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Nursing leadership during the pandemic

Sep 8, 2020

Pam Baxter

Photo above: Dr. Pamela Baxter  

Dr. Pamela Baxter is the recipient of two new grants to study nursing leadership during the pandemic.  

Nurse leaders play critical roles in acute and long term care settings, and even more so during a pandemic, says Baxter, who is an expert in nursing leadership. However, few studies have identified how formal leaders in acute care respond to, and recover from, crisis. These two new research studies will explore this issue by analysing the work of nurse leaders in several Manitoba hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“These projects are very exciting and come at an important time. Without strong, resilient leadership in acute care settings amidst a pandemic such as COVID-19, hospitals may struggle to; optimize operations, implement new policies and recover adequately”. Leaders drive unit activities. It’s very exciting to see that funders are now recognizing that leadership is critical to high quality healthcare. These projects will be focussing on the leadership competencies and leaders’ ability to be resilient. This knowledge will help us understand how to prepare emerging leaders for future pandemics,” says Baxter.  

“One study specifically looks at leadership competency in order to understand how to develop high-level change agents,” says Baxter. “COVID has created additional challenges and activities for leaders and more complexity. COVID gives us a sharp picture of the challenges that have been faced and what leaders have had to do in order to overcome those challenges. What were the challenges, how did they resolve them, and what decisions were made, how did they make those decisions to achieve the goals? We are looking at current competencies and how they relate to the LEADS Leadership Capabilities Framework. We will be looking at those capabilities and asking if they are appropriate for today’s complex healthcare environment.  Does what we knew to be correct with LEADS framework still apply? Or are leaders using different competencies in order to be successful in their units?”  

Baxter says that the goal is to “investigate leadership competencies to guide and direct organizational change in evolving healthcare environments in Manitoba and compare competencies now to those that were developed by the LEADS Leadership Capabilities Framework. If we do find new competencies, it could trigger a whole new discussion on how to lead in today’s environment. Some of these competencies are based on older systems. It’s changed as patients become more acute in hospitals. People who used to be in hospitals are now being cared for at home. You can have ventilators and dialysis in homes now.”  

Baxter has been interested in nurse leadership for many years. It’s important, she says, “to examine leadership in order to determine whether or not we are engaging in the best practices for the current healthcare system. This is critical to the health and well-being not only of the patients but the organization and the leaders themselves.”  

Grant details:  

Udod, S.A. (PI), Baxter, P., Gagon, S., Halas, G. The healthcare leader’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic: Integrating crisis leadership and organizational resilience. Province of Manitoba - COVID-19 Rapid Response fund.  $95,876. July 2020 to June 2021.  

Udod, S.A., Baxter, P., & Gagnon, S.  Leadership Competencies for Healthcare Leaders in MB: Advancing High-Level Change Agents. University Research Grants Program, University of Manitoba. $10,000.  Jul-01-20 to Dec-31-21.

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