As someone who specializes in health care PR, I spend a lot of time around nurses and I’ve always been struck by how well they handle crisis. First of all, they’ve seen everything, so nothing seems to faze them. They are also masters at coming up with a plan quickly and then making sure it’s followed. Their jobs aren’t entirely dissimilar from ours and I think there are a few things crisis communicators can learn from nurses:
-Stay calm and keep others around you calm as well. Just as patients and their families take cues from their health care providers, our clients and colleagues take their cues from us. If we are calm and ready to tackle anything, everyone around us will breathe easier. No one thinks well in high stress situations so do your best to model competent and thoughtful behavior.
-Take charge. As I mentioned before, nurses are fantastic at quickly assessing situations and communicating a plan of action. There’s nothing worse than a room full of people who aren’t taking action. Don’t be afraid to step up and facilitate the group. You don’t have to have all the answers, but when a crisis hits and people freeze up, all it takes is someone to ask the right questions to get the ball rolling.
-Be thrifty. Seconds matter in health care and you often have to make due with what you have. Don’t expect to have all the resources you need at your disposal during a crisis. You will be forced to think differently and work with the resources you have at that time.
-Think critically. There are protocols in place for any numbers of scenarios that may come up in health care, but odds are high you will encounter a situation that deviates from the norm. Even if you have the best thought-out crisis plan in place, there will come a time when you are forced to make decisions that aren’t covered in the plan. Consider the information available to you at the time, use your judgment to make a sound recommendation, consult the people around you and then go. Trust that your ability and track record are what got you in the room to begin with and then continue to prove yourself.
-Delegate and rely on others to do their jobs. As much as you may be able to handle any situation you’re thrown into, there comes a time when you have to realize the limits of your expertise. Trust is imperative in health care because even small errors can be devastating. PR practitioners need to trust those around them enough to let them do their jobs. If you’re too busy focusing on how others are handling their duties, you will be neglecting your own.