Thank You for Your Leadership in This Challenging Year
In this season of giving thanks, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the incredible courage and determination our field has shown this year. Our leaders and front-line teams have been extending themselves more than ever before—working longer hours, learning new skills under pressure, and carrying an immense responsibility to care for patients, their families and their communities—all under conditions we have never faced before.
The magnitude of all we’ve been through together is sobering. As of Oct. 1, we as a nation had seen 7.2 million confirmed cases, performed nearly 104 million COVID-19 tests, admitted more than 408,000 patients, and held the hands of 199,000 as they lost their battle with the virus. By the time you read this, unfortunately, the numbers will be even higher.
Ever since the early days of the pandemic, we have heard many inspiring stories of our different constituencies coming together in times of crisis. Clinical and administrative leaders staffed 24-7 command centers and deployed staff across hospitals and systems to support pandemic care. State and federal agencies and private insurers removed barriers to telehealth and made it more possible for practitioners to move across state lines to meet demand. Suppliers supported hospital technology teams to accelerate installation and adoption of telehealth. Educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, corporations and individuals invented hundreds of ways to help supply what front-line care providers needed, from personal protective equipment to grief counseling to housing.
COVID-19 has also thrown into sharp focus long-standing disparities in care, particularly for Black, Latino and indigenous people. As the devastating and disproportionate impact on these communities took shape, many groups—providers, government agencies, community organizations and private business–worked to rapidly increase testing, treatment and prevention, as well as supply food, housing, PPE and other vital services to those in need. While long-term solutions are still needed, we applaud the efforts of our leaders in identifying and taking actions toward resolving these gaps in COVID-19 care.
There are other shining examples of cross-sector collaboration. The Federal sector contributed significantly to the nationwide pandemic response. The U.S. Navy sent hospital ships to New York and Los Angeles to help expand hospital capacity, and both the Navy and Army deployed field hospital personnel from coast to coast, providing support for everything from trauma surgery to primary care. New York was among the first states to host an Army field hospital at the Javits Center, and their liaisons worked with city hospitals to improve communication and make the transfer process smoother. In many states, Veterans Administration hospitals admitted non-veteran patients, increasing total beds and relieving stress on private-sector facilities. Many of ACHE’s own members and elected leaders were part of these coordinated efforts on both sides of the care journey, and their leadership and vision helped save lives.
If we’ve learned nothing else, we’ve learned to recognize the importance of supporting each other. Executives from across the country shared lessons learned—what to do and what not to do—demonstrating that the ACHE network is alive and well. The ACHE staff has been working to play our small part, creating innovative new learning experiences to support you. As of Oct. 1, we’d reached 28,960 page views of the free resources available at ache.org/COVID. We moved several of our leadership courses online, collaborating closely with faculty to ensure the new format remained effective and impactful for learning and networking. In addition, we’ve extended these Virtual Face-to-Face opportunities through local chapters and Choice programming to help even more Members and Fellows.
All in all, I know many of us won’t be sorry to leave 2020 behind—but what I will carry forward is the hope and optimism that our lessons will advance health in ways we cannot predict. Thank you for your commitment to the field and for the support you’ve shown each other and ACHE this year. You have my unwavering gratitude for all you do.
Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE, is president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
This blog post is repurposed from the article of the same name originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Healthcare Executive.