Leadership Insight

Running Into The Fire

It has been an unprecedented several weeks in our country. We all watched with unease the scenes from China, and then with concern as it spread to Europe. And now it is the United States’ turn to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak en masse. So much has been written about what to expect, what we should be doing (check out #stopthespread or #flattenthecurve), and what the potential first, second, and third order impacts of this global pandemic will be. Last week I also began to see many more first-hand accounts of providers and caregivers in the initial outbreak areas begin to report on their experience with the far-eyed and emotionless commentary common in war zones.

At Crossover Health, we have been preparing for this situation since January, but our efforts really ramped up over the last two weeks as the impact began to be felt by our clients — first in the Seattle area, then the Bay Area, and now throughout the country. While as a trusted advisor to some of the largest employers in the country our work together is private and confidential, there are lessons to be learned and shared about how large employers — which are effectively mini-cities when considering their number of people, buildings, and economic impact — have and continue to respond to this crisis. I look forward to sharing general lessons learned and our responses as appropriate.

What I can say at the outset is that it has been wonderfully surreal and awe-inspiring to see how employers have responded by addressing first and foremost the health and welfare of their employees and families before any concern about the health of their own businesses. For all the flak “big business” takes, I have been impressed and grateful to see companies exhibit true humanity and values driven responsiveness.

In working through this rapidly escalating situation I have had three priorities — my own employees, our employee patient members, and our employer clients. While I spent the majority of the past week focused on the last two, this weekend I finally had the chance to catch my breath and think more about my own employees. I had an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude for our care teams who are standing at the front lines of this pandemic, literally in harm’s way, because they are trained, willing, and able to “Run Into the Fire.” They are placing the health and wellbeing of those they are called to serve first — they’re not just competent and certified, but they’re also caring and courageous every step of the way. The willing attitude and service-first mentality immediately brought images to my mind of the brave firefighters — who despite their training, their know how, and their experience — must each ultimately make an individual choice to run into the fire.

The concept of running into the fire is not something to say lightly, nor is it an underhand or off color call to bravado. Rather, it is a special form of courage, a unique creed held by those who are willing, able, and capable to respond in a crisis. It is an avocational mindset, a professional calling, and ultimately a remarkable perspective that I get to witness everyday. It is staying late, coming in early, grabbing supplies on the weekend, cheerfully prepping for ever-escalating protocols, finding solutions amid chaos, and generally demonstrating servant leadership in every way. It is caring for patients who are anxious and concerned, whose health is at risk, or who have become ill with equal compassion and concern.

Our teams are just finding their stride, and will definitely be stretched and strained in the weeks ahead. However, they remain as hopeful and helpful as ever (true negative robustness) — not just bracing for the storm ahead to survive, but leaning into the maelstrom to gain additional strength and capacity.

I’ve written this to honor every single member of our care teams (from physicians to nurses, to ancillary providers and hosts, to our service support teams), as well as other care providers throughout the country, who are running into the fire every day. Thank you for your courage, compassion, and commitment  — I am so proud to work with each of you!

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