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Copy of Circle Headshot.pngAn Interview with Nancy E. Paridy, JD, LLM, President and Chief Administrative Officer of Shirley Ryan AbiltyLab. 


Tell me about your role with Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. 

I've been working at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for about 28 years, initially establishing the organization’s Office of the General Counsel. I then had the wonderful opportunity to continue to grow my career here, which is one of the hallmarks of our organization. And now, as President and Chief Administrative Officer, I have the great fortune of working with all of our teams every day, collaborating with our service lines to provide the best possible patient care. I have the best job in the world and, truly, I'm humbled by the experience. 

What inspires you in your work?  

The people. We put our patients first and foremost, providing the resources and tools that help them advance their ability. We treat more patients for stroke, spinal cord injury and brain injury than any other rehabilitation hospital.  

How does Compass One Healthcare help contribute to the goals of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab?    

Compass One Healthcare helps us provide exceptional care to our patients—and it’s not just about the food they prepare, the rooms they clean, medical equipment they service, or the facilities that they manage. Everything that they do contributes to helping our patients, staff, and caregivers feel supported and meet their goals. The food and nutrition services team manages all café and retail meals in our 1.2-million-square-foot facility, providing nourishing food to all patients, as well as feeding hospital staff and visitors. The environmental services team 

works to keep the spaces clean and safe, and the facilities management team ensures that the spaces are comfortable, the air is treated, and the power consistently is ready for any need. Compass One’s onsite clinical engineers maintain and guarantee our high-tech medical equipment is ready for clinicians to diagnose and treat patients 24/7, safely and accurately. 

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This is a unique patient environment. And the patients aren’t staying for a short period of time.  

Yes. Rehabilitation is a journey. As I often say to people, it's not a sprint–it’s a marathon. Many of our patients are here 18 to 24, 25 days, which is a long period of time. Our patient dining associates have the opportunity to develop a relationship with our patients. Healing food helps motivate them so they can fully participate in therapy and do the hard work they need to do. Having a clean room is part of the experience as well. Who doesn't want the benefit of an integrated support team that goes the extra mile? Our associates talk to the patients to help them identify their needs, and to make the environment better for them. This happens every single day here. 

Can you speak to the relationship Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has with Compass One Healthcare and their support teams?  

Partners like Compass One are helping drive great experiences. They're not just vendors. That's the key difference. Compass One is a valued partner each and every day, and they realize the importance of what they can do to help our patients achieve their goals. 


How is patient dining being reimagined by Compass One Healthcare?  

Compass One understands that it's not about just the food on the plate–it's about great food and food that can actually help people heal. It needs to look the right way, it needs to be warm, it needs to be inviting, and it needs to encompass different kinds of foods for different people. That is a critical difference. And, I may be biased, but Chicago is the best city for fooddefinitely one of the best cities, at least! And everyone who is here has those expectations. So, again, it can't just be good food. It's got to be great food. 

Compass One Healthcare has developed workforce management programs to help retain and grow our associates. How have these programs made a difference? 

The hospital environment is difficult from a recruiting standpoint. We have to be innovative. With Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, it is not about simply having a job. We want people to come here for a career. They may start in environmental services, or they may start in food service, and then we support them in apprenticeship programs. They may begin their career in one position, and now they're going to work in facilities and become a mechanical engineer. We want to help foster this growth.  

Together with Compass One, we’ve developed a boot camp for our leaders, helping to guide them on how to lead in the best way possible. Not only is leadership about ensuring that your staff actually come to you and follow you; it's about you being empathetic to your staff and understanding their needs. Everybody has different needs, and it's incumbent upon you as a leader to recognize them. The boot camp is designed to help participants understand the different styles of leadership and to ensure that their style helps retain and grow our associates.  It makes a real difference.  


Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), is the global leader in physical medicine and rehabilitation for adults and children with the most severe, complex conditions — from traumatic brain and spinal cord injury to stroke, amputation and cancer-related impairment. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab expands and accelerates leadership in the field that began at RIC in 1953 — its care designated the “No. 1 Rehabilitation Hospital in America” by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1991. Upon opening in March 2017, the $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab became the first-ever “translational” rehabilitation research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or “translating”) research in real time. This unique model enables patients to have 24/7 access to the brightest minds, the latest research and the best opportunity for recovery. 

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