Gut Check | Thursday, August 13, 2020
COVID-19 Frontline Perspective: Becoming the Leader Your Team Needs
Mary Farwell, BSN RN CGRN
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring difficult and uncertain obstacles to frontline workers in the healthcare system. Mary Farwell, BSN RN CGRN, clinical lead of endoscopy at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center in California, discusses the challenging beginning of her nursing career, how best to lead a team in times of distress and what’s important to remember moving forward.
I do not think any of us were prepared for this pandemic. We’ve seen this in the movies or have read about this in fictional books and then, in a matter of weeks, this was our new reality.
I started my nursing career during the AIDS epidemic. We lived in an uncertain time then, too; however, we got through it with new and improved processes and procedures. That pales in comparison to our situation today and the challenges we face. In mid-March, without enough testing, we went by symptoms as an indicator for infection. Our hospital was short on supplies, as was the rest of the country. However, they were able to find the supplies needed for us to safely perform our jobs, especially aerosolizing procedures. Our command center went into full action with meetings twice a day to ensure we had proper staffing, were able to rearrange units into ICU beds, build anterooms and redistribute jobs to accommodate delivery of supplies.
I am amazed what the leadership at Sharp has been able to accomplish in a short amount of time. Every day is a new day with improved processes and procedures to ensure our community, patients and staff are safe. I am proud at how resilient our staff has been through all this and believe resiliency will be our only way to survive as a team and an institution.
My role evolved during this time as a clinical nurse leader (CNL). I had to find ways to become the leader my team needed — assurance, support, caring and plenty of communication. The biggest lesson learned is that your team needs to know you care and you have their backs. You need to care and share before asking your team to perform at a higher level. They need a chance to express their feelings and concerns.
Just a few months ago, our outpatient area reopened after finding ways to ensure all the necessary steps were in place: screening, distancing and testing. Many of our processes have been streamlined and improved because of the pandemic, as well. Now, all patients are tested prior to procedures and all patients have more robust pre-calls to include many of the admission items we would otherwise tackle in person. Our endoscopy team has stepped up to the changes to ensure our patients get the best quality care. I believe these goals have kept us focused and energized.
Someday we will be back to a different “normal.” Sometimes difficult challenges, like what we are facing today, can bring about innovation, changes and growth that may not have happened otherwise.