What a Difference a Year Makes: How Hospital Leadership Roles and Recruitment Have Changed

Hospital closures and razor thin margins were a problem before the pandemic. Rallying cries for diversity and inclusion didn’t start in 2020. But the past 12 months has applied unprecedented pressure on hospitals to address both of these challenges in equal measure. From a financial standpoint, hospitals are being forced to decide what senior leadership positions must be cut and what job openings go unfilled. The need to find and hire diverse candidates for open positions is creating opportunity for those candidates who bring more to the table than their credentials and expertise. And in some cases, the pandemic also has exposed a gap in leadership as it relates to safety and crisis preparedness, which creates both a need and opportunity for leaders with experience in these areas.

What a difference a year makes, indeed. To help hospitals adapt to this fast-changing landscape, Kevin Hardy, director of executive search and interim recruiting for HealthTechS3, will be presenting the webinar, The Impact of the Pandemic on Hospitals’ Senior Leadership Roles and Responsibilities, on March 26.

We chatted with him last week to get his perspective on how hospitals are responding to these crises, and what the short-term and long-term implications for hospitals, their leaders and today’s job candidates. Here are a few takeaways from our conversation.

Roles are being consolidated—but that’s not necessarily a good thing

Particularly among health systems, consolidation of regional positions is one way organizations are responding to the financial strains of the past year. But Hardy says it remains to be seen if this proves to be a good decision in the long-term. “Managing from afar is hard,” he says. “What happens when a crisis occurs? You don’t know what’s happening on the ground. You’re so out of the loop when you’re not there.”

Boots on the ground argument aside, Hardy points out that as roles are consolidated and leaders take on more responsibilities, burnout goes from a big issue to a bigger one. “Suddenly, one person is responsible for something four people were responsible for,” he says. “That’s not sustainable.”

Interim leaders are filling the gap

The one bright spot for hospitals as financial constrains coexist with new needs is interim leadership. As permanent leaders exit due to burnout or retirement, there’s a healthy pool of interim talent waiting to step in, Hardy says.

“They love the chaos,” he says. “Nobody wants to go into a position and say, ‘Why am I here?’ These are fixers who are seasoned and experienced. They like the fact that they’re able to go into these organizations and make a difference.”

New leadership positions and skills emerge

Hardy says the past year has exposed what was always a reality at many hospitals—a lack of diversity in leadership roles and a lack of preparedness for a pandemic. Hospitals appear more ready than ever to heed calls for racial justice and an end to systemic racism in healthcare leadership, particularly as data from a variety of sources confirm that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic populations.

The personal protective equipment shortage that many hospitals grappled with also has racial implications, Hardy says. “Many hospitals discovered the implications of having a supply chain that wasn’t diverse,” he says. “They learned why it’s not necessarily a good thing to use the same distributor they had been using for years.” When PPE ran out, Hardy says, they had to scramble to create the relationships with diverse and minority suppliers that they should have created all along.

“The past year has exposed that healthcare isn’t really up to 21st century standards, not the way the public believed it to be,” Hardy says.

You won’t want to miss him lay out what’s changed in healthcare leadership roles and responsibilities, what hasn’t and the implications for all of it. Reserve your spot for the webinar today.