Chris Atherton, Regional Director of Cardiovascular Services for La Porte and Starke hospitals, as well as sister hospital Porter Regional Hospital, identifies as a caregiver through and through.
“From my early days in high school and college as a babysitter, lifeguard, and waitress, and as an RN and paramedic early in my career, I’ve always taken care of people,” Atherton said. “I’ve been there to provide a service and keep them safe.”
She also considers herself to be very persistent when it comes to getting the job done.
“I’ve always been committed to doing things the right way. I think that comes from having a mother who was a schoolteacher!” Atherton said. “I follow the rules. I follow the plan. I’m thorough and take things very seriously. If given a task, I formulate the plan that can accomplish that task in the most efficient, cost-effective, creative way. I can focus on tasks and can complete what is necessary.”
These attributes brought her to La Porte Hospital, where Atherton quickly found her home and made her mark.
Atherton has been part of the La Porte Hospital family since 2008 when she started out serving as the Director of Electrophysiology Services. She then moved to Director of Cath Lab and EP Lab, and finally stepping into her dream role in 2019 as Regional Director of Cardiovascular Services. With this new role, Atherton manages all cardiovascular services at LaPorte Hospital, Starke Hospital, and Porter Regional Hospital.
Atherton spends her days meeting with each of her directors, reviewing census and patient schedules, interacting with patients, providers, and staff, and of course, facing and solving any issues head on.
“I start early and leave late! I travel between facilities often working every other day at a different site. I’m connected electronically to all so even if I’m not physically there, I’m still there!” Atherton said. “I learned a long time ago that time management is key, especially with the extensive workloads that we are all responsible for.”
And the work is so worth it to Atherton. She sees the impact of her, and her colleagues’ hard work every single day.
“Cardiovascular disease impacts so many people. By working to provide education, access, and alternatives to patients, I feel that we are able to impact the rates of stroke, heart disease, arrhythmias and heart failure by providing access to care and preventative measures as well as providing emergency care when minutes matter,” she said. “Our programs serve as a base for diagnosis, treatment, and after-care. We really have been able to impact many lives with the care that we have delivered in the Region.”
Although a little removed from direct patient care, Atherton still has opportunities to meet with patients who are having testing at the facilities she oversees.
“I feel blessed when we receive good comments and feel challenged when opportunities are identified. Because of my many years working in cardiac EP, I have many patients that I still have contact with. I’m happy that I may have been able to do something to make their lives better,” Atherton said.
Atherton credits her team with many of her successes. At La Porte, where Atherton was named Clinical Manager of the Year by a vote of her peers in 2020, Atherton has two directors, cath/EP lab and non-invasive cardiology, as well as two coordinators – chest pain and stroke.
“I feel so good about the team I have in place at La Porte and they are my biggest support system. This group is self-directed, self-motivated yet collaborative, so I feel very secure when we have projects that need to be completed,” Atherton said. “I enjoy working with my team to put together quality programs that will serve our patients, colleagues, and medical staff.”
Atherton is also very fortunate to report to a chief nursing officer who gives her support and the autonomy to run her departments.
“This is probably the most collaborative team that I have ever worked with,” Atherton said. “I am able to do the work I am meant to do in a place that lets me do it the way I want to do it.”
Outside of work, Atherton is a member of the LaPorte Hospital board of trustees, secretary of the board of directors of HealthLinc, chairperson of the quality committee for HealthLinc, and sits on the board of directors for Tech Credit Union. Clinically, she serves on the EP Lab Digest editorial board and the Boston Scientific Product Specific Focus Group. She is also a champion for the American Heart Association.
“Through this type of work, I feel that I am able to participate in the decision making that will strategically affect the colleagues of the hospital and healthcare decisions that will affect our communities,” Atherton said.
In her free time, Atherton enjoys working in her yard, gardening, music, reading, and escaping to the beach during the winter months. She is also extremely passionate about animals.
“I have always been an animal lover and have rescued many four-legged friends,” she said. “My current buddy was a rescue that certainly takes up a lot of my free time as she loves to be my travel buddy, going to the dog park or just snuggling up.”
Looking forward, Atherton hopes to continue her successes and to provide Northwest Indiana with quality healthcare programs.
“La Porte Hospital has been very good to me. I have had a great relationship through the years with the staff and administration. We have a very collaborative relationship and through this relationship we have been able to put many programs into place – whether it was Accreditations for Chest Pain, Stroke, or the Cardiac Electrophysiology programs or initiatives that provided the community services that they did not have access to before,” she said.
Atherton would like to thank her family and all of the friends she has made along the way including community members, nurses, physicians, and administrators.
“I have encountered so many friends during my years of serving in Northwest Indiana that it would be difficult to thank them all. These include people that I have met in the community, industry and in the healthcare field,” she said.
She would also like to thank Mark Dixon, D.O., for giving her the autonomy as well as support to develop her career goals.
“I think that I’m proudest of the work that I have done with Cardiac Electrophysiology over the past 30 years. Dr. Mark Dixon and I met each other early in our careers (1990) and collaborated to open numerous cardiac electrophysiology programs across Northwest Indiana in multiple facilities,” Atherton said. “We have always worked together to set up programs that will benefit our patients. As my duties have changed over the years, I still attribute his support and guidance to my success. We did it as a team.”
For more information on La Porte Hospital, visit https://www.laportehealth.com/.