A Hospital Without Walls – New Leadership Offers Vision of Accessible Health Care
Joanne Bezzubetz was named the President and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre last summer, making her not only the first female CEO of the Royal but the first female CEO of any hospital in Ottawa. “I was very pleased and a little nervous,” she says. “I am filling big shoes of an individual who made so many improvements over his 11 years here at the Royal, but people have been really fantastic since I started.”
Bezzubetz first came to work at the Royal six years ago after working in B.C. for many years. “One of the things that really appealed to me about the Royal was the dignity that was given to clients by having a beautiful facility like this,” she says. “My experience had been working with people with mental health issues had always been in substandard facilities, like Vancouver’s downtown east side. But with this beautiful facility, it really showed that they cared about this population. The idea of working with clients and family members that are disadvantaged because of mental health issues appealed more and more to me, so that helped me make my decision.”
Although Bezzubetz is more than half a year into the role, she says she is still approached by clients and colleagues alike who comment on how great it is to have a woman as CEO. “I think the fact that we have female leaders is great, and we have to celebrate that, but the fact that we have competent female leaders is what we have to remember,” she emphasizes. “It’s not about just being a woman and getting into a leadership role.”
As in many industries, healthcare has a predominantly female workforce and yet women aren’t necessarily reaching those top positions. There are a number of factors that lead to this discrepancy, including systemic barriers, receiving less advice from managers and senior leaders, unconscious bias – the list goes on. And of course, family and the fact that women are still often primary caregivers plays a role. “After starting a career, women sometimes have other priorities, and of course family has to come first, why wouldn’t it?” Bezzubetz asks. “There are hard choices that women still have to make in society that can at times throw a curve ball when it comes to being able to reach those top positions. But we are seeing more and more competent female leaders, and we’re trying to find ways to give women a hand up. And as a female, having a different lens or perspective than a male counterpart, those are all assets.”
The Royal specializes in caring for people dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse. Their facility on Carling is the major care centre; however, they also have a location in Brockville. In addition, they have a large team located in an office setting in the Carlingwood Shopping Centre. This alternative location offers their clients a more comfortable setting to meet with health care professionals over coffee at the mall. The Royal offers outreach services, with staff visiting clients wherever they are – be that at their homes, long-term care facilities, shelters – when they are needed.
Bezzubetz’s vision for the future of The Royal focuses on a hospital without walls. Her focus is on telemedicine, which makes access to the hospital’s resources easier for their clients by accessing advice over the phone or video conference. This can greatly help caretakers and parents by reducing the burden and inconvenience of dealing with transportation and waiting rooms to get help for their families. Their telemedicine program is approaching a staggering 7,000 interventions per year, and they are broadening their reach with fly up services to access more remote locations. Their physicians have gone as far as Moosonee.
They are always working on developing new services to make sure that their care is available faster. “We often hear, particularly when it comes to substance abuse, if services aren’t available immediately, the window to help closes,” says Bezzubetz. “That’s not the clients’ fault, we should have been available. We want to turn that around, to make it more client-centred instead of provider-centered.”
Bezzubetz is very community oriented, and believes in leading the way by example. “There are characteristics of my leadership that are because I am a woman,” she says. “I don’t try to hide those characteristics, which may be viewed as feminine, because that’s part of who I am. Things like compassion, caring, sensitivity – I want people to know that they don’t have to hide those characteristics, whether they are men or women.”
This summer you can find Bezzubetz running for the 2019 SHOPPERS Love. You. Run For Women – alongside some of her female – and male – colleagues.
Life Running you Down?
Have a Bounce Back Strategy
Stress in small doses can drive us forward but unrelenting stress can lead to burnout—a state of total physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
Someone who is burnt out has lost the energy and drive to keep going, they feel like what they do is meaningless or a waste of time, and they become detached from things they were once passionate about.
Burnout isn’t necessarily about how busy you are—overwhelming demands, unrealistic expectations, and boredom are all things that can lead to burnout.
- Embrace your network—talk to the people close to you and be open to receiving help
- Take the word ‘should’ out of your vocabulary – stop measuring yourself against others
- Get comfortable saying ‘no’—you don’t have to ‘do it all’
- Give yourself a time out—rediscover the things that bring you joy; take this time for yourself even if it means asking for help to be able to do so
- Engage your body, mind, and spirit—activities like meditation, yoga, music, and aromatherapy can calm you and lift your mood
- Get the basics right—eat healthy, sleep regularly, cut back on alcohol and other substances
- Get a mental health checkup—talk to your family doctor if you don’t feel like yourself
Stop negative self-talk. Remind yourself that you are AWESOME. (Really. You are.)