Tune in! Don Antonucci, CEO of Providence Health Plan, is on Moments Move Us
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New Podcast Episode: The Three Cs of Leadership: Caring, Communication, and Curiosity with Don Antonucci
What You’ll Learn:
Leadership isn’t attained, it’s learned.
On this episode of Moments Move Us, we meet Cynthia Latney, the Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at OhioHealth. With over three decades of experience in nursing and leadership, she shares the importance of being your authentic self as a leader while creating teams that can continue to thrive after you leave. Observing and learning from effective leaders, seeking mentorship, and actively engaging in new opportunities can contribute to the development of leadership skills.
Furthermore, Cynthia reflects on a multitude of challenges the practice faces, including industry burnout, the process of redefining the typical work-life balance of a nurse, as well as the chaos of brand new obstacles prompted by the pandemic.
Themes: Diversity, mental health, nursing innovation, nurse retention
“Each role that I achieved to get with partnerships and mentors, I was the first. It was surprising to me because when you’re in a large state in Texas, you have diversity, so you assume when you’re going into other organizations, you’re going to see that. But no, I would say for the remainder of my 20 years, each role, I was the first in that role, which takes on a lot of accountability and responsibility of making sure you’re showing up and being your best because you want to keep that door open for other diverse leaders.”
“It is easy to get discouraged, and there’s a lot of self-talk that needs to happen. We weren’t the first, so you have to remember that we are standing on shoulders that have gone through these pathways and opened up doors for us. And there weren’t easy doors, and they survived, and they thrived. And so, you got to have the courage to push through, and you also have to keep your circle of friends very close to you. It can be lonely at times. And so, when you have your network and the people that know you so well and can help support you and help you when you’re down and just create that light that you need so you can keep going and build that resiliency, I think that I would say is the key. And just to know as you got there, you got to pay it forward. You got to pay it forward for others. And you have to remember that you are standing on the shoulders of others and you want to do them proud, and you want to do yourself proud as well.”
“I have two things I do, especially when I wake up in the morning, I do some mindful exercises and breathing exercises. I also listen to inspirational videos and talks that I have on my phone. But I have a picture in my bathroom that my youngest son painted for me about five years ago. And he painted the picture for Christmas, because one year I said, I don’t want any gifts. I want something from the heart. I want you to design something, make music, or something. They decided to paint. Now, they’re not painters, but they had a friend that painted, but they painted something: What was the vision of me and them? And so my youngest son painted a picture of me, and it was just beautiful. It caught the essence of who I was, like fire. And so, I’ve always used the nickname Fire, and we used to play video games. And so you got to name yourself. Right? And so I named myself Fire. How he pictured me, it just warmed my heart and it was just strong. So when I get up in the morning, I go in the bathroom and I’m talking the fire I’m saying, ‘You got this today. Yesterday might have been tough, but this is another day you get to start over. You have control of how you feel. And every day is a new day.’ And I do that every day. You have to. For me, I have to do it.”
“I mean, look at today in COVID and the impact of the pandemic and the burnout and the stress that our clinicians and our nurses are experiencing. What they’ve gone through really was war and it is going to take time. Yes, we’re seeing PTSD. I remember my burnout phase where I did have to take a step back for about five weeks. Not that I was reflecting on not wanting to nurse, but I knew my tank was empty. I needed my family and I needed to step away to fill my tank up because I love nursing and I love giving my whole self to my patients and families. But you can’t do that if you’re empty. And so, we have to have the courage to be able to say, I got to stop. And we don’t want to get there. We got to take accountability for our self, compassion, and resiliency so we don’t get there. But if we find ourselves there, we do have to take a step back.”
“At OhioHealth we have a wonderful well-being program that’s led by our physicians. And it’s at a point where they take it as a trifecta or approach, where they have resources that you can go to the center and have that one-on-one therapy, or you have virtual group options for what I always believe being together with my colleagues and sharing in that journey and talking about how you’re feeling together so I don’t feel alone. But not everyone can do that. And I think we’re struggling is what activities do we need or options at the moment, at the bedside, because they don’t have time to do that.
We do dog therapy, music, reflecting time where we huddle and do reflection (what happened yesterday or what happened during the event). But I think what is connecting all of those activities is taking the time to reflect on what you feel, what you heard, and collectively working together, which is important, and you have to individualize it. Everyone is not the same. And we need our clinicians and our nurses to tell us what’s valuable to them because we’re only going to bring forward what we’ve learned about or what we think but getting their feedback and letting us know what’s value to them, to help them center into strengthen their resiliency, it’s important for us to understand.”
“I had this conversation with our nurse leaders the other day and just reflecting on what nurses went through during the pandemic and how they feel. And what I have come to realize, even with myself working through the pandemic—no, I’m not at the bedside, but feeling the pain and suffering of not able to get enough resources for them—is that we have that sacred relationship with our patients and society sees us, the number one profession that will partner with them. And when we can’t do that, when we can’t honor that, that’s where that pain and suffering comes from and the burnout and the stress. Because I know how I should be showing up with our patients and our families and all these stressors and barriers around me will not allow me to do that. So that’s the conflict that’s happening and that’s what’s creating the stress. But we have to speak up. We have to take accountability as professionals to say, this is what I need. And I think through the pandemic and the voices of nurses just raised, if you could see a cloud coming in up out of the sky, it was that they were just like, ‘Okay, I’ve had enough, I’m going to tell you. And we got to figure out how we’re going to do this to make it better.’”
“In the COVID pandemic time early on, in our critical care we were struggling with how do we deliver our medications at the bedside, but we have to keep the door closed and how do you decrease the amount of time going into the room? I still have to give medicine and I still have to look at the pumps which was so beautiful. I’m working at another organization and here at OhioHealth, nurses at the bedside said, ‘I think we should use longer IV tubing and connect and bring it outside of the room.’ Although it’s not ideal. But at the crisis time of decreasing the amount of exposure of COVID that’s what they had idea came up for innovation to ensure that their patient was getting the care that they deserved and needed at the time. And that approach actually was a best practice at the time. Again, not ideal, but that was something that was needed across the country. And I remember working in another organization when then I called here to talk to the bedside nurses to determine how did you do that and why and what did that all entail. That is an example of how our bedside nurses are leading at the bedside.”
“How do we keep our workforce engaged today when now they have options? They’re looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Do I stay in my profession? Should I leave and go travel or should I just leave altogether and get away from the bedside to reduce my burden?’ It’s really important for us leaders to get out there and round to listen and to experience and see what exactly they’re doing and also create avenues where they can share their ideas.
One particular idea that we are working on with the bedside nurses that you hear about now is virtual nursing. And that’s putting a nurse in a box just like we have eICU or we have telehealth that’s outside. We have not really experienced having that type of structure in a med search unit. And so this is something we’re designing with the frontline and asking them: ‘What are some of the tasks and activities that should be done by the virtual nurse that will open up space for you to connect again with the patient so you can get to honor that commitment that you have with the patient.’ And once you start to do that, that’s what really empowers them and creates that energy to say that they are listening. We see that they’re taking our information and doing something with it and then that’s creating more energy to come back and say, ‘Okay, I got another idea.’ So it’s just wonderful.
“We know that nurse managers are burdened because they’re working at the bedside because they don’t have enough staff. So we have to engage our nurse managers to be creative with rethinking what their schedules look like so they can be there for their teams and then creating ideas for them that they see that they can implement. So I have many of my nurse managers that I have signed up for National Cohort to really be innovative and think about those projects that they want to do. We need to engage our nurse managers. They have ideas, we need to support them. So they’re, one, want to stay in the role. They see the value of being in the role and they’re giving back to the organization.”
“I think the one quality that I always go back to that I know shaped me as a person. One, I had two brothers, so I always had to be right there with them. And so that whole driving and wanting to get things done and stand up for yourself, I had brothers, so if I couldn’t stand up for them, it’s hard for me to stand up for everyone else. But it is being on a team. And I love sports. Basketball, I ran track, I did some softball. Sports related structure is what carries me through my leadership. It’s a team sport, you can’t do it alone. And that’s what I use. And I often talk to my teams about having expectations around team, expectations of we are one team, we should have transparency and collaboration and we’re going to support each other. Those are important aspects. And we’re going to be the best that we can be, because if the team member is not pulling their weight and doing all they can do, then that brings down the team. But if you are struggling, then it’s important to a team member to step up to help you, but you have to speak up. And so that is what I bring forward.
I think also in my years of nursing and interacting with different types of people, our patients, our families, my own journey, and my family’s journey of healthcare, really helped me understand how important relationship building is and being clear on what we’re trying to achieve and what that outcome is (you’re not wasting energy and fixing the wrong thing.) So I’m very methodical in the planning piece because, man, I just hate to go back around. We should have did it on the planning side. And I’ve learned that from other leaders and how they went about approaching problems. I think the longer you’re in leadership, you start to look at other leaders that you want to role model or model after. As we started getting into Lean and the PDCA and how we approach the work, you start to learn about those different approaches and seeing the outcomes and the impact that they can be. So it’s like, okay, well, let me talk to this leader and try to understand that, or let me go get a certification that strengthens the skills that I need. I think it’s important that you do that self-assessment to see what’s working well and what areas of opportunity you think you need to strengthen.”
“We were just at a large leadership program and one of the presidents at one of the hospitals shared with me. He says, ‘We’ve had many other CNEs and not to take away of anyone that I’ve followed, but you need some validation that your approach is working.’ And he said, ‘You have been the first that was able to really advance this team.’ I stood there for a second because you work really hard, it’s going on two years and it’s like you’re in a new organization, you want to make an impact, you’re a different leader, and is your approach working? And to be validated, that, wow, I caught one of the president’s attention, that they see me, they see the work, they see the impact that I have. And, all right, I’m going to keep going because that only can be who I am. So if I try to be something outside of who I am and how I move, that I’m not being authentic and that’s one of my honor and my expectations of myself. I will be who I am. And being 36 years in, I’m just not going to allow someone to change that for me, because then I can’t be my authentic self. Now I can grow from constructive feedback, give me feedback. But the core of who I am, and how I connect, and how I bring teams together, and how we work together individually, meet their individual plan, development plan, I got to get to know them in a different way. That may not be the way that everyone else does it. And to be validated, I’m being seen. It is making a difference. Keeps me engaged to say, ‘I made the right choice for the organization.’ And I always want to make sure that I’m having an impact and value the value that I’m bringing. I’m going to leave something and that I’m creating teams around me and individuals that the organization, if I choose to take that next step in my career somewhere else, that they won’t miss a beat. So then I say that I’ve done what I was supposed to do.”
“With any CNE that comes to a new organization, you want to do that assessment of the strengths and opportunities of your team and how does nursing sit within an organization and how do leaders lead at every level? So when you’re looking at your own team and the Chief Nursing Officers that sit in the site, how are they showing up, who needs to be strengthened? And how strong is the team? And going through the pandemic, just like at the bedside, there was impact with our own leadership. So when a seat is going to be emptied, then you got to assess what your team needs. And when you’re looking for that next role to sit that seat, you want to look for those attributes that [are] going to support the team, not just the individual that sits at a particular care site. So when you’re looking at many hospitals, you also have to look at your team, what your team needs and what that hospital needs.
And it’s important for me that when I am recruiting for a new CNO, I’m also recruiting work. Do they have the ability at some point in time in their career to be a CNE? And I think that’s what he was referencing, that we may have had opportunities on our team to strengthen. So we’re leading in all aspects of care. Delivery nurses just don’t lead for nursing, we lead for patient care, which there’s many relationships that we have and attributes and skills that we need. And they need to look at a council of CNOs to say, oh, my gosh, that’s a talented team. And they can sit and be versatile and they can be anywhere. And it’s just like having a basketball team saying, how are we going to get to that championship?
“As a leader, I feel accountable to help our clinicians and our nurses fulfill their mission. And if they’re not fulfilling their mission, then I’m failing as a leader.”
“Our nursing vision [at OhioHealth] is that nurses lead in every level. You don’t have to be in a nursing leadership role to lead. You’re leading at the bedside, you’re leading in your practice. And so that is important for me and our team and leaders to know that everyone’s leading in some point in way and for us to get to that ideal healthcare delivery where it’s equitable that everyone is getting the right care at the right time at the right place. We need all of our nurses to lead where they are.”
“Although it’s tough, but if you have a team around you, and you’re fulfilling your mission, that you’re going to want to come back to work and keep giving every day.”
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