Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Leading Through Crisis: Reflections from Andrea Nelson, President of VISTA

Leaders Perception Magazine is currently running an interview series called – Leadership in Times of Crisis Today, we had the opportunity to interview Andrea Nelson, President of VISTA Staffing Solutions, an Ingenovis Health Company.

Join us as we delve into the experiences and insights of Andrea Nelson, President of VISTA, a leading healthcare staffing organization. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Andrea has witnessed the transformative impact of healthcare professionals on communities in need. In this interview, she shares her leadership journey and recounts the largest crisis she faced as a leader: the COVID-19 pandemic. Discover how Andrea and her team navigated unprecedented challenges, prioritized employee well-being, and mobilized critical healthcare support to save lives.

Interviewee Name: Andrea Nelson

Company: VISTA/ Ingenovis Health

Andrea Nelson’s favourite quote: “Making profit is not the goal- profits happen ‘when you do everything else right.” Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

The Interview

Thank you so much for joining us today! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your backstory?

Andrea Nelson : I have spent my entire career in the healthcare segment. Over 20 years specifically in healthcare staffing. I am incredibly inspired and motivated by the impact our clinicians make in the communities that they serve. We typically are providing care to locations that would go without medical specialists. We find through our ability to identify, recruit and place highly qualified physicians and advanced practice professionals – we eliminate the need for patients to drive hours to see a specialist, leaving family support sometimes hours away. In the most dire of circumstance our placements save lives where every minute counts. VISTA provides care for over 1M patients annually across the nation.

Could you please share a specific crisis situation you’ve faced as a leader and walk us through the strategies you employed to navigate through it successfully? What were the key decisions and actions you took, and what were the outcomes or lessons learned from that experience?

Andrea Nelson : The largest crisis that I have faced as a leader, without question was the Covid-19 pandemic. When the country shutdown March 2020 we watched hundreds of hospitals and clinics close their doors, close emergency rooms without knowing what would happen next. Our business had always been centered around brick and mortar office locations, we were now operating 100% work from home. Our employees were trying to figure out how to care for children who schools and day care were closed, they were home schooling their children, the grocery store shelves were empty. Some of our folks were losing family members to Covid-19. We took a beat understanding that we needed to stabilize our employees first. We needed them to be able to figure out how they were going to manage the day to day, then we would figure out the business.

By August 2020 it became apparent that the medical needs had shifted. We were seeing needs in tent hospitals in Central Park, stadium hospitals in Texas and triage units being set up in open spaces near hospitals along the southern borders of the United States. We also saw that not only were the needs incredibly high, but they were concentrated in Critical Care, Anes, CRNA and Pulmonology to care for those on respirators fighting for their lives.

In some of the hardest hit areas, like our Indian Health facilities there were thousands of patients contracting the virus, no PPE available in the community and no specialist available locally to care for a very impacted patient population without many resources. They did not have running water, electricity or anyway to help stop the spread of infection. People were dying by the thousands.

At VISTA we immediately deployed all of our employees towards recruiting and placing the most high demand specialties in the highest need locations. We worked seven days a week for months.

The most incredible impact was in August 2020 we had 6 Critical Care physicians who regularly worked for VISTA. By October we had recruited and placed over 200 Critical Care physicians in the highest need communities. Their selfless work saved hundreds and hundred lives. We were also able to secure PPE for our underserved partners that were fighting for the people in their communities. We shipped hundreds of thousands of masks to the Navajo Nation to be deployed in various outreach programs to some of the most remote and underserved locations in the country.

But what I learned is that together we can accomplish great things. Together, we had to figure out how to come together and run a company that was ready for a two week WFH hiatus to full-time WFH. We all faced uncertainty and instability in our market place, as well as in our daily routines, which none of us had ever navigated. We witnessed innovation and dynamic change in our organization, as well as the world. We witnessed tragedies too numerous to mention and the very best that humanity has to offer. We were instrumental in contributing to life saving healthcare for tens of thousands of patients who would not have received the medical care if we had not worked nights, weekends and crazy schedules to license, credential, book travel, write HubSpot emails, send text campaigns, call and call again to find medical professionals whose outlook on life was bigger than themselves.

The amount of gratitude and appreciation that I have for each and everyone of our VISTA employees and clinicians is immense. When I reflect back on 2020/21 of course we will remember Covid, face masks, the grocery stores, toilet paper (lack of), quarantine, earthquakes, hurricanes and appreciating what we have more than ever.

But what I will remember the most about the Covid years are the people. The people at VISTA who rose to the occasion, who shared a laugh and tear with one another. Who provided a virtual hug and helped the other stand back up when it seemed insurmountable. I will remember the smiling faces (via Webex), the willingness to do whatever it takes and the incredible impact this group of people had on so many needing help across the country.

From your observations, what common mistakes or pitfalls have you seen leaders fall into during a crisis?

Andrea Nelson : Not taking care of people first. Getting sidetracked with the “business” not seeing the people are the business. Not being willing to innovate or pivot- people are resilient and imaginative if they have a purpose. The purpose of what you do and why you do it drives team cohesion and accomplishment.

Leaders Perception would like to thank Andrea Nelson and VISTA/ Ingenovis Health for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

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