In the Fall of 2014, the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre (IWK) in Halifax, Canada was at the crossroads of change. This beloved hospital was expanding its role from academic health sciences centre caring for women and children’s health across three provinces to include an additional mandate as one of two provincial health authorities. Amidst province-wide health care reform, three long-term executives had recently left the institution and a new CEO was charged with charting the future for the IWK. With a priority to create a new strategic plan to propel the organisation forward, this process would take time and the hospital needed to be ready internally in order to put its best foot forward externally.
Corporate communications held a seat at the executive table in shaping the future of the IWK and the leadership role for this function was vacant. Recognising the importance of this position during a time of intense change, I was engaged as interim Chief, Communications and Corporate Affairs with a three-fold mandate:
- Conduct a review and subsequent realignment of the communications function to ensure the required structures, process and capabilities were in place to help deliver on new strategic priorities.
- Provide overall leadership to the Communications function while recruiting a permanent executive leader and concurrently stabilising the team during a time of intense change.
- In absence of an organisational strategic plan, begin to shape the narrative for the IWK in its new role as a health authority, including stewarding the health of women, children, youth and families.
Over the course of nine months, I completed an internal review and realigned the communications function to better support the organisation, while concurrently collaborating with the government and Nova Scotia Health Authority on province-wide health service planning. Working closely with the IWK executive, I sought opportunities to support positioning the hospital as more than “just a hospital”, but rather a transformative organisation aspiring to lead forward and shape healthy futures. This message manifested in a number of mediums from speeches, to accreditation, to internal communications. It was the theme for the 2014/15 report to the community, as well as the foundation for the Wessex Scholarship which was created to commemorate the visit of HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, to the IWK. As a result of the conscious seeding of messages over a year, when the IWK completed the strategic plan “Aspire” in 2016, there was a shared constancy of purpose amongst staff enabling the organisation to quickly hit its stride and produce meaningful results.