I, like many others who travel through airports, go through security, find my gate, board my plane, smile, and say yes, I can do emergency procedures.

On a recent flight where I was sitting in the exit row, I acknowledged that I met the requirements and immediately went back to the podcast I was listening to. As we took off, the pilot announced the seatbelt sign would stay on longer than normal as he was expecting turbulence.

Approximately 30 minutes into the flight, there was a sound that I will never forget.  The plane shuttered and the wings were bending in ways I had not seen before. The plane became silent and an announcement came overhead to tighten our safety belts.” 

As passengers nervously looked at each other, I noticed that the gentleman in my row was paralyzed with fear. Remember, I am sitting in the emergency exit row.

Suddenly the plane dropped and items went flying, including people. We heard the strange noise again and realized that this was not normal turbulence.

A funnel cloud had hit the plane. The aircraft was damaged and we had to make an emergency landing. The pilot, with great skill and capability, landed us safely.

He then communicated his emergency procedure plan and committed to providing clear and concise further information. He walked among the passengers to assure they were ok and answered questions repeatedly. The pilot and his crew worked to restore trust and ease fears.

As I sat in an airport I was not expecting to be in, I reflected on how much the experience is what in essence is healthcare today:

1. When the environment has changed, meeting the requirements is no longer just OK. Preparedness is necessary.  Precision performance is critical.

2. Working on safety not only for those we care for but our employees has to be the first priority. Otherwise, harm and hurt will occur. Safety is not an option.

3. There will be times that fear will try to creep into our actions. Fear will paralyze your organization and your leadership. Don’t let it. 

4. There is nothing normal anymore, yet we long for what we know.  Letting go of what was and looking forward to what can be has to be the course direction for leadership.

5. Leaders must continually develop and refine their skills and capability. Seek insight outside of the field of healthcare and study emerging leadership competencies that are creating disruption within business.

6. Communication, while one of the most critical elements within an organization, is the hardest to execute perfectly. Leaders must stay committed to delivering critical and non-critical messages repeatedly until each individual understands the “why” in the message and the role they play.

Lastly, the lesson of trust had me turning to its definition. Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.

Do we hold a firm belief in the teams we lead? Can we count on them to be reliable? Do they have the ability to meet the expectations that we hold for them? If we say no, how do we change the answer to yes?

I know the pilots who were guiding the plane held our trust. We believed in them and their abilities. Do not those we care for deserve the same?

Martie Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ, is the chief nursing officer at Medline Industries Inc. and a corporate advisory council member for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.