Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Past Eight Weeks of CHRISTUS' Journey

As I have mentioned before, I have been out on the road since June with members of the CHRISTUS Senior Leadership Team on our regular visits to each CHRISTUS region. This year on our visits, we are gearing up for our 10th anniversary, which will occur in February of 2009 and delivering the message that CHRISTUS’ first 10 years have been marked by challenges, changes and progress.

After I have completed these visits to each of our regions, I will do a complete blog post on what we learned and what we need to do to get ready for our 10th birthday, which will coincide with our fourth governance conference in February.

In making these trips, it has become clear to me that in the last eight weeks of CHRISTUS’ journey, we’ve experienced the extremes of health care and therefore the extremes that test the mettle of health care leaders.

We have experienced the height of the mountain top with the separation of conjoined twins at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, which received national and international recognition. We have also traveled through the lowest part of the health care valley when over a dozen infants received a higher-than-recommended dose of heparin used to flush their IV lines in the NICU at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi - South.

What does this period of time tell us regarding health care leadership? First, it demonstrates that leadership demands resilience, and second, it requires optimism.

Third, it requires realism, recognizing that there will always be mountains and valleys, not only in life in general, but especially in health care since we operate in a highly technical and complex environment as we take care of patients’ lives. Fourth, it requires the ability to rapidly identify challenges and make change as quickly as possible to address these challenges. If progress is going to continue, we must be able to meet the demands placed on us by a host of stakeholders and plan to address challenges within this framework as we look toward the future.

Fifth, transparency is essential. Transparency was required in both cases—to the parents of the separated conjoined twins regarding the potential side effects and even survival rate of this rarely performed surgery, and to the families of children in the NICU as soon as the error was discovered.

Obviously, this time period in CHRISTUS’ history has proven that these five leadership qualities are essential in addition to the traditional core competencies I described in an earlier blog post.

I have concluded each presentation thus far in the regions by sharing the stories about the mountain top and valley that occurred on our journey recently. I indicate that the people in the room probably know very little or nothing about their other CHRISTUS family members who work at CHRISTUS Spohn South or CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital. However, I also point out that they are all strongly connected because part of our system brand is our commitment to the Journey to Excellence, and that is what CHRISTUS Spohn, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa and their regions share in common.

Therefore, we can expect that both at the top of the mountain and in the valley, the CHRISTUS team was doing their very best to make sure that the issues were identified quickly, the proper procedures were undertaken and the patients and families being cared for were receiving the highest quality of care possible. Many companies with strong brands have experienced--and will experience--mountains and valleys, but it is the strength of the brand and the leadership qualities of people developing and sustaining that brand that gives them the ability to continue on the Journey whether they are at the top or the bottom.

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