Vic Management Interns' blog

Blog posts by Victorian Management Interns of the Australasian College of Health Service Management. Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.


HMIP Victoria Management Interns

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The role of a health manager during a health crisis – Responding to COVID-19 and leading through uncertainty

by Lucy Sutherland

1st Year Management Intern

When I commenced the health management internship in 2020, I would never have expected to be involved in one of the largest public health crises to affect the Australian health system. COVID-19 has infected over 2 million people and resulted in 161 000 deaths globally. Our health system has been forced to develop robust pandemic plans and modelling to reflect the overwhelming number of cases predicted.  Health leaders have had to be flexible and adaptive due to the nature of the rapidly changing environment. During my placement, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the management side of the pandemic and observed what attributes a health leader must possess to navigate a health crisis. Here are 5 leadership practices that can assist health managers to respond effectively. 

1.    Provide clarity and expectation of roles 
Ensure staff are aware of their responsibilities and roles, this leads to better engagement and positive mental state. Provide feedback and provide avenues for better communication at all levels of the organisation.
2.    Adaptive leadership 
Adaptive leadership is to be used in situations without known solutions. It has been described as the ‘practice of mobilising people to tackle tasks through challenges and allowing them to thrive’. The adaptive leader must observe patterns and events, process information and design interventions based on interpretation.  

3.    Acknowledge concerns
It is important to address staff and the community concerns surrounding the crisis and work through potential solutions by sharing information with empathy and optimism. This will ensure anxiety is reduced and stress is better managed by the individual. 

4.    Communicate effectively 
Leaders should be open about the evolving nature of the problem and work through possible solutions. Without transparency, people can quickly sense deception if facts aren’t shared. Effective regular communication enhances an employee’s trust with the leadership and the credibility of the organisation as a whole.

5.    Understand your own capacity 
When people are unsure how to behave, they look to leaders as role models. Managers, as role models, must be consistent with their behaviour when they are leading others and understand their own capacity to lead. A manager must be self-aware and have the ability to self-diagnose when factors such as mental health and family life impacts on their ability to lead effectively and efficiently.

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