Shaping safe and efficient patient care

Jerome Teerlink is a seasoned Interim Manager in the healthcare sector. He recently joined Boer & Croon as an Associate Partner. As a non-practicing general practitioner and business administrator, he has 25 years of experience in getting organisations in the curative sector back on track. We spoke to him about his working methods and about his recent assignment at a leading clinical teaching hospital. 'Create a fertile ground in order to give shape to new developments.'

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When I look at your track record it strikes me that as an Interim Manager, you regularly have to put out fires. Can I characterise you as a crisis manager?

'Whenever I arrive somewhere, there's always something up. A predecessor who is dysfunctional, an implementation project that has stalled or a client who has lost oversight because there are too many projects. My task is to first of all restore calm and confidence, and from there work in a development-oriented manner on a future perspective. Crisis management is just one part of my work duties. I fill in for senior management positions in the curative sector, with an emphasis on change management, particularly the implementation of management restructuring. Shaping partnerships has been added to this gradually more and more, most notably at my last assignment at an STZ hospital. Another characteristic of the portfolios that I am responsible for, other than classic crisis management, is the creation of fertile ground for shaping new developments. After a fire has been extinguished, a new line must be set out in an effort to ensure continuity. My guiding principle is to always shape safe and effective patient care. I started out as a general practitioner, so that comes first.

'Making fluid what has become stuck'


You are invariably entering a large organisation with an incumbent management. What is your added value as an outsider?

It is important that an interim manager is development-oriented and can be set to work straight away. Given the multitude of situations that you have encountered and the fresh perspective of an outsider, you create a new dynamic. You have to make fluid again what has become stuck and the interrelationships amongst everyone must be brought back into balance. You will never be able to accomplish this if you ask someone from your own circle. That by definition results in more of the same and then you have someone who wants to keep an eye on the place, but no more than that. That implies stagnation and that's something you can no longer afford.'

The added value of the interim managers that Boer&Croon assigns is huge. They are always people with a broad frame of reference who are used to getting to work under difficult circumstances, bringing calm and who set out clear lines. Being part of this network also means that you have access to expertise. It's good to share knowledge and experiences. Also, the combination of Partners, Associate Partners, Young Executives and Managers provides a fine mix of people, experiences and energy.

'Restoring confidence and enthusiasm'


You recently completed your twentieth assignment at an STZ hospital. What did you achieve there?

'What I witnessed there was a hospital that was genuinely undergoing a crisis. Based on the advice from a consultancy firm, 100 FTEs had been given notice. Negative publicity was an issue, and the work atmosphere was frankly appalling. People did not have the feeling at all that they were being listened to. Initially, together with the medical managers and the heads of the Pulmonary and Internal Medicine departments, I made sure that patient care could be continued, despite the fact that so many nurses had been sacked or had left on their own accord. In order to facilitate this, I was visibly present on the work floor as much as possible and organised sessions with the nurses and assistant physicians. In the first instance to discuss what had happened, but then to look ahead to the future. To restore confidence and rekindle enthusiasm.'

A new recruitment campaign had to be launched in the summer of 2019. It was really about constantly shifting gears to retain the people who were still there and to make sure that new blood was brought in. It had to become fun again to work in this hospital, despite the stream of negative publicity. And aside from that, a lot had to be done on the organisational front too. I took on the responsibility for the managerial and organisational set-up of the Oncology Centre, and I set up a Lung Cancer Network in cooperation with a UMC.

'Lastly, the critical care ward was opened, a merger of the pulmonary and internal medicine wards. By setting up the acute inpatient ward in a new way, we have also efficiently reorganised the emergency flow. This ward opened on 5 March 2020, just before the first wave of COVID-19. It immediately served as an important test case. In 2020, this hospital played an important role in the regional uptake of COVID-19 patients, which proved to be very effective, and that finally generated some good publicity for the hospital again.'