Chris Lumsden, president and CEO, Northern Regional Hospital
If you could have an alternate title what would it be? Chief people person
How long have you worked at your company? About two years
Birthplace? Alexandria, Virginia
What was your first job as a youth? At age 12, I had two part-time jobs — a paper route (shows my age) and mowing grass. My dad didn’t believe in idle time, and still doesn’t today.
In light of the Covid-19 virus, what is the biggest challenge you face right now in leading your company? Balancing our responsibility to protect our purpose (serving patients) and people (jobs) against the immense financial impact of Covid-19 is a tremendous challenge for NRH. An intense focus on purpose is particularly critical during a health care crisis when our patients and communities look to us for strength, predictability and stability. Most don’t know the details behind our weeks of meticulous Covid-19 preparedness planning nor the physical, emotional and financial pressures that we are now under as a regional community hospital. Our NRH team members, 1,000 people strong, place themselves in harm’s way every day caring for all patients while at the same time worrying about the financial and physical toll that this awful virus may or has placed on them and their families. My challenge is to ensure that each and every NRH caregiver knows that they are essential, their jobs are precious, and that I have their backs and will fight for them now and going forward. I feel confident that if I help protect people that people will in turn protect our mission and finances short and long term.
How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted how you relate to your employees, and what steps might you take in the weeks and months ahead to continue to motivate and encourage them? I have witnessed the “best of the best” in people at NRH during the past three months. Undoubtedly, hospitals are largely always prepared for a disaster or crisis of some sort. However, for most of us, the Covid-19 pandemic is thankfully a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This past early March, we planned for the worst and hoped for the best. It was an “all hands on deck” approach not knowing whether we might experience a Covid-19 patient surge weeks later. From daily communications and updates across our system to 30-minute virtual Covid-19 huddles three times a week (all recorded and posted for every NRH employee and stakeholder to review) to a multitude of other preparedness and intervention measures, as an award winning team, we aggressively focused on first protecting our team and also having the necessary supplies and equipment in-house to care for our service region. However, like almost all hospitals, what we’ve sadly seen is service volumes and revenue fall by 20 to 40% with unprecedented current and anticipated near future financial losses. This said, we will not allow short term financial concerns to define our long term mission nor distract us from smartly implementing growth plans, protecting our people and serving our community. We will continue to engage our NRH team through a leadership open door philosophy, weekly written CEO Friday reports/updates, executive rounding, employee opinion surveys, town hall meetings (when able), newly instituted employee educational assistance and nursing scholarship programs, and a host of other employee recognition activities. Now is the time to invest in the growth of our people.
How do you measure success? Although it’s important to measure business success by performance metrics, my measure of success is simply the favorable impact that I have had on people over my lifetime. As one of my mentors explained to me many years ago, “people always, in the end, vote their priorities with their time and money”. Rarely are people inspired by or remember achieving performance metrics. What most people remember is who helped them and who they helped to achieve personal and professional milestones. My measure of success is being a great family man and friend and helping as many people as possible to achieve their personal and professional aspirations.
Share one thing about yourself that would surprise people? I love the outdoors. As such, I buy and reclaim farmland and build fish ponds/lakes, ranging in size from 1 to 7 acres.
What do you like to do to relax and/or to have fun? Most sports, particularly golf, fishing, basketball (and now ping pong), and a glass of wine with family and friends.