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Leadership Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Part 1

November 16, 2020

By: Jill Paslier, PharmD, CSP, International Medication Safety Management (ISMP) Fellow

Leaders need to support health care workers through turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Health care workers need to know that hospital leaders have their backs. Leaders and mangers need to be effective listeners and transparent communicators with the goal to support workers’ needs and safety. They should also frequently show their trust, respect, and appreciation for their team. 

The Acute Care ISMP Medication Safety Alert published May 1, 2020, describes seven practical ways for leaders and managers to support their team of health care heroes during this unprecedented time. Below are three of those tips, and the rest will be covered in a future blog.  

Create a Safe Haven 

Leaders need to create safe quiet spaces for healthcare workers to retreat, reflect, and interact with each other away from taxing workloads. Staff should be allowed to spend time in a safe haven each shift. Providing psychological counselors is an added bonus.  

Restore Fair and Just Compensation

Empathic burnout can happen when healthcare workers blame themselves for less-than ideal outcomes. They may feel they have failed a patient. Leaders need to guard against this by encouraging workers to feel compassion for themselves and others. Leaders can create an environment of trust and fairness despite adverse outcomes. Leaders can encourage systems of trained peer supporters who can console team-members suffering from empathic burnout or self-blame.  

Establish a Positive Mindset 

Spreading positive emotions can have lasting benefits. Positivity can improve physical health, foster trust and compassion, buffer against depression, help people recover from stress, and build resilience and resourcefulness. Moments of positivity accumulate over time, reminding people that their work is meaningful. For example, when sharing grim COVID-19 statistics, it is important to balance that with COVID-19 wins—such as patients discharged, or positive steps being taken to support workers, patients and communities. Leaders have the opportunity to acknowledge and show sincere appreciation for their workers.

Read Part 2 for more practical ways to improve leadership.



ISMP. Leadership support is vital: If we fail to support caregivers, there will be few left to support care. ISMP Acute Care Medication Safety Alert! 2020; 25(8):1-4.

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