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
Meyer01_header - Seven Challenges and Seven Potential Solutions for Large-Scale EHR Implementation

Seven Challenges and Seven Solutions for Large-Scale EHR Implementations

Salient lessons learned over multiple electronic health record implementations.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital ZSFGH A3 thinking Personal Development Plan A3 leader standard work improvement management example board

Changing Leadership Behavior Gets Real Results

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital deployed its new leadership culture, which emphasizes staff decision-making, self-reflection, and clarity in defining problems and goals, to successfully address a crisis involving record-high patient volumes.

Khatri02_pullquote Connectors

The Crucial Role of Connectors in Large Health Care Organizations

Creating a truly collaborative community involves connecting the right people at the right time and in the right places.

Women of Impact Checklist - Advancing Workplace Equity

Lead In: Women of Impact in Health Care on Advancing Equity in the Workplace

Raising the standards of equity and wellness in our workplaces so we effectively advance health for the populations we serve.

Historical and Projected Numbers of Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants.

Growing Ranks of Advanced Practice Clinicians — Implications for the Physician Workforce

The number of NPs and PAs is growing rapidly, while physician supply has slowed. This research projects the number of NPs, PAs, and physicians through 2030.

IBM solutions to physician burnout roundtable participants: Christina Maslach, Paul DeChant, Tait Shanafelt, Namita Seth Mohta, Karen Weiner, Edward Prewitt

NEJM Catalyst Roundtable Report: Seeking Solutions to Physician Burnout

An NEJM Catalyst roundtable sponsored by IBM Watson Health brought together four experts, all deeply engaged in reducing physician burnout from different perspectives, to share in a robust discussion.

Pottharst01_pullquote - value-based health care leadership personas

Personas of Leadership in Value-Based Care

The deliberate nurturing of specific types of leadership personas seems to be a critical factor in the success of value-based care organizations.

Few Truly High-Performing Health Care Organizations

Survey Snapshot: What the High Performers Have to Say

NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members from high-performing institutions share their perspectives on what’s working and what needs improvement.

Morris-Singer01 pullquote clinician burnout community-building

Combating Clinician Burnout with Community-Building

Improving morale and reducing turnover with peer-support meetings and shared group email lists for clinicians.

Time Is What Matters Measure Figure D - Time Saved Compared to FY17 Average

Measuring Patient Quality of Life: Time Is What Matters

How Anne Arundel Health System created a meaningful measure for patients and providers.

Connect

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

Learn More »

Topics

Team Care

98 Articles

Seven Challenges and Seven Solutions for…

Salient lessons learned over multiple electronic health record implementations.

Care Redesign Survey: Lessons Learned from…

Although care delivery models in rural and urban/suburban areas are distinct, by virtue of geographic…

Quality Management

159 Articles

Changing Leadership Behavior Gets Real Results

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital deployed its new leadership culture, which emphasizes staff decision-making, self-reflection,…

Insights Council

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

Apply Now