Susan Rose of Signature Healthcare Services wins North Bay Women in Business award

Susan Rose

Chief Executive Officer

Signature Healthcare Services, LLC

Aurora Behavioral Health Hospital

1287 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa 95401


Susan Rose, CEO of the company that runs Santa Rosa’s Aurora Behavioral Health Hospital, admires hard-working people with strong ethics. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.

Professional background: Associate vice president of finance; chief financial officer

Education: MBA, health care administration, Golden Gate University, Sacramento; Bachelor of Science, economics, business administration and communications, St. Mary's College of California, Moraga

Staff: 250

Tell us about yourself and your company: I admire hard-working people with a strong ethical sense. I learned that from my mother. From an early age, I knew I could achieve my goals if I put my heart and my back into it. I never bought the idea that I was disadvantaged as a woman.

I knew I wanted to be in business and wanted to do something meaningful. I have worked in mental health since 1984, starting as a dishwasher while I put myself through college – which taught me from the ground up. Once I graduated, I moved into finance and ultimately to a CFO position.

Aurora Behavioral Health Hospital hired me in 2015 as CFO. A year later I was asked to become the CEO and never looked back. We accomplished so much in so short a time. We are now expanding, adding 49 more patient beds, doubling outpatient and adding much-needed administrative office space.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

Our parent company, Signature Healthcare Services, LLC, asked me to become a regional CEO for the new Northern California Behavioral Health System with campuses in Santa Rosa and a brand- new campus in Sacramento – opening this fall. I’m so thankful that Signature has given me this amazing opportunity and that I’m able to serve our community.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

Keeping the hospital open during the 2017 and 2019 fires. We worked with the county so we could stay open for our mental health patients.

Is it normal for the CEO to be in PJs, sleeping on the couch in the lobby?

That’s what I did. In this job, you risk becoming jaded or swept under by the demands. And yet, the work continues to feed my soul. It could hardly be more meaningful. COVID is traumatic, but dealing with the fires prepared us for it.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Staffing. Turnover is typically high in mental health care; plus, it is difficult finding qualified mental health staff with experience.

Words that best describe you: Tenacious, passionate, detailed, loyal, generous, ethical, resilient, good judge of character

In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?

Honestly, the pandemic has not changed me very much. The fires had a bigger influence on me. The 2019 fire was really tough physically and emotionally because of the PTSD from the 2017 Tubbs fire and evacuation of Sonoma County. It was really hard to get staff into the hospital to take care of our patients so leadership worked inhuman hours to make sure staff and patients were safe.

Also, what ways do you think it will change the way you go about your career and your business?

The entire patient intake screening process has been revamped including screening patients again prior to entering the building.

Employee health screening and limiting employee access to one entrance of the hospital. I expect this to be the new norm which will enhance infection prevention.

Importantly, this has altered Telehealth in a positive direction. Things we couldn’t get accomplished before are now happening. Court hearings, intensive outpatient programming, inpatient psychiatry and expedited follow-up appointments post discharge. The pandemic has forced insurance carriers to support telehealth services previously denied. I do believe telehealth access will provide much needed mental health services previously unavailable due to access, location and reimbursement.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 issue, what are some the lessons learned for the business community?

Personally, I have learned how each county operates independently and appreciate the collaboration in Sonoma County.

Each county follows truly different policies and procedures. There are many positives in Sonoma County compared with other counties.

For example, we experienced rapid turn-around for COVID testing for our patients. We received our first test results back in 8 hours, during a time when my colleagues were reporting no testing or testing results up to 72 hours.

Many of my colleagues from other parts of California were surprised to hear how quickly Sonoma County responded to us.

The hospital worked closely with the Department of Health regarding any patient under investigation. The Public Defender, County Council and Patient’s Rights Advocates Office worked hard to ensure patients received their due process even when the court system was closed. CHA has held weekly meetings; CEOs have been able to hear what is happening in all counties across California. Sonoma County has done an excellent job.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I have never used being a woman as an excuse or reason for encountering obstacles in the workforce. I stand in my truth and put the hospital first. I have been successful by focusing on patient safety and quality of care.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

I believe we will lose extensive knowledge as baby boomers retire. In the past year, we’ve lost two nurses with 85 years of psychiatric nursing experience combined. This isn’t specific to mental health, but the workforce in general.

Who was your most important mentor?

Sandy Podley, CEO of Heritage Oaks Hospital, was my most important mentor.

I was the CFO at Heritage when Sandy put me in the CEO training program. I was under her tutelage for a year. She taught me office politics, where and how to sit in a meeting, and to think before I spoke.

I learned a great deal from Sandy and had a tremendous amount of fun during our time together. Sandy is now the Western Division President for LifePoint Health and we are still in contact.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

I’ve mentored many young women along the way and it’s been important to me to give back in this way. I asked four individuals I mentored, and here are their responses:


  • Stand up for what is right.
  • Learn from your mistakes: Be willing to own and admit mistakes, and not repeat them.
  • Have confidence in your decisions


  • Get your education.
  • Listen and think before giving a response.
  • Don’t burn bridges, but also be prepared if you need to leave a job.
  • Learn everything, your job, not your job…just learn.
  • Don’t ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself; from working on the weekend to cleaning the restroom. If it needs to get done no position is above doing it.
  • Dress for the part.
  • Dress and act for the job you want, not the job you have.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer, but be willing to find the answers you don’t have.


  • Get comfortable with change because nothing is certain.
  • Learn to listen and observe.
  • Keep your office door open


  • Choose role models and learn from watching and listening.
  • Lead by example.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Warren Buffet

Typical day at the office: This is no such thing. No two days are alike. The hospital CEO job is a life commitment – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Best place to work outside of your office: I love the company I work for and haven’t looked for a job in a long time. So, I don’t have an answer for this question.

Current reading: “Dare to Lead, “Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts”, Brené Brown; “The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues”, Patrick Lencioni; and “Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+”, Suze Orman.

Most want to meet: Condoleezza Rice

Social media you most use: Facebook

Stress relievers: Exercise

Favorite hobbies: Gardening and hiking

What would parents or significant others if asked to brag about you?

“She’s unstoppable.”

Susan Rose

Chief Executive Officer

Signature Healthcare Services, LLC

Aurora Behavioral Health Hospital

1287 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa 95401


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