The weight community connection can carry — 4 community hospital leaders weigh in

Amid the pandemic and beyond, organizations of all sizes can learn from the successes, leadership and culture of community hospitals. 

 During an Oct. 12 session at Becker's Community Hospitals Virtual Forum, a panel of leaders discussed developing strong healthcare leaders through community connections.

Panelists included:

  • Ron Lewis, president of Spectrum Health Zeeland (Mich.) Community Hospital
  • Jessie Neitzer, compliance and quality officer at Montrose (Colo.) Memorial Hospital 
  • Stacey Gavrell, chief community relations officer at Glenwood Springs, Colo.-based Valley View Hospital
  • James Wellman, CIO for Findlay, Ohio-based Blanchard Valley Health System  

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here

Question: Why is the connection to community significant for all healthcare leaders and specifically those at community hospitals?

Jessie Neitzer: Without strong, trusting relationships, very little progress is made. In a small community, if we don't have those relationships, we end up competing for finite resources. We also end up duplicating services, which can lead to waste and reduction in care quality. As leaders, we have an obligation to the communities we serve to coordinate care within our region. We owe it to each other to connect and offer care that is affordable, accessible and high quality. 

James Wellman: This is what we're all about. One of the things I enjoy is reaching out to the community, understanding what they need, and figuring out how to help better lives — the lives of the community we live and participate in. That connection is critical. Personally, my family has gathered service here and at other hospitals I've worked. I wouldn't be a good example if I went somewhere else while telling others to come to my facility. We provide the best care we can and we trust it. 

Ron Lewis: We've really leaned on our community amid the pandemic. For example, we have great relationships with a lot of organizations, one of which had to close their manufacturing. We asked them if they could build face shields for us, and overnight they became a face shield company, producing shields for west Michigan. If we hadn't had that relationship and trust, we wouldn't have even called them — we would have been searching the nationwide market. Instead, we were able to solve the problem with an organization 1 mile away. That's why the relationships we form each day actually prepare us for tomorrow, not just today.

Stacey Gavrell: Just to echo what everyone else has shared — working in a place where you, your friends and neighbors receive care is our purpose for getting up every day. When COVID happened, we experienced a clamoring of people wanting to stand by our nurses, physicians and the whole organization during that really critical early period. That really affirms the connection, not only through crises, but also moving forward and looking at other opportunities where we as an organization can really integrate in the community. 

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