Rookie Smarts | Transforming a Hospital, Overcoming Fear
“How could a young 26-year old, with barely a lick of low-level management experience, lead a hospital?” This is the question Kevin was asking himself when a friend challenged him to apply for an opening for a director of nursing position at a local hospital.
Kevin’s leadership journey began a few years prior to this “dumb idea.” Within the first year of being a nurse, he was offered a full-time position in a rehab hospital. “I was so frightened at the thought that I would be leading nurses who have been nurses for 20 to 30 years that I almost didn’t do it. I was so afraid at the thought of failure. But I began my work, and I learned the role very well, at a rapid rate,” said Kevin. “I remember sitting in my car every morning talking to God before every shift, asking him to help and guide me through the coming shifts trials.”
A successful year led him to pursue a career in critical care nursing, which he was good at and comfortable with. But Kevin was being called out of his comfort zone.
“One of my good friends challenged me to apply for the recently opened director of nursing position at the hospital,” said Kevin. “I laughed at the thought of someone as inexperienced as myself being offered the position.” Despite his doubts, he submitted an application; someone else with more experience was already slotted for the promotion. But to his surprise, within 15 minutes of hitting send, he received an exuberant phone call, and they were eager to interview him. The interview went great, and they loved all of his ideas about some of the policy changes he would make if he were to get the position. They also liked his qualities, and felt that he would make the perfect fit. A second interview was scheduled.
But Kevin’s lack of self-confidence began to get the better of him. He began to doubt.
It was that week that he attended the Global Leadership Summit. “Even at times during the conference, my lack of self-confidence got the better of me,” said Kevin. “I found myself wanting to leave the conference early and just cancel the second interview and stay comfortable in critical care nursing—it is something that I get.” But Kevin stayed through the conference, and heard the story about starting Willow Creek. He was inspired by all the speakers, strengthened in his faith and empowered in who he was created to be. A “dumb idea” began to take shape. “Pastor Albert Tate’s talk on Jesus taking really dumb ideas and making them work better than anyone could have imagined really resonated with me,” said Kevin. “I decided that I am going to give what I have, and let God handle the rest.”
Kevin got the job, and has since taken what he’s learned at the GLS, and started to transform the hospital.
Some of Kevin’s biggest challenges since he’s taken the job have been around staffing. The previous chief of nursing created a culture where nurses began to leave due to lack of support. So Kevin knew that boosting staffing levels needed to be his top priority. “I knew this was not going to be something I would be able to fix immediately, so I had to do something previous directors never did, and roll up my sleeves and get out on the hospital floors and help staff directly,” said Kevin. And he began to engage in selfless leadership. “I associated with staff on a personal level. I got to know them beyond their licensure and employment status. I invested time in them. I made sure they felt appreciated. One of the first speakers at GLS this year discussed a term, ‘selfless leadership.’ I made this my mantra in my interview process, and carried it with me into the position and into my daily routine.” The change in culture boosted moral, and news traveled through his small rural town. Many of the people who had left the hospital before decided to come back. He rehired four nurses, and has been inundated with applications. But Kevin feels that his biggest achievement was transitioning a woman from a position that was being eliminated into a different role—a decision that required a lot of prayer, and difficult conversations with executive staff.
It hasn’t been an easy journey. Kevin shares that he has contemplated quitting. “I remember saying to myself, ‘fixing this is impossible’, ‘I can’t pull this off’, and ‘you were happy where you were before, you can still go back.’” But he was brought back to a verse in Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. “After reading this verse, I could almost feel the weight of failure being lifted off my mind and my heart at that very moment; my anxieties were diminished almost entirely. It was at that moment when Scripture was speaking directly to me.” Kevin realized his Grander Vision for the hospital. “I was put here for a purpose—to reach out to a bewildered hospital team, to bring out the potential in a small, rural hospital that takes on some of the most difficult patient populations in healthcare and helps those afflicted by disease and trauma get back to their fullest potential.”
Craig Groeschel’s talk summarizes Kevin’s journey as a young leader. “The pathway to your greatest potential is straight through your greatest fear.” Kevin realized that if God is calling him, then He will provide what it takes to get it done. Craig’s words stayed with Kevin throughout the interview process, and helps keep him going every day in his new leadership role.
Kevin encourages leaders to stay strong even when things are difficult or seem like a dumb idea. “The most important thing you can do for yourself is to make time for daily worship, invest time in the Bible, let Scripture speak to you and bring your troubles and fears to the foot of the cross. Do not quit! You are strong!”