The NYC hospital is a top-rated specialty hospital, which focuses on elective surgeries improving the quality of life of patients. The hospital does not have an emergency room and prior to COVID-19 did not offer general medical care. Fast forward to March 2020 when COVID-19 influenced some radical changes. All elective cases and non-emergency patients appointments were cancelled. An instant pivot was needed first by changing directions and helping non-COVID patients from nearby hospitals then caring for COVID patients as hospitals were overflowing with need.
Individuals manning operations in the hospital are two-fold to simplify; behind the scenes and on the frontlines making these organic changes and adjusting to the medical needs. An organization and the people actioning the temporary changes must act as a cohesive unit, like a hockey team, everyone has a different role and must know their role within the team. Lessons learned from past crises suggest using many individuals’ strengths as no one person will have all the competencies needed (Nycum, 2018). The fight against COVID-19 required drastic changes to the operations of the hospital in less than 4-6 weeks; however, the organization’s core values had such strength and were applied in this temporary diversion. Strong leadership and culture also helped maintain structure and order in a time when a crisis can derail an organization and even the strongest of teams. Further, leaders of the organization had to keep mindful of the organization’s mission and be cautious not to abandon the needs normally fulfilled.
For an organization with a highly specialized purpose and staff, the need for both employees and human resources professionals are imperative for a sudden 180-degree pivot. Crisis management was put into place creating multiple layers of leadership within the hospital focusing on acute circumstances managing the immediate changes and legacy leadership remained in place to preserve the mission and vision. In medical institutions managing similar crisis, research suggests dual leaders, one with a clinical focus and one non-clinical considering multiple perspectives and gaining trust and buy-in for greater cohesion (Nycum, 2018).
In the hospital, leadership began developing the immediate resources to train clinical staff to have the expertise needed to care for the new patients. Another issue arose when an inventory of skilled staff revealed a potential shortage and the possibility some staff may become ill and decrease available essential workers. Last, the need for the organization to remain true to the mission and maintain care of current specialty patients without jeopardizing their health and abandoning their needs. Leadership had to allocate alternate resources and support to develop alternatives for existing patients pre-pandemic through outpatient services and telehealth.
Human resources professionals play a unique role by pivoting immediately from standard day-to-day recruitment needs to filling essential roles that are in high demand and limited supply. Further, professionals must facilitate many client requests including; managing expectations of hiring managers still vying for what were crucial positions before the pandemic, candidates previously in the pipeline, candidates or employees with special circumstances, such as visas, and reviewing optics and needs of previously posted positions. Leadership and human resources professionals work in conjunction ensuring a unified message and shared vision.
We learned throughout the experience to redirect and meander with change and need. The hospital and staff needed flexibility and understanding of managing through uncertainty. Constant and consistent communication from leadership to all employees ensured a common thread of action and plans throughout the organization. Although the organization diverted from the mission of the organization, focus was not lost, and leaders were allocated to follow the long-term goals while others managed the short-term crisis at hand. The two groups of leaders would communicate continuously ensuring unison. The pandemic could be seen similar to disruptive technology; however, instead of requiring the organization to abandon the mission the change was limited to diverting resources. The organization will emerge stronger from the crisis and revert to the mission while using the lessons learned to increase strength. New leaders emerged and new capital gained through the staff and learning experiences will provide a long-lasting benefit.
As NYC is on the decline from the apex the hospital can begin slowly resuming normal operations as we all begin to learn what the new normal is and blend the pandemic normal with the lessons learned.
Nycum, L. (2018). Lessons from crisis experience. Physician Leadership Journal, 5(6), 12.