HealthTrust's Toni Laughlin-Imbimbo continues to weather the unprecedented ebb and flow of essential supply chain needs.
Though both of Toni Laughlin-Imbimbo’s parents, Kelly and Michael Imbimbo, were working for HCA Healthcare when Toni started thinking about her own career, she hadn’t planned to pursue healthcare herself. But as she was earning her bachelor’s degree, Toni’s mother encouraged her to apply for a supply chain tech role. The part-time position set Toni’s path in a new direction, and she advanced quickly.
Last May, still in the midst of the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, Toni was promoted once again. At 27 years old, Toni is currently the director of supply chain for the 215-bed HCA Florida St. Petersburg Hospital.
From antiseptic swabs and gauze to surgical gloves and gowns, Toni’s team is ensuring that physicians, nurses and staff have the supplies and equipment they need to provide lifesaving care.
That care requires another critical resource – teamwork. “Communication is definitely key,” she says. “Especially when there are so many changes going on.”
Q: What is a hospital’s supply chain?
A: I like to describe supply chain as “little fairies in the night.” People don’t necessarily see us doing our job. But then they come back the next morning, and the bins are full. That’s essentially what the supply chain techs do. They make sure all the end users are fully stocked and prepared to take care of our patients. All the stuff that comes in through our loading dock — every person in our department touches it. Our receiver will touch those packages and then distribute them to our techs, and then our techs will bring them to the appropriate places on the floor.
Q: Though you don’t provide direct patient care, how would you say your role affects patients?
A: In the HCA Healthcare West Florida Division, and within Supply Chain, we’ve adopted a motto: “It’s not a package — it’s a patient.” Sometimes, when you’re in that tech role, you don’t always feel like you’re doing the most fulfilling job. But then you’re reminded that you are touching the patient by doing your job, your day-to-day stuff , and it really helps you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. I really like that slogan because it helps us just refocus on why we’re doing this.
Q: Do you work closely with the hospital staff?
A: I talk to the medical staff, not necessarily the physicians, but our clinicians, on a daily basis. Being at a smaller facility helps me stay in touch like that.
Q: What was it like working in supply chain during the pandemic?
A: When the pandemic started in 2020, I was a supply chain coordinator. I made the move from a tech in April of 2020, literally right when it was getting heated. I learned from my boss (Belinda Wallace) at the time: You’re given the task at hand, and you want to do the best you can. So, I just rolled with the punches and said, ‘Okay, what else can I do here?’
Q: Healthcare seems to require certain critical but behind-the-scenes roles. Would you categorize supply chain in that way?
A: Supply chain is a huge key to healthcare. It’s not always first on people’s minds, but without our supply chain techs, I wouldn’t be able to do my job, and the nurses wouldn’t be able to [do their jobs] either. It’s such an underrated role, but in my mind it’s the most important.
Q: What are some of the challenges for your team in the current healthcare climate?
A: Currently, everyone in supply chain is facing the same big challenges – back-order problems and supply chain issues, though not on the facility end. It’s more from the manufacturers. Manufacturers are reducing their profiles, and they’re no longer making certain products that they’ve always made. We’re constantly having to find different vendors or substitute items. We have contracts with hundreds of vendors, and we’re constantly building new relationships.
It’s not a package — it’s a patient. You don’t always feel like you’re doing the most fulfilling job. But then you’re reminded that you are touching the patient by doing your job.
— Toni Laughlin-Imbimbo, director of supply chain
Q: Are there economies of scale at HCA Healthcare that help you deal with those challenges?
A: Those [economies] speak for themselves when you see things like Hurricane Ian and HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital last September. There were things we wouldn’t have been able to get done if not for
HCA Healthcare. We were able to pull resources from everywhere and help them out. It was amazing. Even during the pandemic, we were able to keep supplies on the shelf because of HCA Healthcare’s bandwidth.
Q: How would you describe your current role?
A: I’m in a supporting role. I’m supporting my staff , and I’m supporting my facility, from the administration and the other directors to other departments. I’m here for several different entities.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
A: There’s a lot to be thankful for. What keeps me going every day are the people here – my staff and the people that I help day to day at the facility. When they come to me and I can help them solve their problems and they’re appreciative of that, and they see the work that we put in, that really brightens my day. It’s like, “OK, why do I do this every day? Well, it makes me happy to help people.”
Q: What does the future hold?
A: I want to immerse myself in where I’m at now. I’ve done that in each position leading up to this one. I’m thinking of course, of my future, but I don’t spend too much time thinking ’cause I want to do a good job at what I’m doing now.
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