333 hospital and health system leaders. 107 organizations. 71 speakers. 25 sessions. 3 days.

1 mission: to champion excellence in health care for all.

VITAL2018, the annual meeting of America’s Essential Hospitals, brought hundreds of hospital and health system leaders to San Francisco June 20 to 22 to connect with colleagues, inspire innovation, and hone their leadership skills.

Here are six key takeaways:

1. Essential hospitals are “essential” because we do things no other hospitals do.

Whether it’s the response to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey by the University of Texas Medical Branch and Harris Health System or Parkland Health and Hospital System’s implementation of an information exchange platform between health care and social service providers, communities look to essential hospitals for more than routine hospital care.

“One of the biggest lessons learned from Harvey [was], when crisis hits, you’re no longer just a hospital, you’re the safest place,” said Alan Vierling, executive vice president and administrator of Harris Health’s Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital.

2. It takes a village, and we can all benefit when we learn from one another.

Learning from peers with similar challenges can spur innovation, promote collaboration, and transform care. Our VITAL2018 poster session featured more than 30 posters on patient navigation, clinician attitudes, self-efficacy toward behavioral patients, and other topics of interest to essential hospitals.

3. Difficult circumstances can catalyze learning and growth.

Essential hospitals regularly face challenging circumstances that can place a heavy toll on our workforce. One of our keynote speakers, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, taught us about the upside of stress and how “stress can make us stronger.”

4. The hospital offers a “reachable moment”—leadership requires that we understand people to ensure meaningful engagement and meaningful changes.

Leaders at Christiana Care Health System and Maricopa Integrated Health System said essential hospitals reach vulnerable populations by understanding the patient experience and empowering patients to be the “driver of their life.”

5. Big changes don’t have to cost a lot of money.

From our patients to our workforce, essential hospitals—like Erie County Medical Center and University Medical Center New Orleans—leverage existing resources and align programs to their mission and values to make a positive impact.

6. Essential hospitals can move the field forward from awareness to action by putting research to practice.

One of our keynote speakers, pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris, taught us that early intervention can improve outcomes when we understand the science behind adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Essential hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital serves as a pilot site for an ACEs screening tool.

“We can do this. We have the opportunity to change the way our nation responds to adverse childhood events and toxic stress,” Burke Harris said. “Health care professionals are leading voices and we have the ability to change the national conversation and to change our practice in how we deal with this as a nation.”

Don’t miss valuable insights like these and many others next year, at VITAL2019, June 19–21, in Miami. Our call for presentation and poster proposals opens Oct. 1.