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Susan Salka

With Salka at the helm, AMN Healthcare grows market share

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In the 20 years since Susan Salka joined AMN Healthcare Services Inc., the health care staffing company has worked to expand its services and diversify its work force. Salka said one of the most pivotal advances happened just this year: AMN’s acquisition of Texas-based Medfinders, entering AMN into the business of home health care services. The deal was valued at about $185 million.

"Strategically it’s very important,” said Salka in a recent interview of the Medfinders acquisition. “We’re thinking about how to transition patients out of the hospital for recovery, and not to readmit. We believe we can help connect those dots.”

AMN Healthcare Services Inc. (NYSE: AHS) is the largest health care staffing company in the nation, and one of the largest public companies in the San Diego region. It recruits and places health care professionals in temporary and permanent jobs, in settings including hospitals, clinics and government facilities.

Salka is AMN’s chief executive, president and a director. Some might know her as Susan Nowakowski; she got married in August.

Salka said she’s seen signs of economic recovery in the health care industry this past year, noting that AMN continues to take market share in its niche. Its market share in the fragmented field is estimated at between 9 percent and 12 percent, she said, due in part to exclusivity deals that make AMN the sole staffing partner for many health care facilities.

“We continue to get closer to the client,” Salka said. “We will help them handle their overall staffing. Labor is half of a hospital’s overall budget. They want to find ways to reduce that, so we can come in and help them decrease their overall labor spend.”

The temporary health care staffing industry in the United States is projected to see 4 percent growth in 2011, to $7.9 billion in revenues.

Salka said AMN and its counterparts in the health care industry are brainstorming how to best achieve what’s being called accountable care. “There’s a drive to better connect all of the patient care. The goal is to maintain health to keep patients out of the hospital.”

In San Diego, AMN also works to maintain good relationships with its clients, the educational community and its philanthropic partners, Salka said.

“You always want to make sure you take care of your own backyard the best,” she said. “As a business leader, we’ve taken as our responsibility to be a good role model. We have a culture of finding ways that we can positively affect lives.”

McEntee is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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