Since the early weeks of March, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a leader as our world continues to navigate a global pandemic and now the racial and social unrest in our country. As I anxiously tuned in to the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings, watched the news, read through various social media threads, links and articles or had conversations with many in our PX community, I found myself asking, “If I were in charge, what would I say? What would I do? How would I respond under what seems like insurmountable challenges?” In a sense, what I was searching to understand was, “What is really needed from leaders at this time?”
As the crisis escalated entering April, I longed for clarity in the information being shared. I wanted direct and transparent answers to so many questions and decisive action that would move us forward with optimism and hope. Maybe that’s why, in part, I found myself anxiously awaiting the calm, measured and informative voice of Dr Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. His voice of science and reason was a combination that quieted my internal concerns.
As our world continues to navigate through its current dual challenges, I have been inspired by incredible leaders within our PX Community. They have had the courage to do their part to elevate the human experience in healthcare including shining a light on the disparities that this crisis has exposed, gaps such as health inequities in access, quality and affordability of medical care.
This time has also shined a light on the critical role of leadership. Please know, I’m not suggesting the importance of leadership during a crisis, global unrest and great uncertainly is a major revelation, but I have become even more acutely aware of how vital it is in order to prevail.
There is an abundance of information on the art of leadership. Even as I was reflecting on writing this blog, I received my summer issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) with a cover headline, How to Lead in a Time of Crisis. The issue is a collection of previously published articles that reinforces the idea that effective leadership doesn’t typically happen by chance. It is a choice.
In my early career as a Respiratory Therapist (RT), I knew the day would come when I would be called to do my part during a CODE 4, an emergent situation when a patient is suffering from a cardiac or respiratory arrest. I thought about it often in those early days working the third shift and the sole RT in the hospital. Would I know what to do? Would I be able to lead with decisive action, and if asked for input, would I have a clear and informative answer? I had studied long and hard, I had trained and practiced, I had listened and watched, and in the end, it all served me well. I chose to be prepared. I chose to take the lead.
Being prepared to effectively lead during a time of crisis requires different things at different times. In reading my current issue of HBR, I am reminded that as a country, we have experienced multiple crises in our history resulting in great uncertainty that have required us to pivot in how we do things. Three examples include the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the financial downturn of 2008, each requiring strong leadership to navigate through the unknown, creating a vision forward and inspiring hope.
These leadership qualities and the need to change or pivot is also a central focus of the discussions in the PX Community and what many believe is required to ensure we successfully move forward in our ongoing mission to elevate the human experience in healthcare. And I agree. So, today, how does one successfully lead when no one is the authority because we are in the midst of something never experienced before?
When I responded to my first CODE 4, as much as I wanted to have all the answers, I knew that wasn’t my role. That’s the reason the CODE 4 team was a composite of multi-skilled healthcare professionals with a process that was designed to allow each to do their part within their specific set of skills. I have learned that leadership is not about having all the right answers. I tend to lean more towards what Brene Brown said in her book, Dare to Lead, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas and has the courage to develop that potential.” In our current crisis, that’s what #STRONGER TOGETHER really means to me: aligned in a vision, engaged in conversation and being open to new ideas from various perspectives. Put another way, leaders point to inclusion of all voices and render endless possibilities of calls to action.
It has been incredible to hear some of the possibilities from the voices of the PX Community during the pandemic. Ideas shared through forums like PX Connect, Community Briefings, check-in calls with our many council members or live discussions taking place during PX Body of Knowledge classes and Virtual PX Conference 2020 have afforded us the opportunity to share, listen and learn together. During these conversations, many found answers to questions or solutions to problems but many also discovered opportunities to develop leadership skills including the confidence to know what to do, what to say and how to respond in a moment of crisis.
With multiple voices aligned in elevating the human experience in healthcare, we are one in community and stronger together. As leaders in this effort, you are invited and encouraged to continue to grow and develop in your commitment to patient experience by:
· Engaging in the conversation by sharing your ideas and those of others
· Listening intently with an open heart and mind
· Taking courageous action to develop ideas into possibilities for the future
Thank you for your willingness to engage and invest in your own growth and development, for supporting those around you to grow and develop and for bravely sharing your own fears, concerns and vulnerabilities during these uncertain times. These too are incredible personal strengths, and it is through these foundational traits of effective leadership that I believe, is needed most at this time.
Deanna Frings, MS, Ed, CPXP
Vice President, Learning and Professional Development
The Beryl Institute