Meet the Team: Erin Nelson

Blog,News & Events
Erin Nelson, senior consultant

Meet the Team is our blog series introducing some of the amazing professionals at Ascendient – who they are and what makes them tick. This month, meet Erin Nelson, a managing consultant who joined the firm in May of 2021.

I know you have a varied background in healthcare strategy, but these days you focus largely on the where of healthcare delivery. So, talk to me a little about facilities planning and space utilization ­– why do you think that’s such an important part of healthcare transformation?

From a healthcare transformation perspective, we should be thinking about our facilities and how we can deliver care differently – make it convenient and affordable with a focus on prevention. While we’ve had virtual care capabilities for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic really pushed the industry in the right direction as we saw providers embrace technology to ensure patients received the care they needed, without providing that care in a traditional physician office or hospital setting.

You’ve hit on a passion of mine with this topic, so I’ll spare you an incredibly long answer and just share one more thing. There was a mural in my elementary school entryway that read “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” For six years, I read that mural every Monday – Friday, and as I’m sure it was intended to do, it stuck with me. Successful healthcare transformation will require just that: a whole community contributing to the health of its population.

For our healthcare providers/clients, it will mean leveraging community spaces like churches and conference centers for mobile clinics and structuring virtual medical homes for care coordination. Bricks and mortar aren’t going away, but the built environment surely won’t look the same 10 years from now.

Real estate clearly is something that fascinates you because you actually earned a NC broker’s license. How do you think that helps you as a healthcare consultant?

This background gives me a unique perspective on the intersection between real estate and healthcare strategy. For instance, a healthcare provider may come to Ascendient asking what services they should provide on a parcel of land that they own. My real estate background helps me think through an approach to this problem from an end-user’s perspective. Just like helping a newlywed couple looking for a house, we have to ask the right questions to get to the final and best solution.

You’ve had more than a decade of strategy experience, but you joined Ascendient just last year. What was it about the firm that attracted you?

Without a doubt, it was Ascendient’s reputation as a high-performing, forward-thinking consulting firm. I was looking to join a team whose recommendations challenged the status quo and positioned clients for the way care will be delivered in the future. Over the course of my career, I had several conversations with overlapping clients and colleagues who had positive experiences working with Ascendient, so when I was ready to make a move, Ascendient immediately came to mind.

Erin Nelson with her dogOutside the office, you’ve been a hospice volunteer for at least a decade. What drove you to choose that particular volunteer outlet?

I think it’s important to start by understanding that hospice volunteers work in many capacities from filing paperwork to picking up/delivering groceries to providing family respite. While all of these roles are so important, I primarily provide patient companionship to individuals living in nursing homes.

Prior to volunteering with hospice, I worked as a home health aide where I witnessed firsthand that patient care is more than just making sure someone’s vitals are in order… it’s about nurturing the delicate balance between mind, body, and spirit. Since our current healthcare system isn’t always set up to provide patients with this balance, I wanted to find a way that I could help fill the gaps and make patients feel comfortable, heard, and loved as they go through their final journey on earth.

You’ve also volunteered for many years as a Girls on the Run coach. What was your most memorable moment with that program?

Every season of Girls on the Run brings a new, special group of girls together,  but I’ll never forget when I met Sarah, a middle school student at Belmont Middle. After walking around the track with Sarah at the end of our first lesson, I learned that she had recently moved into a homeless shelter. Her mom wanted her to participate in Girls on the Run, but she wasn’t sure if it was really for her.

Although I was limited in what I could do to help her home life, I vowed to make her Girls on the Run experience a positive one. By the end of the semester Sarah had made new friends in the program and was jogging around the track instead of walking. I was so proud of her for powering through her doubts and for finding a positive outlet, like exercise, to address the stressors in her life.

Exit question: If you could solve one issue in the US healthcare system that would have the greatest impact, what would that be?

If I could solve one issue in the US healthcare system, it would be issues surrounding reimbursement structure. We need to structure a system that promotes preventive, whole-person care for the entirety of one’s life.

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