Hospital Leadership: Why It Matters in a Crisis

Hospital leadership is more than guiding others to properly carry out care delivery strategies. It’s about navigating the vast multitude of changes and innovations that constantly arise in the health care industry so that optimal patient care can always be delivered. Effective leadership in hospitals can lead to improved patient outcomes and shape the health care landscape.

The work of a hospital leader is particularly important during crises. The COVID-19 pandemic brought this to the forefront, as surging patient demands, limited resources and evolving scientific research-based information created a multitude of complex issues that could only be properly resolved through competent leadership. However, effective crisis leadership is built on preparing for the unexpected just as much as it’s designed to properly react to a crisis as it unfolds in real time.

Ultimately, effective hospital leadership is a coordinated effort that can ensure the best care delivery scenarios possible, regardless of the situation. It’s important for health care leaders of all types to understand how they can be prepared to deliver optimal care in dire situations.

Leadership in a Crisis: Physicians and Administrators

During times of crisis, physicians have promoted leadership by making critical decisions that directly impact patient care. Modern advances in medicine and new scientific discoveries mean there’s increasing information available to physicians to help them enhance their patient care and prepare for the unexpected. Physician leadership in a crisis can also involve sharing critical information with others involved in patient care. This can help build trust within their team, which can help with coordination between health care professionals during crisis situations.

Likewise, the work of administrative leaders can be crucial to ensuring that a hospital runs efficiently through critical times. This leadership is best done proactively and preventively, through policy implementation, drills or equipment stocking. Doing so can ensure that a facility is properly equipped for crises without having to scramble for needed equipment or reach toward compliance.

Honesty, reliability, professionalism and emotional maturity should all be present in health care leaders. Team members are much more likely to implement changes quickly and efficiently when suggestions are delivered calmly and respectfully, promoting teamwork and empowerment.

Physician Skills

There are several physician skills that can optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of hospital leadership during times of crisis. These include strong leadership skills to help coordinate with other health care workers and team members, as well as some other essential soft skills.

For example, physician leaders must have the communication skills necessary to relay vital information clearly, concisely and unambiguously. They must also have advanced problem-solving and critical thinking competencies to make effective and impactful decisions in situations in which  every second counts. These traits coincide with essential characteristics for building trust with colleagues and patients, such as compassion and patience.

Administrator Skills

Coordinating hospital services through administrative tasks is a complex role with many areas of impact. This can make their work particularly crucial in crisis prevention, mitigation and recovery. As such, there are several fundamental administrator skills that are essential to success.

Administrators should have leadership skills that can help them train and motivate hospital staff to effectively handle crises. They must have the analytical skills necessary to understand and implement new regulations and keep facilities fully compliant. They must develop advanced technical skills to implement and maintain technical innovations, such as electronic health records (EHRs). Administrators must also have the communication skills to explain vital information about policies and procedures in crisis situations.

Learn Skills Needed for Health Care Leadership

Hospital leadership plays a critical role in ensuring that the quality of health care doesn’t suffer when a critical situation arises. With strong leadership and intervention skills, facilities can emerge out of crisis situations without compromising patient care and safety.

With health care-focused courses in  patient safety systems, health information, and quality and outcomes, the George Washington University online Master of Healthcare MBA program can help you gain an in-depth understanding of health care processes and administration. This program can prepare you to succeed in critical moments. Learn how we can help you become an efficient health care leader.

Recommended Reading: 

How the Internet of Medical Things is Changing Healthcare 

What Is Preventative Healthcare?

What Should Hospitals Do to Prepare for Pandemics?


American Association for Physician Leadership, “Physician Leadership in Crisis and Recovery”

American College of Healthcare Executives, Healthcare Executives’ Role in Emergency Management

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Planning Resources by Setting: Hospitals and Healthcare Systems, What Is an Electronic Health Record?

IntechOpen, “The Concept of Leadership in the Health Care Sector”

JAMA Network Open, “Guidance for Health Care Leaders During the Recovery Stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic”

JAMA Network Open, “The Current Health Care Crisis—Inspirational Leadership (or Lack Thereof) Is Contagious”

NEJM Catalyst, “The Power and Importance of Leadership in a Crisis”

NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Emergency Planning Resources for Hospitals

SAGE Journals, “Role of Hospital Leadership in Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physicians and Surgeons