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
The Largest Share of Organizations Do Not Have a Formal Strategy for Clinician Engagement

Leadership Survey: Why Clinicians Are Not Engaged, and What Leaders Must Do About It

Clinician engagement is vital for improving clinical quality and patient satisfaction, as well as the job satisfaction of clinicians themselves. Yet nearly half of health care organizations are not very effective or not at all effective at clinician engagement.

Rowe01_pullquote - clinician well-being - fighting clinician burnout and creating culture of wellness takes all stakeholders

Defending the Term “Burnout”: A Useful Tool in the Quest to Ease Clinician Suffering

Health care leaders must take a preemptive approach to clinician well-being that is supported by all stakeholders and prioritized on an equal footing with essential clinical and financial measures.

Screenshot from the NewYork Quality Care Chronic Condition Dashboard

Success in a Hospital-Integrated Accountable Care Organization

How NewYork Quality Care achieved shared savings — by strengthening collaboration, enhancing care management with telehealth, and transparently sharing performance data.

Miller03_pullquote social determinants whole-person

How a State Advances Whole-Person Health Care

Pennsylvania addresses social determinants of health by bringing together managed care and social services organizations to expand access to vital resources.

Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program for Medical Students -Ryu02_pullquote

Why a Teaching Hospital Offers an Employment-Based Tuition Waiver Program

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine subsidizes medical students’ education in exchange for their willingness to practice at Geisinger Health System.

Michael Dowling and Charles Kenney headshots

Rebooting Health Care: An Optimistic Outlook

The U.S. health care system may seem broken, but it’s on its way to greatness, according to the authors of Health Care Reboot. They discuss their optimism for U.S. health care reform, particularly on the social determinants of health, payment, consumerism, and technology.

Action Steps for Risk-Share Contracts for Medical Devices

Challenges and Best Practices for Health Systems to Consider When Implementing Risk-Share Contracts for Medical Devices

When done right, value-based contracting for medical devices can ameliorate shrinking margins at health systems, leading to a virtuous circle.

Health Care Organizational Culture Emphasizes Patient Care Only Slightly More Than the Bottom Line

Survey Snapshot: Who Should Lead Culture Change?

NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members feel that culture change at their organizations is heading in the right direction, but differ on who it should come from, and reveal too much balance between emphasis on bottom line and emphasis on patient care.

Culture Change Within Health Care Organizations Is Changing for the Better

Leadership Survey: Organizational Culture Is the Key to Better Health Care

Although three-quarters of Insights Council survey respondents say culture change is a high or moderate priority at their organizations, survey results show a lot of work on organizational culture remains to be done.

Metraux01_pullquote - dinners to combat burnout in the health care community

“Breaking Bread” to Combat Burnout

Can a simple dinner create community among health care providers?

Connect

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

Learn More »

Topics

Leading Teams

169 Articles

Leadership Survey: Why Clinicians Are Not…

Clinician engagement is vital for improving clinical quality and patient satisfaction, as well as the…

Team Care

109 Articles

Leadership Survey: Why Clinicians Are Not…

Clinician engagement is vital for improving clinical quality and patient satisfaction, as well as the…

Rating the Raters: An Evaluation of…

Some promising innovation is taking place among organizations that rate hospital performance, but major systemic…

Insights Council

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

Apply Now