Author Catherine Pulsifer once wrote, “In all aspects of our lives balance is key.”
Lexington Medical Center Director of Imaging Services Wesley “Wes” Harden agrees – even if he finds balance in an unusual place.
“We are living in interesting times right now. There are lots of things that can stress imaging leaders out. I think it is important to remind everyone to stay balanced. Take time to breathe, to rejuvenate, to refocus,” Harden explains. “It is very easy to go full steam and say you don’t have time. But you have to make the time! Be good to yourself so you can be there for those around you – whether work life or personal life. Stay balanced!”
Harden is able to “make the time” during his commute to work. It is not a daily commute, but rather a six-hour trek in his new Dodge Ram truck that takes him back and forth from his home in Lake Mary, Florida and his job in West Columbia, South Carolina. He typically leaves for work on Sunday evenings and returns home on Friday nights. He lives in an apartment very close to work while in South Carolina.
The commute wasn’t intended to endure for five years (he was hired in 2015), but one thing lead to another and it just made sense for his wife, Tracy, and children to stay in Florida. His son/daughter twins, Jared and Jamie, were in their senior year of high school when he accepted the job at Lexington Medical Center. Today, they are in college. However, aging parents and in-laws made the decision to remain a Florida resident an easy one.
He said his time behind the wheel often provides time to reflect on events, destress and find balance.
Harden’s career is another interesting journey. Growing up, his father worked in construction while his mother was an imaging professional. He helped them both as a child and pursued a contractor’s license before shifting his focus to a career in diagnostic imaging.
“My mother was a radiologic technologist and mammographer, so I was interested in radiology at an early age. I can remember going to the hospital with her when she was on call and pushing the portable around for her,” Harden shares. “I guess I had an early interest in radiology. I tried a couple of other career paths, but ultimately landed back on radiology. While going to X-ray school, I became a transporter in the department and have been in the field ever since!”
Helping others is a very rewarding aspect of the job for Harden.
“I love working with my team (of 240) and making a difference in the patient care continuum,” Harden says. “Imaging service touches so many patients throughout their care plan and knowing that you helped make a difference in a positive way is very fulfilling!”
However, it wasn’t until he discovered AHRA that Harden began to realize his full potential.
“An early mentor to me was a director I had in Florida, Earl Berry. He taught me a lot about leadership and running radiology departments. He is the one who introduced me to the AHRA,” Harden recalls. “He got me to join AHRA in 2003-04 and it really changed my life.”
He explains that up until that point he did not have a career path or a blueprint to follow. Harden says that AHRA does a tremendous job of providing tools and pathways for imaging professionals looking to advance their careers to become imaging directors or leaders within health care.
Berry also imparted knowledge that Harden continues to use.
“My biggest take away from him was the importance of data analysis in the decision-making process. Don’t collect data just to collect data. Collect data that helps you make good decisions,” Harden says.
He tries to pay it forward by helping others.
“I have done some mentoring in the past. I would not say I am currently a mentor in the truest sense, but I have been working with someone who has probably educated me as much as I have tried to educate him,” Harden says. “It is more collaborative than mentor/mentee. It has been fun to see him grow and he recently got a really good job offer that is going to give him a chance to grow even more. I could not be happier for him!”
As a director of imaging services, Harden says he uses a variety of leadership approaches to empower and motivate the imaging professionals he works with at Lexington Medical Center.
“I would say it is dependent on the person I am leading. Some of it is bringing them along and some of it is letting them run. What I mean is, I think you have to know your people and find out what they need,” he shares. “Some are new and need guidance, so you give them tools and bring them along at their pace. Others are more matured in their leadership and you can give them a task and let them run with it. Sometimes it is a combination of the two to get the best results.”
In other words, it is a balanced approach.