Q&A: ‘Don’t beat yourself up with thinking 
you have to have all the answers’


How have staffing issues affected your growth and service line plans?

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, sometimes it’s difficult to think about tomorrow, next week, next month, next quarter, next year, because you have so many resources that are focusing on putting out the fire. Today, we’re more than 98% full in our general med-surgery areas, with our intensive-care units being more than 90% full.

So we’ve delayed some plans for expansion. The staffing shortages caused us to close some of our clinical activity. We’re in better shape now, but when you have beds that are closed and you also have high COVID volume, it doesn’t give you the slack to spend time on recruiting for a new service line.

But in spite of that challenge, we’ve opened two very large ambulatory multispecialty centers. We’ve opened a $125 million destination cancer center in the heart of Detroit. We kept that investment going because we knew people are still suffering from cancer and they need answers. We also opened two partner hospitals internationally.

So my belief is that while you’re fighting the fire, you still have an ability to expand service lines, to look at growth. And we’re very focused on growth in ways that are responsive to the community’s healthcare needs.

You became AHA board chair this year, how does that help inform your decisions at Henry Ford? 

Serving in ’22 as chair of the AHA board is a great privilege. It gives me an opportunity to hear from the industry on a consistent basis around their most critical challenges and what creative solutions many members are employing, and then to be able to bring some of those back to our organization.’

It also gives me the opportunity to share Henry Ford stories like our Philippine nurse process.

And it also allows me to learn about something unique happening in a part of the country that we haven’t heard about and that we can then bring back and I can say to our team, “Hey guys, I heard of something really interesting happening in Texas or happening in Montana or happening in New England, and maybe we ought to think about this and here’s the name of someone. Let’s reach out and get more data so we can understand how we might be able to utilize that.”

What are three pieces of advice on staffing issues?

My first piece of advice is to not presume, and also don’t beat yourself up with thinking you have to have all the answers. We’re in the midst of a very tumultuous time that none of us have faced previously and that our workforce has not faced previously. So we should not presume that what we’ve done in the past will work today.

The second thing I would say is that we’ve got to understand that our workforce is experiencing shifts in their expectations, in their resilience, and in some cases, in their connection to the purpose of work that we do. And so we’ve got to listen very carefully and think about how we can structure, and in some cases, restructure our approach to supporting the work that they do, that still provides a kind of meaning that it has historically.

Lastly, we have to try a lot and be willing to fail fast and try something else. So I think that this isn’t the time for us to study, study, study for long periods of time to find the perfect solution. It’s time for us to do something that we think might have an impact. Let’s put it in place. Let’s see how it works. If it has the intended consequence, keep going, spread it further. If it doesn’t have the intended outcome, stop doing it, acknowledge that it was a trial and an error and try something else.



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