Those entering Dina Walker’s office are often taken aback when they see the skeleton sitting in a chair across from her.

That skeleton, affectionately known as Skully, isn’t just occupying her office during October, either.

Walker is the national director of case management for Encompass Health. Located in the company’s home office in Birmingham, Alabama, she’s often far from patients—but patients, she’s quick to point out, are at the heart of what she does.

Thus enters Skully, Dina’s perpetual patient and constant reminder of who she’s working for.

“He keeps the most important person in front of me,” she said pointing at the bony figure across from her. “When I’m on a call with one of our hospitals, he’s right there; reminding me of what’s important and helping me to see things from the patient’s point of view. He is often inpatient and can be pretty demanding at times, too,” she jokes.

Whether it’s discussing a challenging discharge situation or regulatory changes impacting post-acute care, Walker can be seen pointing dramatically at Skully, prompting herself and others to make the most patient-centric choice or decision.

When she started her career as a nurse in critical care cardiology, it was impossible to lose sight of the patient. In ICU, the patient is right in front of you for your entire 12-hour shift, but in a corporate board room or office setting, it can be easy to forget about them, Walker said.

Skully won’t have that, though. “I’ll be on a difficult call or writing case management processes or policies, and I’ll see him there from the corner of my eye, encouraging me to do the right thing on his behalf” she said.

Walker extends that patient-first philosophy to all the directors and case managers working in the company’s more than 130 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals nationwide. Though patients are definitely priority No. 1, the case management staff, she said, come in at a very close second.

“My overarching goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to do the right thing; whatever ‘it’ may be at the time.”

Tips from the top is an ongoing series highlighting Encompass Health leadership and what inspires and motivates them.

Dina Walker is the national director of case management for Birmingham, Alabama-based Encompass Health, one of the nation’s largest providers of integrated healthcare services, offering both facility-based and home-based care in 37 states and Puerto Rico. She has been a registered nurse for more than 29 years and has a clinical background in cardiac critical care. Beginning in the earlier days of her career, Dina has held many leadership roles including managing inpatient and outpatient cardiac care services, leading multiple facets of case management for a large Medicare Advantage plan, and now overseeing case management services for a network of more than 130 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. Dina holds a master’s degree in nursing in addition to being a Certified Case Manager.

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