Tom VanOsdol
Ascension Florida and the Gulf Coast

Tom VanOsdol is president and CEO of Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast. He has been with Ascension for nearly 32 years and has been in his current role for more than six years.

What implications do you see for your organization resulting from the coronavirus and how are you mitigating the potential risks and challenges?

 First and foremost, let me take this opportunity to thank all caregivers for their continued heroic efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge has been extraordinary, unprecedented and protracted, and our associates have risen to the challenge time and time again. We are so grateful for them and for essential workers everywhere.

There’s no question that COVID-19 has made a lasting impact on our work in the healthcare space. One of the most immediate changes that I believe will continue beyond the pandemic is an increase in virtual work and virtual care. For years before the pandemic, we had virtual care and telehealth options available, but we’ve seen exponential growth since March 2020 across Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast. Virtual care can be particularly beneficial to people who may not live near a doctor’s office. They can now be seen by our providers from the comfort of their own home or workplace for non-emergent healthcare needs.

COVID-19 has also accelerated our approach to caring for our caregivers and returning joy back to their work. It’s admittedly a tough time for healthcare workers across our country, so it’s even more important that we listen to them and make meaningful changes to ensure we’re doing everything possible to return or keep the joy in their work. Healthcare is a calling and we want to nurture and grow that calling as best as we can.

We’re also continuing to expand care across Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast. Beyond virtual care offerings, we are adding ambulatory sites of care, including expansion into the ambulatory surgery center space. Additionally, we’re increasing access to home health and mental health, all with an emphasis on convenience and safety for those we serve.

We’re also being even more intentional in growing the healthcare provider pipeline to ensure we are meeting the staffing needs of the future, especially as it relates to nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, and medical assistants.

What actions have you taken or will take to return to the growth expectations you had as 2019 ended? When will it be achieved?

 One of the benefits of being part of a national health system like Ascension is the ability to share resources and best practices. COVID-19 has had an impact on our plans, as with all health systems, but we’ve been able to continue much of the work we were already doing and even start new growth initiatives. We’ve continued to invest – in our hospital campuses, ambulatory surgery centers and other ambulatory facilities, home health, and mental health services.

We’re also investing heavily in our physician recruitment and strategic programmatic growth, particularly in the primary care, cardiovascular and neurological spaces. We’re growing right along with our community and making sure we are providing the care our community needs, when and where it’s needed. We want to be a convenient option for those we serve. To that end, we continue to optimize our processes and enhance the consumer experience in every way possible. We must listen to our patients, their families, and to our caregivers to continue our advancements.

An organization’s culture flows from the top down. What leadership skills do you find effective in promoting your organization’s mission and vision to employees, clients and customers?

 I can’t emphasize enough the importance of transparency and constant, candid, respectful and trustworthy two-way communication. As a leader, you have to be willing to talk with everyone you’re serving alongside. You have to be willing to explain the “why” behind decisions as often as possible. You have to be transparent and clear in your communication. You must also be willing to listen to your colleagues, receive constructive feedback and make adjustments as necessary.

A culture of two-way communication also encourages engagement among individuals and teams. If an employee knows they’re in a psychologically safe space that empowers them with the ability to learn, grow, and provide feedback that can improve their department or the broader organization, they’re more likely to be engaged and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. Employees also deserve to tangibly contribute to how their work is organized. This also shows that you respect and trust your colleagues and it makes them feel truly valued versus only feeling like they’re valuable.

I also believe that diversity, equity and inclusion only enhance an organization and those within it. We have to embrace this work as core to who we are, especially within the healthcare space. We have to be an equitable workplace for all. A diverse employee population also helps bring a diversity of ideas, which only makes us stronger.

At EVOLVE we have a shared belief that leaders develop their success skills by overcoming the challenges and adversity they face. Do you believe that hypothesis and if so, what adversity have you faced and overcome that helped put you where you are today?

 While it’s certainly not always pleasant or easy, adversity also presents us with an opportunity to learn and grow, whether as individuals or as an organization. Each of us encounters adversity and how we handle it shapes who we become. I think we must embody a spirit of lifelong learning and flexibility to help us navigate through life’s challenges and become better than we were yesterday. Each day is a new opportunity and it’s a blessing.

 What closing comments or counsel would you offer to emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs to continue their path to success?

 Stay grounded in who you are as a person and what you believe, and ensure your organization stays grounded in its mission. Be open to change and know that collaboration and listening will get you farther in the long run than thinking only you know best. Trust those you hire to do the jobs you hired them to do and create a team that trusts each other and knows that you’re all in it together. Cultivate and reinforce a culture of psychological safety to ensure all leaders and employees feel safe challenging the process, pressure testing assumptions, and offering their very best and most honest wisdom in key discernment and decision-making processes.  Lean into challenges together, communicate effectively, be transparent, provide growth opportunities, and consistently look for opportunities to improve your leadership style. We’ll all encounter adversity and not everything will go as planned, so it’s how you handle tough times that matters. At the end of the day, none of us is as smart as all of us, and we’re all in this together.