Challenge to MDS 410 Case Studies in Leadership
As a child, I was always curious about the world around me but being the daughter of a single, uneducated mother growing up in Boise in the 70’s and 80’s, not much was expected of me. After my high school graduation, I dabbled in college learning but only halfheartedly. At twenty years old I married my high-school sweetheart and we moved away to San Diego where my new husband was enlisted in the Navy. Much has happened since then, nearly thirty years of work and life experience, that has given me a wealth of wisdom, knowledge and insight that I hope to pair with academic learning to prove to myself that I have what it takes to earn a degree. The past eleven years have been the most professionally rewarding years of my career, overseeing the Family and Patient Housing department at Mountain States Tumor Institute (now St. Luke’s Cancer Institute). While I may never return to the corporate world, after recently being outsourced and laid off, I am finally able to put myself first and invest in the education I have been dreaming of.
When I started at St. Luke’s in 2008, I inherited a department that was struggling to survive. Over the years I worked to build a reputation with both clients and colleagues, eventually becoming the subject matter expert for all things travel and lodging at the hospital. Through the years I sought to develop my leadership skills and emotional intelligence while managing a small staff and the patients and caregivers who were my clients. Working with oncology patients can be an emotionally exhausting endeavor, but it was the most professionally rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The years I have spent leading and being lead in this job have given me the skills I think I will need to challenge the class MDS 410 Case Studies in Leadership in my pursuit of my Bachelors of Art in Multidisciplinary Studies with a Certificate in Leadership and Human Relations.
Until you have been in the hospital or have cared for someone who was, it is difficult to fathom the amount of people required to run such a facility. The clients who stayed with me were patients or the caregivers of patients who had to travel to the hospital for treatment. My clients were unique to the hospital system, bringing distinct personalities and challenges with them that required teamwork with all the departments involved in their care. As the leader of the department it was essential for me to collaborate with my colleagues, like social workers and clinical staff to provide a meaningful picture of the patient’s needs and struggles while staying at my facility. We often had patients who were receiving oncology treatment, but had a history of drug or alcohol use. While this type of behavior could be benign in most environments, it can quickly compromise treatment. This was the case with David. David, a leukemia patient, was lodging in my facility while in active treatment for his cancer. When his girlfriend started staying with him, I noticed a change in both their behaviors. Upon further discussion with David, he reluctantly admitted to me that he had shared some of his medications with his companion, putting his health and safety at risk. As part of David’s care team, I was quickly able to communicate this with David’s social worker, another important part of the patient’s team, and they were able to intervene and support him through his and his girlfriend’s addiction. Without knowing how to build his trust and the emotional intelligence to connect with him, I would have never been able to accomplish this.
As a lodging facility we operate much like a hotel which makes housekeeping an integral part of maintaining a hospital-clean environment. Typically, commercial housekeeping has an annual turnover rate of approx. 300%, which was not conducive to our patients, given housekeepers access to sensitive situations and information. Hiring the right person for this low-wage job wasn’t easy but I was able to find people who stayed with me for years. This was accomplished in the beginning by using the situational approach of leadership as my new housekeepers had to be trained and oriented to the unique clients we served and understand the laws and ethics that governed our space. When competency was low but commitment was high, I offered a high-directive, low-support leadership style. This also allowed me to assess trustworthiness and follow through. Over time, I was able to move into a delegating role after we had earned each other’s trust. For one housekeeper, trust was an important issue, after having been treated poorly in other jobs. As a natural affiliative leader, emotionally connecting with her by standing up for her when a guest became threatening, or advocating for wage increases for her was part of the building blocks I used to earn her loyalty, and in return she stayed with me for four years, as lead housekeeper at one of my buildings. As a team, we worked so effectively that we could sense problems quickly and always had each other’s back. This allowed her to work independently and have ownership over her schedule, while freeing up my time and energy to focus on our clients. After about four years she decided it was time for her to move on so I became more of a servant leader which helped to empower her, putting her needs first in recognition for her years of service. I began helping her refine her resume and interview skills so she could take the next step in her career. As her manager, I learned just how impactful my leadership was as I watched her grow and mature over those four years.
In February of 2017 I hired an over-qualified but hard-working woman to perform housekeeping duties for my new patient lodging facility. After she had worked for me for several months, she began bringing her dog to work with her, which was completely inappropriate. As an affiliative leader, I suggested, rather than clearly saying, that she not bring her dog to work. Things went along fine for several more months but then her adult daughter started showing up for coffee a few days a week, which progressed to every day fairly quickly. Although I made it clear she should never take space from a patient, I reasoned that giving some flexible liberties could reward me with loyalty and service. After a few more months I became aware that she had continued taking advantage of our flexible work environment to the point of staying in empty rooms and having her children come to use our facilities to cook, launder and shower. The worst part was I found all this out from a precious woman who was battling leukemia and didn’t need the drama. After meeting with Paula to talk about her egregious activities, it became clear that she was not capable of reform so I terminated her. Part of what I learned from this experience was to listen to my intuition. Being an affiliative leader is emotionally fulfilling and cultivates deep connections but it allows resonance to become unbalanced. I allowed Paula to take advantage of me when I failed to enforce the existing policies. This event prompted me to take the class COM390 Conflict Management during which I was able to write and record a revised interaction for this situation that showcased all that I learned through this process. This situation also led me to change how I vet applicants. Traditionally, this is done by an outside vendor, however, upon further investigation it became clear that they had missed several red flags that perhaps would have changed my decision to hire her in the first place.
When it became clear to the hospital that they would need the ground my building sat on, to expand the footprint of the main hospital I started brainstorming and planning how we could continue providing lodging services to patients at another location. Displacement planning required that I write a justification for continuing the services we currently offered. My first goal was to educate the leaders at the hospital about the service we offered by creating a powerpoint that I presented to approximately two hundred hospital leaders and executives. It was critical that I conveyed the importance of low-cost housing to my audience who, for the most part, had never been to my facility or met with the patients I was advocating for. Next, I met with my director to discuss where we could move operations to after my building was moved. After doing some research on possible locations, my director met me at a local bed and breakfast that was for sale near the hospital. We toured the building then had a meeting with our stakeholders to discuss and tour the property again. Based on my recommendation, the hospital purchased that property allowing patient housing to continue operations. It is my belief that, without my leadership and advocacy, patient housing would have ceased to exist in February of 2017.
Throughout my professional life I have found opportunities to learn and grow in every job, side-hustle and experience. For every patient that walked through our doors, I learned to assess their needs using verbal and non-verbal tools, determine any risks of placement using mature emotional intelligence to address health, safety and staffing concerns. I have had amazing successes with both employees and clients, and a few failures from which I have studied and learned realizing that, as the leader, I set the tone for my department. Over the past eleven years, and even much further back in my career, I have continued developing the communication and leadership skills that I believe are the cornerstone of my success, making me a top performer with a very loyal client base. The leadership lessons I have learned have been earned on the proverbial battlefield, leaving me with wounds and a lot of practical experience. It is my hope that my thirty plus years of experience has the value I believe it does and will allow me to challenge the course MDS 410 Case Studies In Leadership.