Four Enduring Lessons from 2020
January 15, 2021
Twenty-twenty was an incredibly difficult year for everyone. Just weeks into the year—on January 27—the HAP emergency management (EM) team activated for the COVID-19 event. As we approach the anniversary of our activation, and look back on the year that was, we see the ways that COVID-19 changed how we do things, as well as some essential lessons that will guide us as we plan for future emergencies.
When the world gets complicated, go back to basics.
This past year has forced us to walk and chew gum. With COVID-19 a constant threat to our health care system, we have had to coordinate responses to dual crises when other events like hurricanes, impactful events, and flu season have popped up. This is where those basics of emergency preparedness—plan, train, exercise, refine, repeat—become so integral to everything that we do.
We may not have known all of the details of COVID-19, but we’ve exercised for outbreaks and medical countermeasure delivery, and we can apply lessons learned to this event. This also helps us continuously refine our current plans as we identify opportunities to improve our response.
Be prepared and agile.
The bread and butter of EM is all-hazards planning, especially in a volatile and unpredictable world like the one we live in. But having a playbook for everything that can and may go wrong doesn’t mean that we can tuck the plan away and not update it. Nor is it a crystal ball to tell you the future.
We learned this year that your all-hazards plan is the foundation for your response, but it requires each of us to constantly monitor the changing situation so that we can adapt our plans and respond accordingly.
This may seem like a no-brainer when our incident command structure provides a clear chain of command, but a lot of teams struggle without a leader who can adapt to a variety of staff needs. This leadership is especially critical in the preparedness phase of emergency management.
Especially during highly stressful events, adopting a transformational leadership—in which leaders inspire and empower team members to innovate and grow—can be particularly helpful. Transformational leaders are forward thinkers who have immense trust in team they’ve built, and don’t need to micromanage. They have the communications skills to clearly articulate goals and expectations, and help everyone adapt to changing situations.
Take care of your team, your family, and yourself.
While September was national Emergency Preparedness month, 2020 felt like an entire year of emergency preparedness. COVID-19 had a lot of thinking about what we would need to do if we got sick or had to isolate due to exposure, and how those new needs intersected with what we needed to do to prepare for all of the other emergencies.
Having an emergency go-kit is one of the best ways to give peace of mind to your team, your family, and you. But during these stressful times, an emergency kit is only part of the equation. Self-care—in whatever form it may take—is just as imperative to ensure that we build a resilient team ready to keep planning for and responding to any emergency that arises.
Looking to 2021…
None of us knows what will happen down the line, but we continue to be guided by our strong planning, exceptional team, and mission to help the hospital community with whatever lies ahead.