COVID-19 has changed our world. This complicated, uncharted and novel situation has become a real challenge. So how do we deal with the unknown?
We still have a lot to learn before we can control, contain and hopefully eradicate this virus. We have developed vaccines and treatment guidelines for COVID-19. The number of cases and deaths were trending down, and things were looking up—before omicron, that is.
If only we could predict the future! If only we could be prepared. If only we could eliminate this pandemic and be prepared for the next pandemic. Well, to a certain degree—we can.
At the end of the day, COVID-19 is just another pandemic. They are nothing new.
We have spread infectious diseases throughout our history. Outbreaks of infectious diseases have been almost constant. However, with today’s combination of international transportation, international commerce and human interaction, it is much easier to carry a disease far and wide. History has turned another page.
It’s very likely another pandemic will happen in the future, and another, and so on. We need to be “be prepared,” just like the Boy Scout motto says. We need to be prepared for the future by taking action, looking forward and making plans. We need to make the future instead of waiting for it to happen.
As healthcare providers prepare for the future, we also need to make sure we don’t fall for false prophets. False prophets never last long. It’s important, instead, to become a good prophet. You must know what the next ten moves are going to be, as if you’re playing a game of chess. And you can use your own personal experience predict what is trending and what is a shadow of things to come.
The not-so-good prophets in healthcare are eventually eliminated, so you need to focus on the future. You need to get a system and be organized so that you are not running around and putting out fires daily. Don’t gamble at predicting the future. Take the high-percentage shots. Learn from your mentors, study history, and don’t make the same mistakes that others have made. Change your mind set, look around—not just at your department, but the entire hospital, community, country and world. There are a few pandemics still out there coming our way.
What we truly need to take care of patients and do our jobs well is providence. The timely preparation for future eventualities! Divine providence is what you may be familiar with. Stated clearly, you already know that some things are going to happen, and you prepare to meet those needs or challenges ahead of time. (You know the sun will rise again tomorrow, so get a good night’s sleep to be ready for the tasks of the day!)
When dealing with the management of short- and long-term planning, you can be a good prophet of the future. Don’t bite off more than you can chew or overschedule your day. Have a routine that allows for changes but keeps you focused on addressing the challenges at hand and still allows time to address the unplanned emergency response.
I have a system for my own strategy. In the morning, I start with rounding my departments. I huddle with my teams and listen to what has happened in the last 24 hours. I also ask about what is planned for the next 24 hours. I then go to bed report, followed by A-Team huddle. Based on this information, I know what needs my immediate attention and leadership. I provide the direction and get the support, materials and equipment to keep my departments running at top quality and quantity.
I listen to supply problems, physician problems, staff problems and all the other challenges of the day. I do not try to solve all problems myself. I assign my managers and supervisors to research and resolve the challenges they can handle. I provide added support to negotiate the lack of staffing, equipment, and supplies. Most importantly, I check on the results of the changes, reward good results and seek different courses of action to bring about good results in those problem areas that have not been resolved.
Some future problems may be easily predicted by vacation, pregnancy or retirement. Accidents, illness, and new opportunities at other facilities may be a surprise, but you know from past experience that this will happen eventually. So have a “plan B” ready for these sudden changes in personnel. Waiting for a traveler to be hired will leave you waiting. Have part-time staff, seasonal staff and even semi-retired staff ready when needed.
We can also look ahead and staff shortages that will be happening in the industry. How can we combat such shortages now? Well, we can recruit local high school students to be more interested in cardiology. We can talk to trainees about being a cardiologist, cardiac nurse or cardiac tech. Presentations at schools, shadowing by students at the hospital, and even on-line presentations are all possible. It’s all part of being prepared!
This also applies to other areas of the job as well. How long will X-ray equipment last? Plan ahead so that replacements occur at times that are convenient for your colleagues and don’t have a negative impact on patient care.
You have some experience with equipment and equipment replacement. Apply this knowledge to predict what will need to be replaced and when. Listen and watch for technology changes without the bias of salesmanship. Be a well-educated consumer. You need the right tools to do a quality job.
This makes me think of the fable of the pig and the chicken. The pig and the chicken are walking down the road. The chicken says, “Let’s start a restaurant. We can call it Ham and Eggs!” The pig looks at the chicken and shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so,” the pig says. “You only contribute, while I’m committed!”
There is a difference between contributing and being committed. Make sure everyone on your team is always committed.
Study your mistakes and set new goals
You will make mistakes, of course. We call that experience! Learn from these things, but more importantly, learn from other people’s mistakes. You won’t live long enough to make or remake all of those mistakes yourself.
For example, one mistake we’ve all made is getting buried in data. This can easily happen when we are looking for trends and trying to forecast the future. Remember: There are only 24 hours in a day.
Statistics will lie, and liars will use statistics, so take such things with a grain of salt. Listen to your contemporaries. Listen to your mentors. Listen for the signs of change. Don’t be bowled over with what is trending. Relying on popularity can become a risky wagon to ride in when it comes to healthcare.
As we learn from the mistakes of the past, we can also set goals for the future. 2021 has been a challenging year. Prepare for 2022 with a list five goals you want to meet. Make the goals measurable by both fact and deed. Whether it is improving patient satisfaction by 5% or reducing overtime by 10%, make it a realistic goal that will help motivate you to push ahead. Review the progress quarterly and make adjustments when needed.
Note how you will know that you achieved these goals. Share your plan with others. Focus on these priorities. Eliminate distractions. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Change your past behaviors for the better. Make life less complicated in the future.
I predict you will be stronger and smarter as a result of this strategy. Remember to study the future and build on past experiences! Build morale, build trust, and build hope for others and yourself. May you have the providence to meet the challenges of the future and build good memories to populate your past. Take the time to smell the roses but share the opportunity with others. Make your fortune tell without the gypsy, avoid the misfortune of the future by sealing the future with a KISS (Keep It Simple, Smarty)!