NEWS RELEASE-Immediate Release

January 11, 2023

New Tuba City Regional Health Care Corp. CEO just wanted to be the best nurse

TUBA CITY, Ariz. -- When Joette Walters started at the then Tuba City Indian Health Service hospital in 1997 as a new nurse graduate, she never imagined she would become the Chief Executive Officer 25 years later. “My goal was just to be an excellent nurse,” she said.

On Jan. 17 she takes the mantle as CEO from Lynette Bonar for the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, a P.L. 638 health care entity which serves the western region of the Navajo Nation, and includes the Hopi and San Juan Paiute tribes.  TCRHCC is a Level III Trauma Center, and has over 1000-employees, which includes about 120 providers, an oncology center and three satellite divisions and clinics across the region. Ms. Bonar who served as Ms. Walter’s mentor for the past five years, is retiring after 20 years at TCRHCC.

“Ms. Walters brings years of experience to TCRHCC as she has been part of the organization before it became a P.L 93-638 Self Governance Tribal Organization in 2002,” said TCRHCC Board President Christopher Curley. "We feel we have made a sound decision to bring someone with experience and background in clinical and leadership. Ms. Walters is from Gray Mountain, near Cameron Arizona, a community south of Tuba City. 

“I am truly honored to serve the community, the board, and our TCRHCC staff,” said Ms. Walters. “I believe we have a talented and knowledgeable senior leaders, directors and employees who are vested in our mission. Three notable things that shaped my learning during my mentoring with Lynette (Bonar), was the implementation of our E.H.R, the Pandemic, and the opening of Navajo first Oncology program,” she said.  “I believe TCRHCC, as a tribal healthcare organization, has a potential to be a leading healthcare organization in Indian Country,” she said.

Since October 2017, she has served as the Chief Operating Officer. The COO is an executive position, providing executive level support to Executive Team and CEO related to organization operation. Walters is also responsible for the effective delivery of operations both clinical and non-clinical support services, and in compliance with financial, information services, human resources, quality improvement, clinical care, and legal and contracting requirements.   In her current role as Associate Executive Officer (AEO), Ms. Walters has worked closely with CEO Bonar in  a mentoring capacity.    Ms. Walters worked with the CEO in developing competencies in several areas of leadership, finance and budgeting, information systems, quality improvement, facilities and material management, human resources and staff development, and development or enhancement of clinical services.
Ms. Walters said TCRHCC’s strategic plan, guides the organization’s plan and goals.  “In my mentoring with our CEO, the foundation of our initiative goes back to the Mission,” she said. “When we consider new services and projects, it is important to evaluate it against our Mission and determine how it adds value to our organization, and is it aligned with our Mission.”
“Each year we develop a strategic plan with our board of directors. That Strategic Plan is aligned with our Mission, Vision, and Values,” Ms. Walters said.  “I will continue with those plans in the upcoming year, including several large capital projects.”

These plans include: 

  • Securing the needed remaining funds for the Long-Term Care Project. “This will allow our elders and families to stay local -- without leaving home -- to have the Skilled Care provided here, and even more important Assisted Living facilities for our Elders,” she said.  
  • “Housing is a big challenge,” she said.  “We have some land near our current Greyhills Housing area, and now we are looking forward to the construction of 48 additional housing units for our TCRHCC staff.
  • Continue with planning, design and construction of the Bodaway Gap Health Care Center.
  • A new hospital. “Our building is aged, old and if anything, catastrophic, happened to our facility, we risk closing services and our community would have to get healthcare elsewhere,” she said. “This would be devastating for our community.

Internally, within the organization, “we have some important organizational initiatives,” she said. Among a few:

  • Reengage our teams to building our Culture of Safety
  • Improve our Hospital ‘s HCAPHS scores
  • Increase our Recruitment efforts
  • Re-establish our Customer Service Programs
  • Continue Mentoring opportunities, including training with Leadership Academy and Executive Leadership Program.
  • Plus, many projects and programs listed and defined in our Strategic plan.
  • “My focus is to raise our efforts to become a 5-star organization, which is a organization-wide effort and will be an overall improvement in our customer service, access to culturally appropriate care, a safe workplace, and improvements in safe and quality care,” Ms. Walters said.

Early on she developed a passion for health care after her father and grandmother succumbed to cancer. “There were many decisions our family had to make as we had to navigate a complex healthcare system,” she recalls. “Like many people in our community, we had to travel long distances to get care, at the same time manage our work and school while caring for our family. It was tough,” she said.

Like many residents on Navajo, Walters grew up with close- knit grandparents and parents, and without electricity or running water. “The challenges of not having these modern conveniences still exist, and affect many of our families, and impact their health”” she said.

She started at Northern Arizona University as an engineering student but then changed her major to nursing and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Walters also earned a Master of Business Administration/ Masters Science of Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems, from Grand Canyon University.

Ms. Walters is Zuni-Edgewater (Naasht’ezhii T’abaahi), born for One-Who-Walks-Around (Honaghaahnii), her maternal grandfather is Red Bottom (Tlaaschi’i), and paternal grandfather is Honeycombed Rock clan (Tse’jikini).

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