Preparing future healthcare leaders for what’s next
In the 11 years she’s served as part of Alberta Health Services’ Emergency/Disaster Management team, Bethany Moore has been involved in the healthcare response to every major disaster the province has seen during that time.
Now, she’s sharing her extensive experience gained during the 2011 Slave Lake Wildfires, 2013 Alberta floods, COVID-19 pandemic and other events with future healthcare leaders as instructor of HCAR 400: Emergency Preparedness & Planning — one of the courses included in SAIT’s new Healthcare Leadership program. The only one of its kind in Canada, the one-year post-diploma certificate program specifically addresses the everyday issues healthcare leaders encounter.
“This program gives students the opportunity to learn and apply healthcare-specific leadership skills in a safe learning environment, supported by experts in the field,” says Moore. “It means they step into a leadership position better equipped to address situations like a major emergency or disaster.”
Part of what makes the program so unique is the fact it was built for burgeoning leaders rather than established ones.
“The program was tailored for practicing healthcare professionals who want to advance their careers and emerge into management,” says Shay Gornshtein, Former Academic Chair, School of Health and Public Safety.
“It allows professionals who see themselves leading the industry to step up their game and obtain the tools they need to do so.”
Those enrolled in the program have the benefit of learning from a group of seasoned healthcare professionals, like Moore, in areas such as healthcare governance, patient-centered care, performance measurement, emergency planning and economics — even managing a multimillion-dollar budget.
“Our instructors don’t simply have a designation — they are real healthcare leaders who are living the course material,” adds Gornshtein.
As an added bonus, the program includes core leadership courses from the School of Business, which just ranked second among Canadian schools and 51st globally on CEOWORLD’s list of top business schools.
Emergency response lessons from a pandemic
The name says it all — the Emergency Preparedness & Planning course is about giving healthcare leaders the tools to plan for and respond to health emergencies. The course includes scenario-based learning, allowing students to apply their knowledge through practical assignments such as risk assessments, emergency exercise plans and incident action plans. Class discussions of past and current events are also crucial to the learning process.
The course takes a holistic view of healthcare, beyond just hospitals and emergency care.
“We incorporate what emergency preparedness and planning looks like for community providers and other areas of the health system that many people don’t typically associate with disaster response,” says Moore.
Given the two years we’ve just experienced, the course couldn’t be more timely.
“I think the value of this course has really been demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic where we have seen all of the complexity that can come with a major response — the importance of communication with the public and staff, dealing with staffing challenges and unpredictable surges in patient volumes, working through supply chain disruptions, addressing ethical challenges when our capacity is stretched to its limit, and managing the mental health impacts of disaster events in both patients and in our own healthcare workforce,” says Moore.
Moreover, COVID-19 has proved the importance of long-term response.
“When we talk about responding to emergencies, it’s not just about the first hours or minutes after an incident happens,” says Moore. “Often we are dealing with the aftermath of events for weeks and months after that initial response, so students learn about the whole continuum of emergency response into longer term considerations and recovering from disasters.”
From Canada to Italy (and beyond)
Healthcare Leadership can be delivered entirely remotely, which is part of what drew Moore to the program as an instructor.
“The online format allows the program to attract learners from across Canada and internationally,” says Moore. “Bringing together students from different regions and healthcare backgrounds provides for great discussion-based learning.”
Gianluca Vernillo, an academic who works closely with healthcare organizations in Italy, has been taking the program from his home in Milan.
“I am a full-time worker, as well as a husband and a dad,” says Vernillo. “The fact the program was online and scheduled four days a week during evenings gave me the flexibility I was looking for.”
Having completed his undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies in Kinesiology at the University of Milan, Vernillo viewed Healthcare Leadership as the next step in his education and career.
“This program is an excellent opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in delivering affordable, effective and efficient healthcare in complex systems,” says Vernillo.
While the program is still underway, his biggest takeaway so far is about what it means to lead.
“Leadership is putting the needs of others ahead of mine,” says Vernillo. “It’s not about being in charge — rather, it’s about taking care of those in my charge.”
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