Implementation of a hurricane preparedness and response plan requires the coordinated efforts of multiple agencies from throughout the region. Utilization of effective team support produced very good results when applied with strategic management efforts built on an application of solid ethical principles. Understanding the importance of strong communication throughout the process allowed the team to produce superior results and build upon previous successes. The team was also cognizant that the experiences of the community and those that had gone through the process previously were important factors in allowing the current process to proceed in a positive fashion.
Hurricane Preparedness Planning
Disaster preparedness is by no means an exact science. Despite this fact, there are ways to eliminate errors and provide an organization with the highest chance to reduce negative outcomes. This is achieved through experience and repetitive training designed to mimic potential scenarios that may be encountered. Analyzing previous successes and failures of the organization and other entities can provide valuable insight into what strategies will lead to the desired outcomes for the planning committee. Failing to consider the merits of past performance is a surefire way to mismanage a potential impending disaster. Even a successful previous plan can yield data about corrections and improvements when analyzed thoroughly.
The Saint Leo University Hospital is faced with the prospect of preparing a disaster plan for the cycle of hurricane season. A successful disaster and response plan will require the input of many professionals from various departments within the facility. With this in mind, one of the first tasks is identifying the individuals that should be included in the planning process. The American Society for Healthcare Engineering has outlined the required members of a disaster planning committee as: (medical staff, risk manager, nursing staff, emergency department, security, communications, public relations, medical records, engineering, laboratory, radiology, and respiratory therapy (American Society for Healthcare Engineering Webpage. (2014). Retrieved March 19, 2014 from http://www.ashe.org/advocacy/organizations/TJC/ec/emergency/hospdisasterprepare.html).
Many concepts are useful in the construction of the planning team and subsequent development of the eventual disaster and recovery plan. One of the touted models is “complex systems thinking” (Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, Shuart, J. W., Spaulding, W. D., & Poland, J. S. (2007). Modeling complex systems. Lincoln [Neb.: University of Nebraska Press.). The complex systems approach recognizes the different levels that the various components of the recovery effort operate at, and seeks to interlink these critical elements in a way that elevates their combined effectiveness above what they could achieve on an individual level (Burns, L., Bradley, E., & Weiner, B. ( 2012). Shortell & Kaluzny’s Health CareManagement: Organization Design and Behavior (6th Ed.). Clifton Park, NJ: Delmar). This aggregate effect is possible because the complex systems approach also allows the group to be more effective as the group is more receptive to change because the diversity is a strength that fosters adaptation (Advances in complex systems. (1998). Singapore: World Scientific Pub.). In a setting such as disaster planning, it is important to be able to entertain multiple points of consideration before becoming settled on a particular plan of action. Being able to give every member of a group due diligence to both express their ideas and consider the offerings of others is important for a successful planning outcome.
In setting the tone for crafting the execution of the disaster plan, the theories and roles of leadership will play a significant role. The roles of the personnel involved in the planning process and the strategy employed by management are two of the most important factors to be considered. Although the hospital has decided to utilize a complex systems approach to creating the disaster plan, it is still a good idea to outline how each group of individuals will contribute to the effort. Making sure everyone is on the same page regarding roles is an important step prior to the start of the evolution. This will eliminate wasting time explaining job functions to team members, or having members duplicating efforts. In order to expand the ability of the healthcare facility to respond to a pending disaster, it may be prudent to identify inter-organizational relationships (IOR’s) that can be beneficial for securing resources and manpower assistance (Martens, R., Heene, A., & Sanchez, R. (2008). Competence building and leveraging in interorganizational relations. Amsterdam: Elsevier JAI.). Because an event like a hurricane has the potential to impact residents of the entire community, the staff should not limit the participating organizations to just those with a previous history of providing assistance. Based on the identified needs related to expected damage, the staff should contact those agencies that may be able to provide the type of resources that will allow the community to mitigate the aftermath with minimal difficulty.
As the staff begins to develop the strategy for the crafting of the hurricane plan, it is important to make sure the objectives are clearly stated. This is important for the members of the St Leo Hospital staff and the other agencies being recruited to assist in the process. Establishing unambiguous objectives gives a good starting point for how the organization wants to approach allocation of resources and execution of tasking. Management should designate representatives from each department to ensure this function of the process is properly addressed before other areas are started. More detailed strategies cannot be developed until the roles are firmly established and each center has a clear understanding of who is in control of what functions.
As the organization further develops its plan for hurricane preparation, it must consider additional factors related to organizational design and employee motivation. For the proper utilization of organization design, there must be a concerted effort to identify the tasks important to the process and segment them accordingly. The first level will occur by dividing work between those jobs that can be categorized as either professional or nonprofessional in nature.
The professional staff jobs will consist of the physicians, nurses, administrators, and IT personnel. The nonprofessional staff will be the workers that perform the support positions around the facility.
During a crisis such as a hurricane, it is important to be efficient in delivering services. With this in mind, it is a good practice to utilize an integrated delivery system, if one is not already in place. The benefit of such a system is that it will allow management to ensure critical resources are delivered across the entire region that the system is responsible for responding to. This allows the delivery system to coordinate with the various healthcare facilities to avoid mismanagement of supplies and to better work the time element that is so crucial in the wake and aftermath of a hurricane. The need to be proactive with partnering agencies must be emphasized in order to allow sufficient time for all organizations to work with both internal and external entities in coordinating resource planning.
In the process of coordinating, there must be an understanding of the ability level of the personnel involved at each level. Management must be certain they are staffing personnel at the appropriate skill levels. During the middle of a hurricane is the wrong time to discover a person does not know how to lead an evolution. The person’s slow reaction time couldjeopardize lives and the safety of the public at large. In addition to jeopardizing lives, individuals must understand how to manage resources in a crisis versus how they manage resources during normal operating conditions. During the training portion of the time prior to the actual implementation of the final plan, the management staff should focus on using the process of relational coordination as a way of getting individuals that will be working together on projects to gain a better understanding of each other’s role within their respective departments. As the agencies allocate members of their teams to fill positions to assist in the work of preparing for disaster mitigation, the team members that have previous working experience will understand the strengths and weaknesses of their peers. The team members that are being paired together for the first time will need to establish an understanding of what their contemporary’s abilities are in order for the new team to operate at its most efficient level. This use of relational coordination allows the members to identify what these areas of strength and weakness are, and therefore put the entire process in a better position to achieve a positive outcome in the event of a real crisis (Burns, L., Bradley, E., & Weiner, B. ( 2012). Shortell & Kaluzny’sHealth CareManagement: Organization Design and Behavior (6th Ed.). Clifton Park, NJ: Delmar).