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Healthcare Providers Expected to Provide Leadership During a Crisis

by | Oct 15, 2020

When it comes to a big crisis, whether it is local, regional, national or even global, we look not only to our leaders for solutions, but also often to healthcare providers. Natural disasters or man-made situations, we often turn to healthcare providers for answers or guidance.

When the crisis itself is health-related, such as the global pandemic, of course the medical community is front and center. Healthcare providers naturally have a critical role during the pandemic. The public relies on their local doctors and hospitals to provide clarity. Healthcare systems and providers simply cannot shy away from this responsibility.

As a healthcare provider, what can you do to provide leadership during a crisis?

The Difference Between Leading and Managing During a Crisis

For any type of critical situation, there is a difference between leading and managing. As a healthcare professional, you need to master both.

In a broad sense, the main difference is said to be that leaders influence decisions and focus on why something is happening or what can be done about it. Managers, on the other hand, direct action. Their focus is on how to solve the crisis or at least move forward.

During this particular crisis, healthcare providers of all levels, are being called upon to both lead and manage. Eric J. McNulty and Leonard Marcus of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard define the differences, both of which are necessary.

“Addressing the urgent needs of the present is the work of management. You need to make immediate choices and allocate resources. The pace is fast, and actions are decisive. Leading, by contrast, involves guiding people to the best possible eventual outcome. Your focus needs to be on what is likely to come next and readying to meeting it. That means seeing beyond the immediate to anticipate the next three, four, or five obstacles.”

The two go on to spell out leadership traps to avoid. The main idea is that while both leadership and management have different priorities, both are necessary to get through a crisis.

Because of the extreme healthcare focus of the COVID crisis, the general public is going to look to providers and healthcare organizations to both lead and manage. It’s key to be up to the task.

Communication is Key

When it comes to effective healthcare leadership during a crisis, the importance of communication cannot be overstated. However, crisis communications is vastly different than everyday communication. During serious events, people take in and process information differently, especially is they are frightened or anxious.

To provide leadership during a crisis, it is imperative to build and maintain public trust. This is done by being as open and honest as possible. It’s also important to show empathy and caring. Acknowledge the uneasiness people may be experiencing. Just as important as empathy is expertise. Leaders need to provide assurance that they are competent to deal with the crisis. Because people generally view doctors and other healthcare providers as experts, it is easier to establish.

Communication doesn’t only involve the general public. As someone providing leadership during a crisis, information needs to be shared with other healthcare institutions and providers. This is not the time to be concerned with “the competition.” Patient safety should always be the number one priority.

Let Us Help

Throughout this crisis, people will continue to turn to healthcare providers for leadership, which depends on effective communication. If you or your organization need help with any communication, including crisis communication, Nichols Healthcare can help. Effective communication is our specialty.

Matt Klein - VP Account Services
Matt Klein believes that the business of healthcare is personal — because healthcare is personal. It’s a subject he’s very passionate about. Throughout his career, he’s worked with a wide variety of clients across the spectrum of healthcare, including large national companies such as Advocate Health Care and Pfizer, regional powerhouses including St. Vincent’s Health System and IU Health, and smaller, specialized facilities such as Advocate Eureka, Orthopedic Sports Enhancement Center, and Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.

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