My work as a healthcare consultant often involves collaborating with organizations to streamline processes, implement technological solutions, and reconfigure accountability structures to create efficiencies. In other words, I help organizations do more with less. In 2020, however, “doing more with less” has taken on new meaning. This year’s COVID pandemic is the black swan event that has tested everyone in our profession. In my 40-plus years working as an MSP, consultant, and educator, I’ve never witnessed my colleagues face such relentless pressure to perform at peak levels while working in ever-fluctuating environments.

The truth is, MSPs have risen to the occasion – and then some. Always conscientious about being team players, MSPs working from home have gone above and beyond the call of duty. The upside is that administrators now understand that remote work and productivity go hand-in-hand, and will likely be open to work schedule flexibility in the future. The downside is that MSPs have set high expectations that are unsustainable over the long term. After months of peak effort, MSPs tell me that they can’t keep up this pace. That’s understandable. My perspective is that, in order to soften expectations for the future, we first need to review hard-earned lessons from the past year.

Stay Relevant

COVID triggered a domino effect – changes to the way we work, the way we learn, and the way we interact with one another. Over the years, my success has been grounded in my ability to stay relevant by always being prepared to adapt to the situation on the ground. That flexibility meant that, when COVID hit, I wasn’t playing catch-up. I’d already adapted to cutbacks in organizational travel budgets by offering remote consulting and to slashed training budgets by responding with a plethora of online webinars. We started using Zoom as our online platform in 2019 – long before “zoom” became a verb and synonymous with COVID.

Relevance also involves listening. I’m prepared for the unexpected by asking the right questions and then listening to what MSPs, administrators, and medical staff leaders are saying. This allows me to pinpoint gaps in knowledge and identify near- and long-term trends. That’s how I develop webinar topics, content for the books I write, and plan my own educational path. For example, I’ve recently concluded that healthcare quality is the next must-have skillset for MSPs, and have already developed educational initiatives that will help my colleagues stay relevant.

Give Back

COVID shoved everyone into crisis mode, yet an important takeaway from this year is the importance of reserving time and energy to give back. For example, I make it a priority to be my family’s go-to person to coordinate resources when a relative has a problem. This year, my father lived with my husband and me while Dad successfully battled cancer, and I organize the rotation schedule to support my nephew with Down syndrome.

More broadly, my practice has always been to help people – without an expectation of receiving anything in return. About a third of my business is philanthropic, and I put a lot of energy into creating projects that I believe will be helpful to the industry. It’s important to me that I give back to the profession that’s given so much to me. I also show up for my colleagues by serving as a mentor. Recently, while I was on vacation, I received a call from someone scheduled to take the NAMSS certification exam the following day. I spent 45 minutes talking with her so she would feel confident when taking her exam.

Be Ready

COVID has taught us that nothing is permanent. We don’t know what the future holds, so it’s crucial to have a career plan that is in an ongoing state of readiness. This means regularly updating one’s professional portfolio, as well as having the skills necessary to smoothly transition to a new position. I make it a point to undertake at least one professional development experience each year. This past year, I participated in a 13-week Dale Carnegie leadership program. Afterward, they even offered me a job!

Beyond formal training, I challenge myself intellectually and in my personal growth. I’m always reading, and I regularly put myself in situations that are outside of my comfort zone. Taking risks and conquering fear makes me a better leader and a better human being. We’re all works in progress; our job is to grow from the challenges we face.

Moving Forward

I’m incredibly proud that my colleagues have been so willing to help out during COVID. Everyone has really stepped up to the plate. Some have had to work remotely, while others have had to work onsite. Many have been incredibly burdened, tasked with caring for family members, homeschooling children, and juggling pandemic life. Nevertheless, everyone has tried to make the best of their situation.

As we look – with hope and optimism – toward 2021, it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in our feelings and our fears. Remember that knowledge is power, and that our readiness, competence, and commitment will see us through. Regardless of our job titles, we’re here to learn, to develop, and to help others.