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Leaders obsess over invisible people.

This week I had two conversations that got me thinking about the people in healthcare who are ordinarily invisible. IT, environmental and housekeeping, food service, and the night shift, to name just a few. These groups often silently work in the background as the dayshift and front-of-the-house staff manage patient interactions and play more visible and glamorous roles.

And I will be honest, these are groups of employees who I often forget to think about too. I work in an outpatient ambulatory care clinic with many doctors, nurses, and schedulers. One housekeeper is embedded with our team and shares pictures of her grandkids, so it’s easy to think about and acknowledge her.

But the weekend maintenance crew who manages our HVAC is not at the top of my mind. We don’t have a night shift on site, even though our healthcare system does. And while IT Is only a phone call away, I never think about IT unless there’s a tech failure—and in those moments, I tend to be frustrated without a lot of empathy for the folks silently doing their jobs with excellence so that I don’t have to think about them most of the time.

But the two leaders I spoke with think about these people who always make up the invisible healthcare infrastructure. They are always consciously working to increase inclusivity, recognition, and collaboration between people in direct patient-care roles and the support staff who make patient care possible.

Sarah Bettman, principal consultant at Bettman Consulting Group.

The ability to see, value, recognize, and understand the unique perspective of team members whom others miss is one of the skills that sets great leaders apart from good leaders. These leaders are obsessed with promoting their team's well-being and are committed to ensuring every employee in the most obscure job category feels valued as an integral member of the healthcare team.

Inclusion and belonging are critical nutrients that all people need to thrive at work. And healthcare employees are no exception. Every employee needs to be seen and acknowledged for their unique contribution.

Recognition is a buzzword in healthcare, and it’s often followed by pizza parties, ice cream, or emails, all of which can fall flat when there is no foundation of trust and engagement between the leadership team and the employees being “recognized.” But recognition and rewards are not synonymous.

Recognition demonstrates that you truly understand another person. It starts with empathy. So, if you are looking for a new recognition strategy, consider shadowing the nighttime housekeeping staff once a month. Join your busiest primary care team as they address a litany of concerns throughout an afternoon—Park cars alongside the valet team. Be present and learn to see your least visible people's humanity and unique contributions.

Have you been wondering how to put your core values into practice and help your healthcare organization transition from old habits to inclusive leadership values? Look no further.

Sarah Bettman shares practical ideas about how to align your healthcare system with deeply rooted diversity, equity, and inclusion values. She will challenge you to understand why it’s not enough to show up in pro-diversity spaces, like your town’s PRIDE parade, or to be a figurehead in your hospital's COVID tent. You must also be willing to learn from and be changed by these spaces.

Bio: Sarah Bettman is the principal consultant at Bettman Consulting Group. She works with leaders to develop workplace cultures deeply rooted in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that don't have a "check the box" vibe.

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