Diverse Healthcare Leaders’ COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable
In early April 2020, ACHE invited a group of racially/ethnically and LGBTQ diverse healthcare executives to a virtual career roundtable for them to share in a safe space on how they are managing professional and personal realities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
We extend sincere gratitude to the 23 leaders who made time in their extremely busy schedules to participate. Participants selected one of three ways to share their perspectives:
- participate in small-group virtual 30-minute conversation,
- complete a 5-question online survey, or
- hold a 1:1 phone conversation with ACHE’s Diversity & Inclusion Director.
Below are highlights from their responses to the first question:
How are you doing?
- Doing well/good: 7 participants
- Doing ok: 2 participants
- Stressed/concerned: 7 participants
General topics mentioned most often
- Importance of self-care for their teams and themselves (9 participants)
- Proud of their teams/seeking to support them (8 participants)
- Concern and prioritizing their families (6 participants)
- Concern for healthcare workers on frontlines & ways to support them (4 participants)
- Many job-related lessons learned that will be good for their careers (4 participants)
- Large quantity of work and long hours (4 participants)
“As leaders we must ensure our teams practice self-care balancing the demands of the organization and their personal lives. With the greatest of intentions, high performing teams tend to overextend themselves which could have unintended consequences.”
“These have been challenging times—very emotional. I have had to watch my own emotions, as I have a large staff and, as the leader, I need to carry them.”
Selected Response Excerpts and Summaries
Small Focus Group Responses
- It has been intense. I’ve never worked so many hours in my healthcare life. You have to make time for yourself to keep yourself sane.
- It’s been a learning curve to try and live through a pandemic. From a career standpoint, it’s a good notch on the belt to have.
- One of the challenges I’ve had is thinking about the people in the frontline and how do you support those people at a distance; keeping them uplifted and also providing the resources they need from a distance. … It’s interesting to have this as a part of our career. This is something we will never forget. We will have a lot of lessons learned.
- During this time, one thing that is more of a general daily practice is practicing gratitude. There are people who aren’t able to pay their bills…. One thing I’ve struggled with the most is seeing the good and bad in people. You see the good and bad side of humanity.
- I’m tired. It has been working 7-days-a-week now for a month, but it feels like it’s been a year. But for me things are a little less chaotic for me now. For me, it’s hard because it’s so much change all of the time. I’m trying to communicate the change and still be supportive of the team—with a lot of change going on sometimes hourly. I’m incredibly proud of my team. We’ve done things in days that would take us normally six months or a year to do. … I think now we are in a little bit of a rhythm; we have seen stability in the ambulatory setting. Now I’m thinking how I can support my team and make sure they are taking care of themselves.
- With regards to work-life integration, there is much less of this prior ability to have a clear line of demarcation since we are all working from home. The current circumstance requires us to be able to be available our teams across the country … With regards to managing teams, there is something about a crisis that brings people together that is refreshing and rewarding and encouraging to me, knowing that there will be life and there will be a new normal, a post-COVID normalcy. There will be a lot of growth that will come out of this; it will propel us into a future of a new state of healthcare that will be beneficial in the long run. I’ve been striving to give my team a safe space to be vulnerable when they need to and praise them for their sturdiness and letting them know its ok to be afraid and letting them know we can be afraid together, knowing that this too shall pass.
- The biggest thing we have to deal with is change. Every day it’s a new message and keeping up with the communication; making sure everyone has the new policy. Everything about masks and PPE and
- infectious control—everything we are telling them now is against everything we have always told them to do. For me, I have been working seven days. I took one day off and I took off on a Friday. I have been listening to meditation tapes and doing some gardening, so I feel a bit better.
- Work/life integration has been a challenge. It’s been stressful. Managing teams is tough. It’s been a new world because I am a very people-oriented person. Now a lot of it is done virtually. This is a marathon not a sprint. I understand that it’s about providing some balance. From a work standpoint resilience is at the forefront.
- Things are well. It’s one thing to see it on tv, but another thing to be right there; you honestly don’t feel it as much. It’s just another day. You can’t expect your team to go to work if you don’t. We are able to move and adapt. I will remember this in the next 10-20 years. I’m able to get my steps in walking at work instead of sitting home.
- Professionally, I work from home a few days a week. It is important to go outside to make sure the days are separated. We meet frequently via WebEx. It’s nice to be able to touch base with people. It’s healthy to have virtual meetings, but definitely a change and shift for everyone.
- On a personal note, I am doing well. These are stressful times and extremely demanding for all. We need to adapt to our environment and how we provide support to our team. Everyone handles difficult situations differently, and we must remain aware of our team’s needs. As leaders, we must ensure our teams practice self-care balancing the demands of the organization and their personal lives. With the greatest of intentions, high performing teams tend to overextend themselves which could have unintended consequences. Leaders take a different role: one of coaching, counseling, and stability. In times of crisis, no job is more important than supporting the staff/teams. Organizational leaders need to have an understanding of what their teams are dealing with, any barriers or distractions impacting their abilities to carry out their duties, and find ways to engage and motivate, clearly and thoroughly communicating important information.
- I am doing well, but there is no work/life balance. We are managing our teams by providing as much information as possible. Giving them a forum to vent and share concerns and fears. Only a couple of people have shown symptoms of extreme fear or anxiety. For self-care, I am actively riding my bike at least 4 times per week. Resiliency is the word of the day; also compassion, kindness and empathy.
- Generally speaking, I am doing okay. I am able to continue working full-time remotely from home during the pandemic, so I do not have a lot of “free time” to focus on self-care such as increased exercise, reading for pleasure, etc. My spouse is not working right now, so that creates an interesting situation with our home time right now.
- These have been challenging times—very emotional. I have had to watch my own emotions, as I have a large staff and, as the leader, I need to carry them. It’s hard not to get into the emotion and, again, I have had to watch myself and my own emotions to everything that is going on. The social distancing and shelter in place have been extremely hard. Working remotely has not been easy and I feel a lack of balance. As far as team management, I’m calling them every day; we are connected via call, email, or texts. I am also hosting weekly conference calls with my team and all of operations in support of front-line heroes. This past Friday, we had someone from the employee assistance program walk the full team through a breathing exercise using mindfulness and also had our Chaplain end the meeting with some words and poem of encouragement.
- Overall, I’m doing fine managing in the current environment. The focus has been on family and the team’s well-being and ensuring a safe environment for both. Respective to managing teams, we’ve worked to promote work from home for non-essentials, while also playing close attention to frontline staff needs and concerns; both at home and at work, while providing support on multiple levels to mitigate anxiety and suspense, as best possible.
- I oversee strategy and other business development endeavors for our health care system. The need for strategic planning is intense at the moment, so my team and I have worked heroic hours for many weeks and weekends. We are happy to have this opportunity, however, as we are a group that is often not too adjacent to the patient. I have finally found some level of routine amidst long stretches of work and have been running a 5K at a fast pace most evenings and biking with my daughters several days a week. I am putting out a newsletter to my Division weekly about positivity and creativity which seems to help some. The focus has been on highlighting news (we are almost all deployed to home) as well as a focus on the arts and making connections with others.
- My hospital has not yet seen a huge surge in cases. It’s very stressful for everyone. Ours was one of the first states to cancel all elective surgeries, which is a main source of revenue. COVID-19 is coded as simple pneumonia, so reimbursements are not sufficient. I have had to furlough lots of my team, and because I’m on a special project, that’s the reason I have not been furloughed. We are preparing for offsite surge in the convention center. For me personally, there lots of uncertainty. Will our patients who are mostly elective come back? Regarding self-care, it’s nice to be with family. Faith is a big part of keeping me strong. I worry about the underprivileged demographic in our community; they don’t have resources to cope.
- I’m new to my position-only 4 months. I don’t have the familiarity with my organization, nor them with me –so it adds another layer of consideration. Overall, today was not bad, but a week ago was much worst, when I was weary and tearful. A lot of what has happened has shown the true nature of people and organizations. My organization has been good, but while trying to care for our communities, we’ve been hitting a brick wall. Politics and cultural issues; differences between the haves and/have nots—all are contributing to high stress, sadness, sense of weariness. If it wasn’t for my faith, I would have been broken. My husband is an essential worker, so my kids are home by themselves. When I get home, my daughter wants to interact but I’m often whipped, but I force herself to tune into the kids. There are challenges of everyone being at home—everyone is stressed. In all of that, my self-care is lost. I didn’t have good self-care before, but it’s even worse now. Prayer is my consistent source of self-care.
- Regarding self-care, I’m not on the frontline, so I am not as stressed from work the environment perspective as those on the frontline. I practice gratitude, meditate, exercise, eat better- basic self-care. I’m also supporting communities in need, especially donating money to those in need. It’s hard for me because I am a physician and I’m not on the frontline; I feel a bit of guilt. In my day job, I continue to work on non-COVID things, such as my responsibilities regarding population health.