Mergers and Acquisitions: Considerations for Healthcare Leaders

May 12, 2024 | Articles, Doing the Work, Leadership

By Iyda Antony

Major events that threaten our socioeconomic, emotional, and physical well-being are often attributed to divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, retirement or being diagnosed with a major illness. The recent uptick in mergers and acquisitions impacting the healthcare industry should also be added to this list. According to recent reports from Bank of America and HealthLeaders, health system mergers and acquisitions (M&A’s) increased by 30% in 2024 compared to the previous yea 

Through various stages of the M&A, staff and leaders alike will experience a range of emotions. The intensity of those emotions will also fluctuate with certain triggers. You may find yourself empowered to drive decisions garnering the trust of your team but later, you are powerless leading a team through the stages of M&A where the trust is eroded. 

The legal complexities of the sensitive M&A process often require only a select few in the organization to be involved in the process. The perception of secrecy and obscurity often give rise to the majority of employees feeling left out of the decision-making process. This includes healthcare managers who are often feeling inclined to trust the process and put on a brave front while dealing with their own inner angst around security, identity, and stability. 

  • Security: Often the question healthcare leaders ponder at a certain stage of the M&A centers around the security of their own job, title, pay and domain of authority. As reductions in workforce and layoffs continue to percolate in healthcare, it’s only natural for leaders to wonder if they are needed or wanted if the goal of the M&A is to drive cost saving efficiencies. The uncertainties and insecurities often give healthcare managers the unsettling urgency to secure another job.
  • Identity: Healthcare leads also encounter grieving the loss of their identity due to the change in brand, slogan, logo, mission, vision and or value statements. The feelings are pronounced when transitioning between academic, faith based, for profit and not-for-profit organizations. As well-established organizational cultures and norms are disrupted, staff often find searching for their new identity and struggling to accept that new identity.
  • Stability: As the M&A stages progress, healthcare leaders may also be faced with the operational side effects such as low morale, decreased engagement, and staff resignations. They may also encounter disruptions with their peers and leaders transitioning out or into other roles. They may also find that their workload has increased due to additional demands on top of their daily tasks.

Like the coping mechanisms for major life changes, we can apply similar strategies such as acceptance, patience, and commitment to maintain our resilience when encountering M&A in our healthcare space. 

  • Acceptance: Our beliefs are often influenced by personal encounters or those we hear about secondhand. When reaching out to those who have gone through similar M&A, keep in mind that their experience may be different from your situation. If it’s true that we become what we believe, then it matters what you believe about the M&A. If you believe the M&A is bad for you, your team, your organization, and your community, then that belief will impact your outlook and attitude. If you believe the M&A is good for the whole, that faith and positive outlook will lead you through mostly positive encounters. As leaders, our team is also gauging our confidence level which in turn has a direct impact on their individual and collective confidence. 
  • Patience: As leaders, we often measure our competence in our knowledge base and our ability to provide answers. Give yourself permission to be the student to both learn and evolve along the way. Exercise those flexibility muscles during the M&A stages as information is often fluid. Provide yourself and your team allowance to plan but also readjust along the way as new information becomes available. Remind yourself that timelines, scopes, and project constituents may change throughout the M&A process. 
  • Commitment: It’s often easy to start a process but the real stamina of a leader is tested in completing the process. It takes true grit to overcome the hurdles with a “can do attitude.” Leaders will need self-introspection at the onset of the M&A to assess whether you have what it takes to see this through. It’s equally important to create a team around you who are both competent and committed to see this through. When you encounter a deficit in the commitment tank, lean on your support system to re-energize and revisualize the goals. Don’t be shy to celebrate the small wins. 

Healthcare mergers and acquisitions are not new and most of us will encounter it at some point in our career. Whether you choose to survive and or thrive in these situations, it boils down to your emotional and professional intelligence. Like major life disruptors, you may have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before you get to the stage of accepting your place in the M&A. You don’t have to face this alone. There are several tools and resources to support you, including CAHL members. May your own experience give you a deeper sense of self, purpose, appreciation, and increased capacity for empathy in healthcare. 


Iyda Antony, MBA, MS, MLS(ASCP)cm, CLS, PAHM, FACHE has over 15 years of leadership experience. She is presently the Vice President of Strategic Operations at UCSF overseeing special projects. Prior to that role, she was the System Vice President of laboratory and pathology services at Legacy Health in overseeing over 700 staff across multiple sites in Oregon & Washington. She has taken progressively larger leadership roles in laboratory services her entire career which includes jobs at UC Davis Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and Sutter Health. Iyda is a past recipient of the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP’s) national student honor award and was listed in their 40 under 40 list.