Simply put, health care is a team sport. No one member of the care delivery team can succeed without the partnership of others. We hammer this point home by including all frontline staff during simulation trainings conducted at our corporate university. When we simulate a surgery, a baby's delivery or a medical emergency, the surgeon, nurses and all other support staff involved in caring for patients in those situations need to be active participants in the training to make sure we get it right.
Without everyone working together to the best of their abilities, we cannot deliver the most effective care. Whenever our chair of cardiac surgery speaks at a news conference or presents to our board or other leadership, the first thing he does is thank his fellow physicians, nurses, perioperative staff and other members of the surgical team - and underscore the fact that without their hard work and dedication, success would not have been possible. It is a CEO's duty to instill this belief among employees and avoid the ego-boosting that can sometimes fester in our field. If employees do not observe a collaborative and generous spirit among their leaders, they will have no incentive to practice it themselves.
Every Monday morning, I meet with about 150 new Northwell employees and spend the majority of my time emphasizing that they do not work alone. From the moment they begin their first shift, they are part of a team. Working as a team not only means supporting each other, but also ensuring there is enough respect and professionalism to speak frankly and perhaps critically when needed. This freedom to share views and influence the behavior of others only comes when there is trust and loyalty among team members. It all helps support our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve.
So as much as we value the knowledge and technical skills of individuals in our workforce, hospitals and health systems need to place a high priority on the importance of soft skills. Organizations that promote trust, loyalty, relationships and teamwork among their leaders and other employees are more successful over time and can survive periods of instability because of the strong foundation of comradery they've built. It is also critical to promoting a culture of innovation, continuous learning and transformation. To learn more about this topic, I encourage you to read, The Soft Edge: Where Companies Find Lasting Success, authored by Rich Karlgaard.
This op-ed appeared in Becker's Hospital Review.