Leading in Health Care
By Maggie Scroop
Beacon Health System CEO, and IUPUI Alumnus Kreg Gruber, reflects back on a year like no other. He offers his perspective and advice as a healthcare leader, as he uses the learnings of last year to transform healthcare.
“It was mid-March and I was at home catching up on the evening news. There was a report in New York of a health care worker who was in tears because her hospital was not providing her with the protective equipment and materials she needed to protect herself, and therefore her son. The next morning, I told our CFO and our supply chain executive to prepare for the worst. And that we would NOT be that organization. We would protect our workers. I knew it was only a matter of time before we would be faced with what New York and others were and would experience. I continued this level of hyper vigilance throughout the year.”
Beacon’s supply chain teams immediately began building and tracking its own inventories. Due to their hard work and proactive diligence, Beacon experienced no shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), even during the peak surge of patients in October and November.
At first, 50 patients felt overwhelming to many on Beacon’s staff. But when you go from 50 to 200 in a short period of time, and you have to deliver the same high level of life-saving care, Beacon’s staff quickly recognized their ability to adapt and rise to the occasion.
“As numbers continued to rise, our concern became wear and tear on our staff, emotionally and physically. We realized that we had to ask our community to do their part to help. We met with city officials, with members of the media, and anyone else we could talk to, about how they could help slow the spread of this virus.”
“One of the things that really hit home for me through all of this is that our associates are just incredible people,” says Gruber of Beacon associates. “We all had to rely on the dedication of those around us. Each of us giving our unique talents to provide the care our community so desperately needed.”
Beacon used predictive modeling techniques since the beginning of the pandemic, with mixed results. “No one model got it exactly right, but it was helpful information to have, as it gave us a possible target; something to work toward. Predictive modeling informed how we thought about where we were at, and how we organized ourselves as a system.”
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
“Right now, things feel pretty good, which is a reprieve from what we saw earlier in the pandemic. We have lived through the surge that took place in the fall, and while we are not yet out of the woods, we are pleased with the role we are now able to play in the distribution of the vaccines. We have a great team, who has jumped right in. Everyone who goes through our clinic raves about how easy it was to navigate, and I am optimistic about the future.”
Creating the Workforce of the Future
Beacon is working with local colleges and universities to increase the numbers of students going into clinical and other healthcare careers. “We need to figure out how we increase the number of people interested in clinical fields to help build the future workforce we will need in our area in the very near future. We are actively working to attract and recruit top clinical talent,” adds Gruber. “I also worry about people leaving their current positions due to the stress of this last year. That’s a very real possibility and we need to plan for all eventualities.”
Kreg’s Advice for Students
“One thing we all should walk away from this experience knowing, is to trust your instinct. To look at the things that keep us up at night, and make deliberate and proactive choices on how to mitigate or prepare for those scenarios.”
“The other thing that I would tell students is that I realized my job as a leader is to offer a clear, strong voice of confidence. To clearly communicate the details of supply acquisitions, or public policy, or any issue that presents itself. As a student, think about your communication capabilities to understand where you might improve. As a leader, your job is to move towards the problem, communicate clearly, and don’t ever shy away.”
“What I’ve learned throughout my career is that I cannot do this by myself. I need, and actively seek out, the support and expertise of the entire organization. I rely on great relationships and I count on others every day.”
“When people are first starting out in their career, they tend to want to dive right in and make their mark. The sooner you realize that you can’t carry it all on your own back, the sooner you will succeed as a leader.”