Today’s post-pandemic healthcare environments are replete with executive leadership transitions, and often several in an organization. New leaders commonly create new roles, organizational structures, strategy and priorities. Reporting relationships change, at times more than once within a short time. And it is easy to find such news unsettling and confusing. What about my organization will remain constant and what will change? To whom do we report? Is my work still valued? What does this mean for me? It is hard to not get swept up in the “noise” of changing leadership.

Yet, change is the name of the game for professionals working in healthcare quality and safety; in fact it is our very purpose. Improved performance and outcomes require new and better approaches to care—this is the mantra for enhancing quality, safety and the experience of the people we serve. We help clinicians and others manage change all the time, and we know that change can be difficult. Change is not, however, to be feared. In fact, times of change provide opportunities for growth, learning, innovation, and new ways of thinking. Times of transition equal times of opportunity. Today’s environments and changes are a great time for us to thrive.

What do we need to consider during times of changing leadership? Most importantly, it is essential that we continue to deliver excellence in our work with a commitment to the mission, vision and values of the organization. The critical nature of improving quality and safety requires us to not get distracted by change. Continue to make a difference, demonstrating that great care can and must be both effective and efficient.

Should organizational goals or priorities change, assure that the quality and safety goals embrace those of the organization?

Support your colleagues and other staff in staying focused on the continuing and emerging work they do.

Strategize new opportunities that could make a difference in patient outcomes and be prepared to share those with new leaders. Assure that new leaders are aware of the current state of quality and safety in your organization and share the opportunities that you see to enhance it. Is there a potential innovation that has been explored and envisioned? Times of new leadership might set the stage for new consideration of its implementation. Be thoughtful and ready to describe the possibilities.

Talk with leaders about the increased visibility of positioning quality reporting at the highest possible level, with C-suite assess. Such visibility can assure that others recognize the importance of quality and safety in partnership with the importance of finance and sustainability.

My overall recommendations for those of us working in environments with new executive leaders:

  • Embrace an attitude of enthusiasm, exploring opportunities that can result from leadership transition.
  • Exercise patience for new leaders as they learn about the organization and strategize directions for the future.
  • Support your team. Encourage others to see opportunity in transition.
  • Avoid getting caught up in the noise of change, or the swirl of organizational politics.
  • Continue to make a positive impact with the work you do.
  • Assure that quality and safety goals align with any changing organizational goals.
  • Envision ways that quality and safety can have a greater organizational impact within new roles, structures, priorities and strategy.
  • Never stop seeking new opportunities for improving quality and safety. That is what we are about.

Leadership transitions provide new opportunities. It is up to us to optimize the possibilities.


Nidia Williams, PhD, MBB, CPHQ, FNAHQ
NAHQ President

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