Leading through change

Perspective on Oregon Health Care

by Becky Hultberg

Leadership matters. Across Oregon, we hear stories every day of hospital teams led by strong, decisive leaders overcoming unthinkable odds. When it comes to their health, Oregonians trust the teams of professionals who care for them because they have confidence that those teams can work together to navigate a constantly changing environment.

In my (almost) four years at the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, we’ve seen foundational changes in health care. Advocating for the long-term sustainability of hospitals in a complex and changing world means embracing a model of bold leadership emphasizing innovation and collaboration over competition and the status quo. By placing patients at the center of our decisions and redefining our relationships with our stakeholders, we can effect real change that benefits both our communities and our hospitals’ most valuable asset – their staff. Success no longer means outperforming others.  It means working with others to push the boundaries of what is possible every day for our patients. 

The most recent legislative session provided a great example of this new dynamic. As hospitals navigated the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic amidst a chronic and severe national health care workforce shortage, we knew we needed to choose a different path and work across the aisle with labor unions.  It wasn’t easy, but the result was a package of workforce investments that included a hospital staffing bill that supports hospitals, staff and patients.

Change is not always easy and rarely comfortable. But the reality is that business-as-usual may no longer meet the challenges of the future, or our own expectations. It is up to each of us to lead by example and champion the transformation our industry needs. That includes challenging the status quo, making bold decisions and staying true to our shared mission of improving the health of all Oregonians. There’s a lot of work to do to stabilize the health care system, ensure access to high quality care and build on Oregon’s legacy of innovation. But with bold leadership, we’ll get there together.