Maintaining safe, high-quality care and an excellent patient experience are top priorities of every healthcare organization. While leadership stability is widely appreciated as essential to achieving these goals, we are living in a time of the Great Resignation. This begs the question: how does an organization achieve such stability even during times of volatility?
Many high performing organizations are finding the answer through interim nurse leadership. With an emphasis on both clinical leadership expertise and safe, high-quality, compassionate care, interim nurse leaders have proven to be an invaluable asset to healthcare organizations in myriad transition situations, particularly during these unprecedented times.
So, when should organizations hire interim nurse leaders and what value can interim leaders be expected to bring?
When to Hire an Interim Nurse Leader
Interim nurse leaders are an effective leadership solution in a variety of ways; most commonly during times of transition or change (e.g., unplanned leadership departures), when aligning the organization with new regulations or standards, and during special projects, such as restructuring teams.
Leadership transitions inevitably cause shifts in priorities and focus which can damage existing initiatives, financial performance, and key metrics and benchmarks. Interim leaders provide immediate stability, advance organizational initiatives, and buy time for a permanent leader replacement.
Interim nurse leaders are particularly adept in quickly assessing environments, including:
- Motivating care delivery staff
- Managing budgets
- Overseeing reporting
- Enhancing interpersonal relationships
- Achieving cost savings
With a breadth of experience and education at their disposal, interim nurse leaders can assist other newly appointed nurse leaders or nurture developing ones so they are better equipped to perform the core competencies required for their role.
The Value That Interim Nurse Leaders Bring to the Table
Building Deeper Collaborative Connections Among Staff
By embodying and informing both high-level strategy and boots-on-the-ground operations expertise, interim nurse leaders see the big picture and gain granular insights into day-to-day operations simultaneously. In this way, they keep teams operating like a well-oiled machine with increased efficiency.
For instance, during the early days of the pandemic, one of Kirby Bates’ interim nurse leaders helped a partner organization that was in desperate need of guidance. She found that by building deeper interpersonal connections among the team and providing reliable leadership, she was able to align key staff to attain organizational goals and maintain momentum moving forward.
“You must be fluid in your leadership—you handle one thing with the staff or patient care, and then you jump to another role of helping the administration handle operational needs. Establishing relationships with the staff was essential. Equally important was connecting with the facility’s administration and leadership. The culture of an organization is always mirrored from the top, so getting buy-in from the leadership team was critical. “
By engaging on-the-ground staff for their input on procedures and strategy, she was able to make them feel more valued, thereby fostering a more collaborative atmosphere; and she didn’t just dole out orders and leave. She reinforced that collaboration by participating in daily operations alongside staff. This earned the staff’s respect and allowed her to report more accurately to the executive leadership team what the staff needed to succeed.
Uncovering and Addressing Organizational Blind Spots
Oftentimes, a fresh perspective is exactly what is needed in an organization. Most interim nurse leaders have worked in myriad care delivery environments throughout their careers, allowing them to lend their vast experience and industry knowledge to organizations in need. This includes uncovering organizational blindspots and providing practical solutions to address them.
By performing rapid organizational assessments, interim nurse leaders are well-equipped to identify the critical competencies needed among staff and leadership to achieve strategic goals. This outside perspective is all the more valuable in assisting leadership to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, identify pain points, and provide innovative approaches to resolving them.
Another of Kirby Bates’ interim nurse leaders says it best:
“I can come in and see the situation clearly as I’m not tied to the history and tradition of an organization. I can do the tough things—in a caring and accountable way—and set the new person up to initially have more positive interactions and quicker successes. . .This is just what we do. We drop into an unfamiliar, often stressful situation, and we immerse ourselves. We’re not here forever . . . so we say, ‘What are your priorities for my time here?’ and ‘How can I help you the most?’ That’s how you begin.”
A gap in leadership doesn’t have to bring gaps in revenue or dips in metrics and benchmarks. Interim nurse leaders are able to quickly manage those gaps from both an operational and financial perspective. At Kirby Bates, we’ve seen interim leaders provide innovative strategies for cost savings in addition to covering the much-needed operational and leadership tasks. In one case, they were able to help the organization save $1.4 million in just six months.
Additionally, the hidden costs associated with a vacant leadership role add up very quickly. Having an interim leader ready to hit the ground running provides immediate relief to the organization’s bottom line while simultaneously positioning it for future success.
Trust Kirby Bates to Find Your Next Interim Nurse Leader
With our nationwide network and reputation, our interim leadership services have helped clients match effective interim leaders to key positions for over 30 years. The above two real-world examples of interim nurse leaders saw incredible success in helping their respective organizations navigate critical and timely situations; and it can work for you, too.