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Inspira CEO: 'Take the Risk'

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   December 02, 2021

Amy B. Mansue shares what it's been like leading Inspira through the COVID 19 pandemic, what her main focus points have been as a leader over the past year, and gives us a glimpse into her leadership style.

Editor's note: This conversation is a transcript from an episode of the HealthLeaders Women in Healthcare Leadership Podcast. Audio of the full interview can be found here.

Amy B. Mansue serves as president and CEO of Inspira Health, a nonprofit healthcare organization serving patients across southern New Jersey through three medical centers, five health centers, and over 150 care locations. She joined the organization in August 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic well underway.

Mansue's professional background includes working in public service, social work, and healthcare. During her transition to the anchor institute, she embraced Inspira's mission and vision, and the people focusing on the health of the community.

In the newest Women in Healthcare Leadership podcase episode, Mansue shares what it's been like joining and leading Inspira through the pandemic, her main focus points as a leader, and offers advice to women who are interested in becoming leaders.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: What has been your experience leading the organization through the past 14 months?

Amy Mansue: It has been fascinating because there's no time for pretense; you've just got to jump in.

I came in August 2020, so we had had that first wave of the pandemic under our belt. The second wave was bigger for us, and much more challenging in some cases, because the number of staff needed required us to make some difficult decisions in leadership.

I worked hard during those first six months to listen, to meet people where they were, to help them understand where I was hoping we would go as an organization. We decided to take on—even in the middle of COVID—an update of our strategic plan to make sure that we were responding both to the COVID challenges that were before us, and to look at whether these were still the right opportunities for us, and how do we continue to stay focused on growth and recovering from COVID as an organization.

Something fascinating happened in that process. The staff who we engaged in this discussion through focus groups and surveys, said, "Hey, wait a second. We don't see ourselves specifically called out in this mission and vision. If you don't do that, after everything we've just been through, we're going to have missed an opportunity."

So, we took a step back and updated the mission, vision, values, and the values were put into an acronym based upon the feedback of the staff that says: "I CREATE." Each of those letters mean something else, but the "I" at the beginning is about innovation. It starts with each individual being acknowledged for their worth and value in the organization. For me, it was a turning point. It showed me that the staff were willing to come forward and say, "This is what I need." During COVID, more so than ever, it is important that we develop those trusting relationships with staff.

It catapulted us to a new place in reference to our trusting relationships together and gives us a great framework to continue to build on as we go through COVID as we face the challenges that we all are going to face in healthcare. The latest one, of course, being around staffing, and the need to think about how we support our staff, how we find staff, how we grow our own staff to take on new challenges, and how we recruit new staff, because that is the biggest challenge any organization has right now.

HL: What other challenges are you looking forward to addressing as we move into the new year?

Mansue: As we look at the health of our community, some of the challenges that we face relate to that of violence, specifically around gun violence. In Cumberland County, the mortality rate is specifically impacted by losing too many children too young. We have begun conversations with stakeholders, sitting on the sideline, saying, "What is it you need from us?"

They've asked for our EMS team to begin to put together a program to teach how to keep safety within the potential of gun violence. That's not something we would have thought about or talked about, but we are having those dialogues with the school district now. That is an example of how we're trying to stretch to meet not only our needs, but the community's needs, because improving the safety of children is important. And that violence rolls over into our emergency rooms, so it's important for us to be able to keep our employees safe as well.

HL: How would you describe your leadership style? How has your background in public service and healthcare helped define that?

Mansue: You always go back to what you know. I trained as a social worker, and you start with the assessment. What's the assessment of the situation? What does the organization need, not necessarily what is my leadership style. At this point, the organization needed somebody to wrap their arms around it and make sure that we were being completely transparent, especially in COVID, about what our goals were for the future.

I had the privilege of having an amazing team of people around me. We do weekly videos, internal videos as well as external videos to the community. It gives me a real opportunity to share where we are, what the COVID numbers are, the challenge for the week, the latest mandates from the state, great things that happened in the organization, and safety stories. We encourage our community members to see themselves in our patient stories so they will come back and get care. We are seeing a high rate of individuals who have delayed care, and it's so important that we are taking care of them and our internal staff.

We're trying to break down any barriers that exist to communication. That's the key; that's the way I as a social worker would do my assessment. I get feedback, I take in data, I decide what is the best course of treatment for this patient or this group. That's what I've tried to do. The only way you do that is by listening. You've got to be able to be open to and be vulnerable, candid, and to take both the positive as well as negative, and then be able to respond to it.

HL: What advice do you have for women who want to serve in healthcare leadership roles?

Mansue: I would say there is no one straight path. I didn't set out to be a CEO.

Becoming a leader requires you to double down on the amount of work that you have to do internally and making sure that you're constantly asking, "am I creating the right environment to help people grow and flourish," because that is our goal. My role is to make sure that there's somebody in line to replace me, that we have provided the opportunity for growth and talent throughout the organization.

I would say to my colleagues who are women, none of us are ever ready. If somebody taps you on the shoulder and says, "It's time, I think you could do this job," or "I've got this new opportunity for you." Do it. They're not going to put you in a situation you could fail.

My message to women is take the risk.

“You've got to be able to be open to and be vulnerable, candid, and to take both the positive as well as negative, and then be able to respond to it.”

Melanie Blackman is a contributing editor for strategy, marketing, and human resources at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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