NOLA Businesses Are Leading the Way Through COVID: GIFTED Healthcare

Mullady Voelker

Mullady Voelker is President of Growth & Strategy at GIFTED Healthcare. She joined GIFTED in 2010 in search of a career that melded her passions for business and people. Voelker drives GIFTED’s strategic expansion into new markets as well as new service lines, and oversees innovative marketing and public relations efforts. She is active in the New Orleans community, focusing on bringing sustainable partnerships and businesses to the region.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your businesses?

The Pandemic and the changes accompanying it has had a tremendous impact on our business. GIFTED Healthcare is a national nurse staffing agency headquartered in New Orleans, and we were responsible for providing clinicians to hospitals across the country during severe staffing shortages. During the pandemic, we were heavily responsible for deploying nursing talent to the “hot spots” around the country to serve patients on the front lines of COVID care. As with most businesses, during the healthcare crisis, we found that the standard way of doing business was turned on its head, as it became critical to respond to hospital clients who needed additional help immediately. In response, our company reorganized to ensure that we could provide relief quickly to those areas hardest hit

In addition, we made the transition to be 100% remote during the same period. Our production and delivery systems were quickly reorganized to support our remote employee base. Our efforts were heavily focused on preserving and optimizing our culture to ensure we were all aligned on our shared purpose of providing exceptional clinicians to hospitals caring for patients during the crisis. We harkened back to our value system which centered around caring for one another, the nurse, our clients, and the patient in the bed.

What changes have your businesses had to make to adapt to quarantine?

We have invested heavily in providing holistic and comprehensive support for our employees (over 100+ corporate employees), from mental health to remote work resources. Our belief is that the lines between work and home have been blurred, which can be a really good thing if you view it as an opportunity to support your colleagues in both areas. If you are asking a person to show up and bring their “whole selves” to work, then you should be prepared to care for them. Mental and physical health is a priority for us. The pandemic and quarantine have instilled both fear and stress in all of us; normalizing it and ensuring the physical and psychological safety of our teams is our top priority.

Fostering connection between our remote team members is one of the primary ways we do this. Our company has virtual events often, and we begin meetings with psychological “check ins.” We have flattened our work teams to guard against hierarchical structures that delay critical decision making, and we are acutely focused on empowering one another to drive to our shared purpose.

Were there any resources or advice you gave your employees to help them during this time?
Our advice was, overwhelmingly, “Take care of yourself and your family, and each other. Rely on empathy to navigate your interactions with one another, and know that the work we do – providing nurses to the front lines of patient care – is more important now than ever.”

What advice would you give to other business owners specifically in New Orleans about how to restart business when quarantine is over?
New Orleans is a gritty, resourceful city…. We know how to keep showing up for one another and for the community at large, even when things are tough. Grit is critical in the success of businesses. Focus on what is within your control and harness it. Look for opportunities to innovate that were not as clear before, and be fluid.

Though this is a tough time, what has inspired optimism for you and your businesses moving forward?
We are incredibly optimistic about the future of healthcare and nursing specifically. The last few months have proven the heroic and critical contributions of nurses to patient care and to the nation. We continue to gain inspiration from the incredible humans that work within our company. We’ve been recognized as one of New Orleans CityBusiness’ “Best Places to Work” during the pandemic, and we feel like our momentum is in the right direction.

As Louisiana is in phase 3 of reopening, we decided to talk to some local business leaders within New Orleans about how they believe quarantine has gone and what they have learned.

Working through COVID has been difficult and posed a new set of challenges. We’ve all had to adapt in one way or another whether that’s in our professional lives or personal lives. It’s been particularly difficult for small businesses learning to navigate through PPP loans, trying to maintain staff and being uncertain of when businesses can fully reopen. New Orleans once again shows its resilience during this tough time and has continued to band together to begin what is hopefully a safe re-entry into normalcy.

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