St. Clare names president

September 18, 2018

Four months after Laura Jelle’s abrupt departure, SSM Health St. Clare Hospital has named a new president.

On Monday, SSM regional executive Steve Little named Laura Walczak president of the Baraboo hospital. She previously had served as vice president of patient care at a sister hospital, St. Mary’s of Janesville, since April 2013. Walczak takes the reins at St. Clare on Oct. 1.

“Laura brings a wealth of experience and strong leadership to our St. Clare team,” Little said.

Walczak replaced Jelle, who left in May in what a hospital spokesperson called an “abrupt leadership transition.” Jelle had served as president since 2015 and had worked in other St. Clare leadership posts since 1995. Vice President Scott Wysocki served as interim president.

“It is a privilege to remain in service to our SSM Health mission to provide exceptional healthcare services,” Walczak said. “I am excited for the opportunity to join the team at St. Clare who have been doing great work to achieve impressive healthcare outcomes in the Baraboo, Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton communities.”

At St. Mary’s, Walczak helped shape a culture of compassionate care by establishing a relationship-based delivery model across the Janesville campus. She was also instrumental in developing the ministry’s professional practice model and creating a shared decision-making governance structure that enabled the team to achieve continuous improvements in quality, safety, employee engagement and patient satisfaction.

Walczak also served as chief nursing officer for SSM Health Wisconsin, representing the region’s nurses at the system level and helping to lead integration efforts with Agnesian HealthCare and Monroe Clinic. A member of the system’s Nursing Professional Development Steering Team, she has been a strong advocate for professional development opportunities.

A registered nurse, Walczak earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a master’s degree in business administration from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. She is a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives and the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Leaders.

Before joining SSM, Walczak was director of government programs for the Joint Commission, where she worked to transform the accreditation process for the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Defense. A Wisconsin native, she began her career as a critical care nurse for St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee and went on to hold leadership positions with hospitals in the Advocate, Centegra and Mercy Health Systems in the greater Chicago area.

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