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Business professor earns award for research paper

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When Michelle Ruiz first submitted her paper about how hospital sales affect nurse retention, it was rejected by a journal, but that didn’t stop her.

The University of Houston-Victoria assistant professor of healthcare management and her coauthor, Lori Peterson, an assistant professor at Missouri State University, reworked the paper and submitted it to the Southern Management Association Conference. Their submission was named the best paper in the Health Care, Hospitality Management and Public Administration category.

“When I was a student, I was taught there’s always a place for my paper,” Ruiz said. “When we were rejected by the publisher, I thought we could submit to the conference and at least get some good feedback. It was exciting when the submission accepted, and I was ecstatic to get best paper.”

The Southern Management Association is a regional affiliate of the Academy of Management, the top association in the management field, and is one of the publishers of the Journal of Management. Ruiz’s paper was developed with support from a UHV research stipend awarded in 2016.

The paper, “Nurses During a Time of Transition: LMX and Turnover Intent,” examines how hospital mergers impact nurse retention rates. LMX, or leader-member exchange, refers to the relationship between managers and their employees, and how the quality of those relationships can affect the workplace.

“A lot of hospitals and health care organizations are in transition, especially rural community hospitals merging with larger companies,” Ruiz said. “This paper examines how mergers and other transitions affect turnover rates of nurses and other employees, and how leadership can act to improve retention during those shifts and changes.”

The topic has interested Ruiz since she was a student, and this is a culmination of the years of research she has dedicated to it. Although the trend of hospitals in rural areas merging already was occurring across the country, it intensified after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, Ruiz said.

James Jordan-Wagner
James Jordan-Wagner

“Mergers always create anxiety among employees, and hospitals are no different,” she said. “There’s a national shortage of nurses and other medical professionals, so it’s important to keep those employees happy, even in the midst of big transitions. Retention of good employees is much better than recruiting new ones. It gives hospitals a boost.”

Ruiz and Peterson were awarded plaques for their paper. Ruiz remembers admiring similar awards in the offices of her professors when she was a student. Now she has one of her own.

“Michelle Ruiz is an outstanding faculty member who brings a wealth of knowledge about the health care industry to UHV’s students,” said James Jordan-Wagner, interim dean of the UHV School of Business Administration. “I am pleased to see her research earn such a prestigious award.”

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