Blog Post
Nurse looks off in the distance

How to Navigate Uncertainty in Health Care

Date: 
Feb. 03, 2017

by Sunita Mutha, MD, FACP

How are your organizations navigating the uncertainty in today’s health care environment? What’s keeping you up at night? These were the questions posed to a group of leaders I joined this week who are all working to support and improve the health care safety net in California. Our answers wouldn’t surprise you: we worry about ensuring access to great health care for those who are newly insured and those who remain uninsured when the future is so unknown; the relentless demand to do more with less; the challenge of maintaining progress and remaining agile and resilient in the midst of changing policies; and the heavy burden for implementation and innovation that falls on a workforce already stretched thin by the rapid changes of the last few years.   

I was struck by how the concerns and challenges all of us in health care are facing today are connected by a common thread: the people in our organizations who are working to solve these challenges and provide excellent care. 

And it got me thinking about what we know to be true and how can we use that knowledge to create some clarity – for me, for you and for our valued partners in health care organizations across the country – amidst such volatility.

1. Resiliency is a requirement not a luxury

Leaders must be nimble and able to recover from setbacks and challenges while leading large scale change and setting the tone for their organizations. This calls for resilience, but resilience is not something that occurs naturally without intention. Fostering resilience happens through true self-care (nurturing your body, mind, and soul); investing in reciprocal relationships that support and sustain your work; and maintaining focus on the WHY not just the WHAT and HOW of your work.

2. Connections fuel and sustain

The value of bringing people together to share ideas, knowledge and challenges is greater now than ever before. We face shared challenges and hurdles.  We each hold some, but not all the information or the solutions.

Taking time for coffee with a colleague or attending a day-long convening can feel like a luxury, but in reality it may be the missing piece to fuel your next big idea or lay the groundwork for a meaningful new partnership. 

Plus, taking time for meaningful connections builds resiliency and sustains your ability to persevere.

3. Trust accelerates the work

There is simply no way any of us can successfully do this work alone in silos. Partnerships will be the foundation of our shared successes, and better health care, in the years to come. Yet partnerships bring their own set of challenges and take work. In our experiences at Healthforce, we have found that our most effective partnerships are the ones based on trust in each other’s capabilities, intentions, and actions; respect for one another’s perspectives and experiences; and the ability to recover from mistakes and failures. Trust can take time to build, but we have also had great success by starting from a place of trust – give and assume trust rather than asking for partners to earn it first. Can we all start from a place of trust?

What do you know to be true?  How are you finding certainty in today’s complex environment?  I’d love to hear from you.  Email me at [email protected]


About Sunita: Sunita Mutha, MD, FACP, is the director of Healthforce Center at UCSF. For over a decade, she has been engaged in leadership development for health professionals with a special focus on emerging leaders and inter-professional training.

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