Leadership
Clip
Lessons Learned from Hospital Crises (07:14)

When the threat of quarantining Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital – Dallas staff potentially exposed to the Ebola virus emerged in October 2014, CEO Barclay Berdan came up with an alternate solution: invite those employees to stay at the hospital, on the floor that normally functioned as a hotel for patients and their families.

“There was some discussion at the city level asking all the folks who had been involved in care, many of whom had been furloughed at that point, to wait through their 21-day period [and] actually physically quarantine them, which I thought was overkill,” explains Berdan.  “So I kind of preempted the politicians.”

Continuing the conversation about hospital crises and team care, NEJM Catalyst’s Thomas Lee relates the story of how one year after Hurricane Katrina, he visited a health care organization in New Orleans and was surprised at how well the affiliate private practice physicians there worked with management on improvement, quality, and efficiency. He asked the CFO and some of those physicians why they worked so well together. “It’s Katrina,” they said.

In desperate need of hospital supplies during Katrina, the CFO and a few physicians traveled together to Walmart in search of more. The store was closed — so they broke a window, set off an alarm, and went in. When police arrived at the scene, the CFO explained why they broke in and promised to pay for the supplies later. The police let them go.

“Once you’ve broken into a Walmart with your CFO, you look at life a little differently,” they told Lee. Crisis is a real opportunity to bond people together, and the same occurred for Texas Health Resources.

Exactly how, as a leader, did Berdan keep his employees sharp throughout the month-and-a-half-long disease crisis?

“There was a point in time when I recognized that some of our folks were probably at the end of their rope [but] clearly didn’t want to be sent home,” says Berdan. He sent them home anyway so that they would come back after two or three days, feeling refreshed.

“You have to pay attention,” adds Berdan. “I spent a good deal of time watching folks just to make sure, because I knew I was feeling it.”

Even so, Berdan went to work every day during the crisis. “It was important to see this through, and we never knew what was going to happen on any particular day.”

Berdan describes, for example, how on the day before Halloween, a Texas Health Resources supplier found what looked like a biohazard bag with blood in it — and the name of the Ebola patient on it — at their warehouse.  “We were fairly certain it was not real,” says Berdan. “But if it was real, I thought, this is bioterrorism.” The FBI was called, and two Texas Health employees brought the bag to their laboratory for testing. It ultimately turned out to be a Halloween prank, but nevertheless, a prank that wasted the time and resources of Texas Health Resources for an entire day.

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016.

More From Leadership

Data Graphic: What’s Easy and Hard About Changing the ACA

On the Affordable Care Act road map to repeal, some quick options are available, but comprehensive replacement will take time and political compromise.

Lessons in Leadership: Michael Shabot

Multi-hospital Memorial Hermann Health System’s CMO married the system’s demonstrated operational excellence with an audacious quality and safety agenda.

Cultivating Great Teams: What Health Care Can Learn from Google

Psychological safety is the key to teamwork.

Lessons in Leadership: Joseph Pina

A U.S. Army Medical Corps Colonel reflects on leveling the status differences that both military rank and professional hierarchy confer.

Lessons in Leadership: Howard Green

A chief of service at a community hospital recalls his experience of leadership in action while in the Marine Corps.

Lessons in Leadership: Gary Kaplan

A successful physician executive recalls two pivotal moments in his organization’s transformation.

Meaning and Purpose: Refocusing on the Why in Medical Education

Leadership training — focusing on “why” and not just “how” — can help clinicians find meaning and purpose in their professional lives, enhance their ability to see and influence the big picture, and fight burnout.

Medical Schools and Health Policy: Adapting to the Changing Health Care System

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and rapid pace of health care delivery reform, there have been calls for medical schools to increase their focus on health policy research and education.

Therapeutic Illusion — A Common Language for Physicians and Executives

Mistakes made in the boardroom can have the same consequences as mistakes in the exam room.

Preventable Deaths and Medical Errors in American Hospitals - Panel Discussion Image Still

Preventable Deaths in American Hospitals

Most preventable deaths via medical error in U.S. hospitals have a second victim: those involved in their care.

Connect

A weekly email newsletter featuring the latest actionable ideas and practical innovations from NEJM Catalyst.

Learn More »

Topics

Quality Management

84 Articles

Lessons in Leadership: Michael Shabot

Multi-hospital Memorial Hermann Health System’s CMO married the system’s demonstrated operational excellence with an audacious…

Leading Transformation

120 Articles

Lessons in Leadership: Michael Shabot

Multi-hospital Memorial Hermann Health System’s CMO married the system’s demonstrated operational excellence with an audacious…

Value Based Care

94 Articles

How a Tertiary Care Academic Endoscopy…

Brigham and Women’s Hospital implemented time-driven activity-based costing (TDABC) methodology to better understand the complex…

Insights Council

Have a voice. Join other health care leaders effecting change, shaping tomorrow.

Apply Now