Inspiring Stories

Critical Care Nurse Leader Honored for Leading Work Family Through Pandemic

Published: Dec. 11, 2020

It was an early Tuesday morning in December, and things were quiet on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Methodist Hospital. Over the past several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, that hadn’t been the norm. The ICU had become an active, fast-paced environment, with exhausted professionals working feverishly around the clock to save and support the sickest of the sick.

That welcome, quiet morning was interrupted when the unit’s leader, Tim Hoarty, BSN, RN, CCRN, was startled in a meeting by news that his presence was needed – and rather urgently.

As he hurried toward the seventh floor breezeway, he entered autopilot mode – something he’s become all too familiar with over the past 10 months. But his fear of something going “horribly wrong” was squashed when he saw countless familiar faces in front of him and heard the applause of his employees, colleagues, fellow leaders and even his wife. It quickly became evident that he wasn’t responding to crisis after all – he was being honored for his unfaltering ability to do so.

A Natural-Born Leader

Hoarty may not have always known he wanted to lead a team through the many challenges of a pandemic, but growing up, he knew he had a knack for working with and leading others. He was often captain of whatever sports team he played on, and he was surrounded by a family full of medical professionals – many of them leaders in their fields.

After considering paramedicine and the thought of becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT), “I realized that nursing was my true destination.” Not long after graduating from Nebraska Methodist College, Hoarty landed a cardiac nursing position with Methodist Hospital, which eventually led him down the path toward critical care.

“I hired Tim straight out of college,” said Bud Erickson, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CCRN-K, cardiovascular and critical care service executive for Methodist Hospital. “From day one, he has exemplified the adage that your don’t have to be in a leadership position to be a leader.”

“It’s always been a passion of mine – the sickest, the toughest, the most complicated cases,” he said. “It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do.”

When the opportunity to lead the ICU was presented to Hoarty, he leapt. And he’s been selflessly leading an especially loyal and grateful and team since January.

The First to Be Honored

Seven of Hoarty’s nurses recently nominated him for The DAISY Foundation's Nurse Leader Award, which honors those who create an environment of compassion and recognition. Each of the nomination letters moved and inspired Hoarty – the health system’s first recipient of the award – as they were read aloud at his surprise celebration.

“I had a hard time keeping it together, that’s for sure,” he said.

The letters noted his admirable leadership qualities, his gentle approach with patients and their families, and his relentless efforts in taking care of his staff at a time when morale was low.

Whitney Lotspeich, BSN, RN, a critical care nurse coordinator and one of Hoarty’s nominators, wrote: “Though all of our ups and downs, he has been there, giving unwavering support to the nurses on our unit. His door is always open. It is easy to approach him with concerns and compliments, and he never seems too busy to hear what staff have to say.”

Critical care service leader Tim Hoarty with his wife

It All Comes Back to Family

A few of Hoarty’s nomination letters even highlighted the amount of time he sacrificed away from his wife and baby girl – who was born the day after he accepted his new leadership role. And it’s fitting – that his family was recognized in his nominations – because according to Hoarty, that’s who inspires him to be the kind of leader he is.

“There was one night I came home, and it was one of the most stressful days I’ve ever had. The baby was screaming inconsolably – one of those moments when nothing seemed to work. My wife gave me this look of, ‘Oh, what are we going to do?’ And all of the sudden, it clicked. In the most stressful of moments, in the most stressful of days, I started laughing. Like, ‘This is what I’m doing it for.’”

For his family at home and all the families of sick loved ones who depend on him and his team, Hoarty reminds himself daily that family is truly what this work is all about. And while the Nurse Leader Award was given only to him, Hoarty knows he didn’t earn it alone. He’s had another important family by his side since the beginning.

“This isn’t something I could have done without everyone who was in that hallway that day. I get emotional thinking about how much each of them have had to do, adjust and give. The people in the ICU and at Methodist are people of the greatest integrity – the greatest responsibility to our community. As this has gotten worse, they’ve doubled down. They haven’t shied away. So, to them, I want to say thank you. Not for this award, but for everything you’ve given and everything I know you’ll continue to give in the future. For however long that might be.”

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About the Author

Jessica Gill, a Content Strategist for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

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