can tell you for me personally — and it’s different for everybody — at about 8 weeks I thought, I need adult stimulation. Like, I can’t handle it.

And so, you know, then when you move to having your next child, it was different. You know what my thoughts and expectations were, were very different with that child. What do I need to put in place and how am I thinking ahead for these things, also changed. You have to be flexible with yourself to understand that your needs, your family’s needs, your job needs are all going to change and you do have to be fluid in this. I never went to work with the expectation that well, my boss or my whoever needs to make adjustments for me. I never went in with that expectation.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: We will talk about that as well.

MID-SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we continue our discussion, I’d like to again recognize Ontrak, the sponsor of today’s episode.
With just 5% of people accounting for 44% of healthcare costs, Ontrak identifies and treats those people for up to 52 weeks. With this unique sort of support, your members can achieve true behavior change and better health that can last a lifetime.
Learn more, save more, help more. Visit
Now, let’s get back to our discussion.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: I’m still stuck on the five sons part. OK so — and the three dogs. Let’s talk about the village you have around you. Reading your bio, we immediately assumed her husband must be a rockstar. But I’m sure he’s one key part of that village. Can you talk about the other people that you lean on for help? And how do you cultivate those relationships?

SALLY DEITCH: Yes, my husband is an absolute rockstar. My husband is also a retired Navy SEAL. His ability, I think, to organize and to give orders is, you know, probably works very well. But he is himself, a very organized person. He now owns his own businesses and that has created and given him enough flexibility that he can complement me very well with things. When I can’t be at something, he can. We balance each other out when it comes to the parenting style.

The other pieces which I think have really been key for us — and not everybody has the capability to do this — but if you can, is to find that additional support and what does that look like? One of our sons has autism and is an incredible individual. But even as he was growing, and developing and changing, and the needs we had for him was identifying that caregiver-type support. And so, while I say nanny, we’ve never really had a nanny. It’s not like going through, you know, the formal process of trying to find a nanny and going through that.

We actually started trying to just find somebody local that could come help with the kids after school. And in the process of this, found somebody that not only yes, could come and help us after school, but in many ways, he has really kind of become my sixth son. So, he has been with us now — he is 27 — he has been with us since he was 18 years old.


SALLY DEITCH: He is not really a nanny. He’s a manny. He has become, you know, part of our family. There was always somebody that was present with our kids. And that’s been key.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: That’s so interesting that you say that. My husband and I also have a son with autism. He’s six years old and a key support person has been the paraprofessional that shadows him in school. I think that’s so important that you thought about like — what does our family need? And then you cultivated this long-term relationship with this person who feels like now a part of the family, not just like somebody you hired to help.

SALLY DEITCH: That’s right. And then communicating that to our kids. We never wanted our children to think of Big Sam as the hired help. Big Sam is part of our family. We trust him with our children. And that he would be, not only respected and appreciated — and eventually that grows into love, you know — but seen as part of our family.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Absolutely. Do you think being a CEO — especially since you arrived at the C-suite before you became a mother — is there anything about being in leadership and healthcare that helps you be a mom? And then vice versa, anything about being a mom that you think helps with being in the C-suite?

SALLY DEITCH: Oh, every day. Doing a lot of stuff when I didn’t have children gives me insight into people that are trying to rise through leadership ranks that don’t have children yet and may want to push themselves in that way. Versus somebody who now has children and — depending on the age of the child or children — what things and what kind of flexibilities that I can provide that, like I said earlier, I never expected of my own bosses. But now with my experiences, can reflect and say these are things that I wish would have happened for me that I can actually pass down.

Lastly, I think being a mom absolutely — you know, you grow a lot of patience, but I think also the ability to look at a situation and not automatically overreact. That comes with a maturity. I think parenting has done a lot of that for me. Because you think about when you have your first child, anything and everything they do is very dramatic. Sometimes, it can be very overwhelming like, oh my gosh, they ate the crayon! You’re gonna call poison control. To — or at least for us — by the third you are like, just clean it off! And you approach things differently. 

So, I think it has given me a ton of patience. And then, the ability to not overreact to situations and really assess something. Take a step back and have an absolute more measured response than I would have in the past.

OUTRO COMMENTS: There’s no doubt that juggling parenting and advancing your career is demanding and, sometimes, exhausting. Thank you, Sally Deitch, for that insight on how working moms can navigate both of these roles.

We’d also like to again thank this episode’s sponsor, Ontrak.

We’ll be expanding on this topic at the Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare conference on July 22-23. If you register with the code (NextUp), you’ll receive a 15% discount off the conference fees and any conference add-on opportunities. To register, go to

Again, I’m your host, Kadesha Smith, CEO of CareContent. We help health systems reach their growth goals through digital strategy and digital content. 

Look for more episodes of Next Up at, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcatcher. Thanks so much for listening.