The servant leadership of Children's Minnesota CEO Dr. Marc Gorelick

Marc Gorelick, MD, approaches his job as president and CEO of Twin Cities-based Children's Minnesota with a commitment to stay personally connected to the more than 5,300 employees working at the organization. 

It's the fall of 2022, and Children's Minnesota is grappling with a surge of respiratory virus cases. Dr. Gorelick is folding isolation gowns in the emergency department. It's all part of a process he and his team established to sign up for volunteer shifts to work on the front lines, whether that's folding gowns, delivering trays or helping with transport.

"We decided as an executive leadership team, including myself, that we needed to set the stage by doing it first and set an example," Dr. Gorelick told Becker's. "And then very quickly others [working at the health system] said, 'I want to be able to help out as well.' This wasn't us being begged to do it. It was us trying to step forward and take the initiative."

Hospital workers face an array of challenges in today's healthcare environment. Staffing shortages have long existed and continue to persist. And organizations and their employees have experienced discontent, turnover, exhaustion and frustration after a ride of COVID-19 surges in recent years and other pandemic-related factors. 

Scheduled leadership rounding has historically been one way hospital executives have kept a pulse on pain points, dynamics and ideas at their organization. But Dr. Gorelick likes to take it further, especially with current difficulties in the industry.

"Rounding is nice, but rounding often takes the form of dropping in and saying, 'Hello.' I try to make them more meaningful interactions by following somebody around for an hour or attending a full staff meeting or open office hours — ways to do something more than just be visible," he said.

This week, Dr. Gorelick spent time with a provider in the emergency department. He said the interaction was "to watch them do their work, not to pepper them with questions, not put them on the spot. Just to see how their work is going and to help them, share what aspects of the work might not be going the way they like it to and to help facilitate solving those."

The effort, part of Children's Minnesota's "go and see" approach, reaches beyond the emergency department and Dr. Gorelick. Other leaders on his team visit inpatient units to deliver food to families, stock linens or carts, or other things to allow the staff to focus on patient care. 

"That's been very popular because for leaders who don't have a clinical background, it's a great way for them to get better connected with the clinical work. And even for those of us who do have a clinical background, being able to walk in other people's shoes and not only understand the work they do but show appreciation and support for what they do," Dr. Gorelick said.

Engaging workers and retaining them is crucial for hospitals to maintain a robust workforce. Recruiting top talent is also a key priority as organizations seek to fill staffing gaps. 

Dr. Gorelick said he feels it's important for leaders to be involved in these recruitment efforts. That's why he attended the local People of Color Career Fair.

"I didn't just leave that to the [human resources] team to go out there. I was there with them, helping them recruit out there, talking with candidates," he said. "We connected with 120 people at this career fair. About half of them have now submitted applications to Children's Minnesota."

Another part of being physically present: Listening to ideas. 

Dr. Gorelick provided one example in which student interns inquired about medical-grade hijabs.

"One of them said, 'We have a lot of Muslim patients, and we don't have medical-grade hijabs here,'" he said. "Well, we now have medical-grade hijabs. We partnered with a local company to make them, and that company now sells them nationally and internationally. That was from an idea that came from an intern who I was talking with because I wanted to meet the interns."

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