What Healthcare Leaders Can Do When Pulled In Multiple Directions


Jacob Kupietzky is President of HealthCare Transformation, a company dedicated to providing hospitals with experienced interim executives.

Being a healthcare leader today is tougher than ever. There’s always something that needs your attention whether it’s a patient, a staff member or an administrative concern. The mounting number of administrative duties on top of patient care is a significant contributor to high levels of burnout and lower levels of career satisfaction. And the numbers aren’t getting better.

According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, in the U.S., as compared to other countries, doctors spend 53% more time using electronic health records, 123% more time entering orders, 160% more time responding to email and 33% more time entering notes than other countries.

Added to this stress is the reality of being a healthcare leader today. To thrive in this ever-changing environment, leaders must be adaptable and quick-thinking, with the ability to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. They must effectively navigate complex regulations, build strong relationships with key stakeholders and drive innovation within their organizations. In addition, as the industry moves increasingly toward value-based care, it will become more and more critical for healthcare leaders to have a deep understanding of both clinical and financial data.

From managing day-to-day operations to strategizing for the future, there is always something that needs your attention. Here are a few strategies to help healthcare leaders position themselves and their organizations for success in an increasingly challenging environment.

Understand Your Priorities

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As a healthcare leader, it is important to be able to prioritize effectively because with so many competing demands, it can be difficult to know where to focus your attention. Here are a few key considerations that can help:

Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then rank the items in order of importance. This will help you focus on the most pressing issues first, ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and differentiate what only you can do versus what needs to get delegated to qualified team members. More on delegating later because it can be difficult, but you should understand that it is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and freeing up your time to focus on the big picture.

Consider the needs of your patients. What is the most pressing issue they are facing? What can you do to improve their care? Do they have access to the resources they need? Always consider the potential impact of your decisions on other patients and on the healthcare system as a whole to make sure any negative impacts and disruptions are minimized as much as possible.

Think about what your staff needs in order to stay engaged and provide the best level of care. This starts by keeping in mind the type of work your staff members are doing and the physical demands of the job. For example, nurses and other frontline workers may need more support in terms of breaks and scheduling flexibility than office staff. Don’t normalize stress or emotionally demanding situations; we all know these take a toll over time, and while part of the job, they shouldn’t be ignored or minimized. Finally, keep in mind the financial needs of staff members. Many healthcare workers are living paycheck to paycheck, and decisions about things like benefits and raises can make a big difference.

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Never forget to address the financial impacts of your decisions. How will your decision affect the bottom line? What is the potential revenue generated by the proposed course of action? What are the short-term and long-term costs of implementation? Do the savings you generate justify the expense? It’s vital to weigh the risks and benefits of any proposed action and really make sure it positively impacts the bottom line and key stakeholders.

By taking all of these factors into consideration, you can make sure that you are prioritizing effectively and meeting the needs of your patients, staff and organization as a whole.

Take Control of Your Time

Healthcare leaders are responsible for overseeing large and complex organizations. Time management is essential to ensure all responsibilities are met and can help reduce stress levels and improve patient outcomes. In today’s fast-paced healthcare environment, being able to effectively manage one’s time is more important than ever before.

Start each day with a plan. Review your schedule and, you guessed it, make a list of priorities for the day. This will help you stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked by less important tasks.

Create timelines and time limits. One of the most important aspects of healthcare leadership is making sure everyone is on the same page and deadlines are getting met. From using project management software and spreadsheets to creating timelines and time limits on a physical whiteboard or calendar, it’s essential to be clear and concise and set boundaries for everyone around time-based expectations.

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Take Breaks. You are responsible for the well-being of your patients and your staff. You are constantly making decisions that could mean life or death, so there is no room for error. Healthcare is a demanding profession, and you will always have a lot on your plate when coordinating care, managing staff and ensuring that patients receive the best possible outcomes. It can be easy to focus on what needs to get done and forget to take care of yourself. However, it’s important to remember that if you don’t take breaks, stress can overwhelm you and become chronic. Taking breaks will help you clear your head and come back refreshed; this helps you think more clearly and make better decisions.

Healthcare leaders play a vital role in ensuring that their organizations provide high-quality care. In order to thrive in their roles, they need to take control of their days and implement strategies that allow them to control the ebb and flow of their days; otherwise, we are going to see burnout and resignation rates continue to rise.


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