Leadership
Talk
Ebola at Texas Health: Three Lessons in Leadership (10:18)

When the first U.S. case of Ebola virus disease was discovered at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the hospital had to quickly learn not only how to handle the disease itself, but also reactions to it from both inside and outside the hospital.

Every time the Texas Health leadership team had to make a decision regarding the Ebola crisis, they reflected on the RICE values — respect, integrity, compassion, and excellence — written on the white board in front of them. “Doing the right thing for your patients, for your employees, and for your community isn’t really written in a manual in a situation like this,” says Texas Health CEO Barclay Berdan. “It has to be what underpins the culture of your organization.”

Berdan outlines three key lessons Texas Health learned about leadership from this crisis:

  1. “Transparency is important — but only when you’re ready.” When talking to the media, you need to be well informed of the facts and circumstances if you want to be helpful and productive, says Berdan. The first press conference that Texas Health held was “the right thing to do,” he notes, but it was also premature — the speakers didn’t yet know that the Ebola patient had been at the hospital before but left, undiagnosed.
  2. “Listen to what people are hearing and saying.” Listen to what the media is saying about the crisis and to what people inside your organization — both patients and staff — are hearing about it, Berdan advises. He describes how Texas Health set up a camera for staff to “speak from the heart” and share their stories. “The passion from the nurses was so authentic and genuine that the community-wide response was very positive and warm,” says Berdan, noting that support began pouring in from the community and the health care industry at large. The nurses were even approached by 60 Minutes. “Letting people talk was how we restored confidence and pride in the organization,” Berdan says, “both inside the organization and to the community.”
  3. “Understand the role you play in a big crisis like this.” While public officials handled the situation outside the hospital, Texas Health focused on supporting its system internally. “By understanding your role, you’re also helping people understand their roles,” says Berdan. Texas Health also worked with government representatives, reached out to the local community to address their concerns, and set up a clinical call center to answer questions from citizens and private physicians.

The overarching lesson? “Leadership during an event like this is about what you do long before the stressful situation and the crisis begins,” says Berdan. “If you stick to your core principles, your values, in stressful situations, they will help guide you through.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016. Watch Part 1 of Berdan’s talk: Leading Through Crisis: Ebola at Texas Health.

More From Leadership
Framework for Comprehensive Community Wellness

A Vision for Upending the Siloed Status Quo

A five-point plan unveils ways that leaders of health care and public health organizations can take action to enhance community wellness.

Mangi01_pullquote - patient flow dynamic work design

Improving Patient Flow with Dynamic Work Design

Staff make big improvements in post-operative care by changing small details.

Lerman01_pullquote leadership development

Leadership Development in Medicine

It is time for a critical assessment of the ways in which health systems develop, select, and support emerging physician leaders.

Perlo01_pullquote community organizing principles for restoring joy in work in health care

Applying Community Organizing Principles to Restore Joy in Work

IHI offers four lessons on how to nurture joy in the health care workforce.

MHCM Physician Leaders Career Paths Post-Graduation

Physician Leader Training: The Value, Impact, and Challenges

Alumni of Harvard’s postgraduate Master in Health Care Management degree program reveal the benefits of academic training, and the real-world challenges for new clinical leaders that can lead to success as well as frustration.

Nurok02_pullquote - physician-hero - team-based care

The Adverse Impact of the Physician-Hero

In a value-based world, the sickest patients need the benefit of a comprehensive team to provide evidence-based treatment that will deliver desirable clinical outcomes while optimizing the cost of care.

Patel01_pullquote - interprofessional education and collaboration

Interprofessional Collaboration for a Health System in Crisis

To overcome current failures within our health systems, we need to improve interprofessional education and collaboration.

Tina Freese Decker

Cultivating “Systemness” to Create Personalized, High-Reliability Health Care

Becoming a high-reliability health system that is personalized, efficient, and effective means making some tough choices.

Shapiro01_pullquote - Using Simulations to Improve Physician Leadership Hiring

Using Simulations to Improve Physician Leadership Hiring

Department chairs are expected to motivate and inspire a diverse group of smart, ambitious, overworked physicians. But for most, it’s a challenge.

Standard Daily Management Visual Board at Baptist Health

Using Daily Management and Visual Boards to Improve Key Indicators and Staff Engagement

Baptist Health leverages Daily Management as a way to engage frontline staff and create a data-driven problem-solving culture to help the health system achieve its goals.

Connect

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

Learn More »

Topics

Leading Teams

141 Articles

Leadership Development in Medicine

It is time for a critical assessment of the ways in which health systems develop,…

Physician Burnout

37 Articles

Applying Community Organizing Principles to Restore…

IHI offers four lessons on how to nurture joy in the health care workforce.

Leading Transformation

206 Articles

Survey Snapshot: Design Thinking Is Useful,…

NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members agree that design thinking useful, but leadership buy-in and understanding…

Insights Council

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

Apply Now