Sylvia Martin RN, MSN is an administrative director with over 20 years of nursing and leadership experience. She is also on the board of directors for the Association of Interventional and Radiology Nurses. Martin leads a team of eight managers with over 200 staff and 60 physicians. Martin is also pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice at Yale University. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin has worked to protect her family, her staff and her community. In her role she has revamped workflows and supply chain practices. The teams converted to virtual/ telehealth care for patients in order to continue meeting care needs. Her team has established screening for patients, staff and physicians to reduce to risk of those coming in for in person services. Conservation of supplies is in place to be sure to have what is needed when it is needed most. The teams have made videos to highlight the importance of social distancing to keep a bit of fun in the workplace during change and stress. Martin and her team seek opportunities each day to be positive, supportive and compassionate with the community, each other and themselves. 

Martin describes her leadership style as an adaptive leadership style. Adaptive leadership is a practical, follower led approach that encourages people to adapt to changing environments. It is unique in that it focuses on helping followers confront their personal values and adjust these needs for change and adaptation to occur. Northouse in his book, “Leadership”, describes some important adaptive leadership behaviors as regulating distress, creating a “holding” or safe environments for followers to address difficult issues, providing direction, keeping people focused on important issues and empowering and giving voice to those who do not feel recognized. 

Martin shared that communication was very challenging at the beginning of the crisis when there was no one clear message about how to protect staff and patients from the COVID virus. “In some areas, staff were questioning leadership’s commitment to their safety. There is so much conflicting information and we were in constant negotiation with the unions, so it was very confusing for our teams”, said Martin.  

To address anxiety and foster effective communication and maintain trust, Martin holds daily morning meetings with her nurse managers and evening debriefings to allow the care teams to share experiences, problem solve and vent. “We work through whatever is on their minds, develop a plan to address the concerns so we can move forward with a better understanding”, said Martin. Martin has found connecting with the staff regularly, acknowledging their fears and communicating her care and concern for them as being really helpful keeping them engaged.” I ask my team how they are doing and what they are worried about. I ask if they have childcare at home while the schools are out. I ask them what I can do to support them. I acknowledge that this is a difficult time to be in healthcare and that I am profoundly honored to support them. I even cook for them. That seems to lift the whole mood of the place”, says Martin. 

2 thoughts on “Nurse Commander – Sylvia Martin, California

  1. I really appreciate Commander Sylvia article and story of leading with adaptive approach and care for our patients of COVID-19. I have just shared this article with over 600 members of my staff. My objectives for sharing the article are addressing staff distress and providing an open environment to communicate all concerns both personal and professional as in crisis tend to be blurred lines. Sylvia’s experience and effective skills are needed for frontline staff facing this pandemic and potentially dangerous working conditions. My personal Kudos, Sylvia Martin for transforming our community of care during the global pandemic with leadership, vision and clarity.

  2. Dear Mr. Wilson,
    Thank you for you for all you are doing on the front lines of COVID-19 and for your support of Sylvia’s work and this initiative. We are very grateful to you for sharing this message with your staff. We would love to hear more stories so please encourage them to share. They can go directly to this site and respond to our guided prompts.
    Be well

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