While healthcare workers, frontline and support staff are undoubtedly stretched and stressed, in each and every instance, we still see them running into battle.
“If not us, who?”
“This is what we signed up for.”
“My obligation is to keep my patients, and by extension, my community, safe.”
These are the words from those in the throes of an unprecedented medical pandemic. So how do they do it? How do they maintain an unwavering sense of duty in the face of uncertainty, despair, and difficulty, especially when it’s likely that the risks will likely persist for months or years after the urgency of this current COVID outbreak dissipates?
Understandably, fear, panic, worry, stress - they creep in. Workers report being frightened and fried by the sheer volume of work, the sacristy of resources, the fear for their safety and for the safety of their loved ones. And yet, they persist. In some of the most chaotic and difficult circumstances imaginable, they constitute to show up for their colleagues, their patients, for us.
“Health care professionals have always been willing to do their work without fanfare, but the sheer enormity of this disease commands healthcare leaders to think differently about the sacrifices their staff are being asked -- and expected -- to make.”
So what does this have to do with joy in work? According to IHI’s Derek Feely, “joy in work is about cultivating a sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.” We know that our healthcare professionals, office employees, support staff and others are ready and willing to tackle this virus on our behalf. But its worth remembering that burnout, mental fog, and fatigue were persistent problems in healthcare long before now and that these issues certainly won’t go away anytime soon, and extend far beyond traditional ideas of burnout. And that while the focus of attention should be paid to keeping staff and patients safe and providing the right equipment and the right care, it is worth noting that there are ways to address joy at work even in times of crisis.
Asking staff “what matters” is the most simple and important step in growing and maintaining joy in work. And at a time when what matters is constantly changing, it’s more important than ever to ask. Feely says. “We as leaders must help staff address [what matters] in ways we may never have before.” In order to help address these staff needs, especially now, in these uncertain times, IHI is advocating a few key themes to keep joy in work for healthcare staff so that they can continue to fight for all of us.
- Continue to focus on providing the best possible care. Even amidst the innumerable challenges that may arrive, leaders should help employees maintain focus on that most singular priority.
- Recall a sense of meaning and highlight individual impact and strength. While everyone is working as a team, it is important to remind individuals that what they do matters. Their individual work makes for a stronger whole.
- Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. Focus on the team. Remind employees and staff that no one is in this alone. Traditional working environments may be disrupted, but the team remains essential.
- “Encourage psychological safety.” Everyone’s input matters, questions are welcomed, feedback is important. Maintaining an environment where employees feel safe mentally as well as physically is critical.
What is the best way to start incorporating these vital measures for staff? Reach out for help. Share knowledge with colleagues across healthcare. Despite the enormous hurdles to face, people all over the world are stepping in to offer support, advice and resources with incredible generosity. In this spirit, goShadow is offering our resources for free. Use the easy surveys to start asking “what matters” and connect with employees ans staff during these critical moments.
Visit goshadow.org/covid-19 for more information and free materials.
April 16, 2020