By Gary D. Boyd, FAHRA, FACHE
In graduate school, through AHRA
meetings and publications, and in management literature we have learned
how to deal with disasters and crisis
management. During my career, I have
dealt with floods, broken sewer systems,
multi-casuality incidents, and similar
maladies. But what I dealt with recently
tested the mettle of my organization, my
community, and myself.
Recently, we were shocked and saddened to learn of the arrest of our main
general surgeon; he provided about 80%
of the coverage in the hospital and the
community. The charges were terrible
and shook us to the core. As we started
to come to grips with his arrest we were
aghast to learn of his subsequent suicide.
It’s hard to describe the wide range of
emotions that our staff, physicians, volunteers, and community experienced.
None of us in our leadership team had
learned to deal with this type of crisis
in school or in training. What I learned
about the leadership in me, the leadership around me, and the resolve of our
staff was eye opening.
Many people worked closely with the
surgeon throughout the hospital, especially those in surgery, recovery, the
nursing units, the emergency department, the surgical clinic, or by just having lunch and chatting with him the cafeteria. Somehow, they were able to reach
down inside of themselves and continue
to provide excellent care to our patients.
Loss of a key member of a company without
a plan to replace him can bring an organization
to its knees.
I salute each and every member of our
staff and am proud to work with such
caring, talented, and strong individuals.
There are many people who stepped
up to help us get through this trauma.
Our chief of staff was on her fourth day
on the job when this story broke. She has
tirelessly met with staff and physicians,
rounded on the departments night and
day, and made sure everyone was getting the support they needed. She even
knocked on my door late one evening to
make sure my wife and I were okay. Our
chair of the board came to the hospital
immediately upon hearing about the
arrest and helped organize and participate in our counseling sessions with staff.
She kept an eye on our administrative
team to make sure we were coping and
taking care of ourselves.
The community rose up to assist the
healthcare district. The hospital closest
to us provided surgical care to our com-
munity for the 10 days it took us to get
surgical coverage in place. Psychological
support was paramount in getting us
through this crisis. The chaplin and grief
counselor were by our sides and helped
us through the weeks as events unfolded.
The sheriff and police chief both called
in the morning after the physician’s sui-
cide to tell me about a crisis team they
had both worked with in the past. After
a few phone calls, a crisis and counseling
team were on their way from southern
California and onsite that evening. The
team provided us with an invaluable
service and helped staff cope with their
grief and understand their feelings. From
the ski resort, the CEO was quick to
offer support and any resources we
might need. The school superintendent
and I were in constant communication
because the surgeon was also a school
board member. And my Rotary Club has
supported me and other staff throughout
this ordeal. I can’t forget our families—
without their support it would have been
difficult to go to work every day. Our
community was a model of support in
our time of need.