Dear Helpdesk: Rejoining Acute Care Leadership Refreshed and Ready


Dear Helpdesk gives advice to an Infection preventionist preparing for a new leadership role after a year of part-time consulting.

Dear Helpdesk: Innoculation your work life with IP wisdom from Infection Control Today.

Dear Helpdesk: Innoculation your work life with IP wisdom from Infection Control Today.

Dear Helpdesk,

How would you recommend that infection preventionists (IPs) prepare for a new IP leadership position? They have been leaders before, but they’ve been out of an acute care health care setting for the past year, consulting part-time while taking care of personal and family health.


Refreshed & Ready

Dear Refreshed & Ready,

Congratulations on this exciting opportunity to step back into an IP leadership role! It sounds like you've spent a year focusing on personal and family health, which is a powerful decision that shows incredible strength and commitment to your well-being. When I read your submission, I had this vivid image of you standing at the threshold of a new chapter, refreshed and ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

Yes, a new job comes with its own set of adjustments that may feel magnified when returning to a leadership role. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if you are more prepared and ready than you realize. You’ve leveraged your time away to prioritize your needs while keeping your skillset current through consulting. You are also an experienced leader who is choosing to return to a leadership role.

A confident young man walking into a medical setting.  (Credit: Author with AI)

A confident young man walking into a medical setting.

(Credit: Author with AI)

When considering what you need to feel prepared for your new role, I invite you to create an opportunity for some self-awareness and introspective reflection. To guide you, I have some questions for you to consider. These questions are framed to create a hypothetical visual in your head of a possible future that touches the deepest parts of yourself, thereby motivating change. When you are ready, reflect on these powerful questions broken into sections. Consider keeping a notepad or a journal nearby to write your reflective thoughts in response to each question. Each section will guide you in uncovering what you need to transition into your new role with a plan and goals you can feel good about.

Reflecting on Leadership:

  • If you were to ask one of your prior direct reports, how would they describe your leadership?
  • What aspects of your prior role were you most passionate about? How did it nourish you?
  • Reflecting on your prior leadership role, what would you do differently if you could do it again? What would you do the same?

Reflecting on Time Off:

  1. What did you learn about yourself during your time away from health care?
  2. How did your time off influence your perspective on leadership in a health care setting?
  3. What skills or knowledge did you maintain or develop during your consulting work?

Reflection to Reemergence:

  1. How can you leverage the lessons you learned to show up in a way you can be proud of in this new role?
  2. How might your experiences from the last year inform your approach to leadership in this new setting?
  3. How will you prioritize your own well-being while starting this new position?

For this last section, drawing on your newfound insights, consider what you need and what goals you need to set to get started.

  1. What skills or knowledge assessments would be value-added to take?
  2. What ongoing professional development do you need to feel ready?
  3. What is your 90-day vision for the role? What are your priorities and goals? What do you need to be successful?

Stepping to the Next Chapter

Thank you for the opportunity to accompany you on your journey. This new chapter holds immense potential and possibility. You are ready; you've prioritized your health, taken time for introspection, and created a plan for success. You are rejoining leadership and the acute care world with a wealth of personal and professional experience. You will walk into your first day with a renewed perspective and a deeper understanding of yourself.

So, as you step into this exciting leadership role, embrace the unknown with confidence. Reflect on your past, leverage lessons learned, and continue to prioritize your well-being. Life isn’t about the destination; it’s about the journey.

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