I’m Ready; Are You? Focusing On Wellbeing During the Pandemic

I’m tired; are you?  I’m tired of shortages. I’m tired of being worried, anxious, and fearful. I’m tired of the judgements, the suspicions, and the statements made in the absolute. I’m already tired of the new catch phrases like “novel virus” and “unprecedented change” and “new normal”. I’m tired of people not wanting to listen to one another and really hear what we are saying to one another. I’m tired of waiting for “this” to be over.

I’m tired and frustrated with my inability to do those activities that I so took for granted six months ago. Activities like going out to dinner, and visiting my Mom, and popping in on friends, and running to the store; activities that have changed forever because of the pandemic. Our world has changed.  Our lives have changed.   And something else has happened too.  I have had more creative meals at home, time for stillness, and time to think and reflect just how much our world has changed; how I have changed; and how I need to be there differently for those with whom I work and serve.  I care about what is going on in me and around me. I am tired and I am energized. I’m ready; are you?  

It is, after all, quite simple isn’t it? As a leader, what have you done to define the simple in the complex?  That is often what crisis management is; we bottom line what needs to be done, by whom, by when, and how.  We cut through red-tape and nuanced processes to get the work done. We band together, lock arms, and move forward to respond to the most urgent around us. We keep going; moving forward, to assure that staff and patients have what they need. We support one another in pain, sorrow together in grief, laugh together in the silly, and bring the best of ourselves to the front so that others will join us in our steps forward.  We do that as people, professionals, and leaders.  This isn’t a sprint; in the moment coaching, instructing, and preparing for what comes next is your job as leader.  

How have you cared for yourself and those with whom you interact with every day? What does it mean to lead in a time when we cannot go back; we can only go forward? How can we capture this moment to create new and amazing ways to relate to one another and serve those that we lead?  

Start with the basics: 

  1. Eat balanced meals, rest, and go for walks (or other exercise). 
  2. Take breaks and breathe; don’t rehash what is happening, think on things that bring you peace and joy. 
  3. Offer constructive insight and feedback on processes that are not working as they should. 
  4. Listen to your heart. If you think it and feel it, it may be worth thoughtfully following through.  

Ideas to support others: 

  1. Be fully present to others; speak with kindness and sustain eye contact. 
  2. Round on staff (not at shift change) and ask a simple question “how are you doing?” Then be quiet and listen. Hear what they have to say.  
  3. Create space and time for staff to decompress, vent, or just be still. Provide water and healthy snacks.  
  4. Offer EAP if needed.  
  5. Suggest a vacation day off if staff members have worked successive days. Check schedules to assure that no one is working multiple days in a row without a day off.  
  6. Tell their story. If someone has done something special, highlight that work in a meeting or at a huddle. 
  7. Ask your staff and leaders to share their ideas to improve processes. Trust them. If there is a better way, the persons performing the repeated tasks will know what that is and share it. Be open to receive those ideas and take action 

Doctors Tait Shanafelt, Jonathan Ripp, and Mickey Trockel collaborated in an effort highlighted in JAMA on 4/7/2020, doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5893. In their article titled “Understanding and Addressing Sources of Anxiety Among Health Care Professionals During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, they identified five requests that health care professionals have of their organizations: 

  1. Hear me 
  2. Protect me 
  3. Prepare me 
  4. Support me 
  5. Care for me 

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement used that article to develop “Conversation and Action Guide to Support Staff Wellbeing and Joy in Work”. The article is available at www.ihi.org. This is an amazing resource and I encourage you to read both articles and adapt the practices.  

Can it get any simpler? Hear me. Protect me. Prepare me. Support me. Care for me. This is the work of leadership. I’m ready; are you?