We can no longer give lip service to supporting our employees, we can no longer have interactions that are transactional such as a pizza party to say job well done, or a once-a-year staff meeting that includes a nice lunch, cake, awards for longevity and perhaps a trinket to say thanks for the last year and to pump you up for the year to come. In our system-based approach was typically a transactional event that had served us well. In our Person-Centered Approach to care our mindset shifted the way we look at our patients and how we support them. We realized that by getting to know who our patients are and what is important to them provided a foundation that leads to better working relationships between patients and care providers which improves long-term outcomes. This kind of support is transformational, it changes humans’ experiences, builds better stories and brings motivational human rewards to a job well done.
Why wouldn’t we support our staff in the same way???
The support of our staff needs to be just as transformational. If we support with the same foundation as we do for our patients and their families, it will create a human system that allows us to look at our staff as humans who have lives, dreams, problems and emotions. Transformational support comes from strengthening our connections that build trust, safety and unconditional support.
The horrors and catastrophic situations of the human experience in 2020 has, for obvious reasons, taken the biggest toll on our healthcare workers. They are experiencing death at rates that have not been seen, let alone experienced in the way that COVID-19 demands it to be experienced. Our professional caregivers are filling the roles of the family members who can’t be at the beside of their dying family member. They are the connection between the families and the patients and experience everyone’s emotions on both sides of the of the bed. There is death, grief and loss at every turn. And just like in war, we are now seeing the growing number of casualties every day - living and dead.
No one teaches us how to watch someone suffer. No one teaches us how to react when someone is gasping in pain or starving for air. There are no medical or emotional tools to ease that suffering. It causes the caregiver and the patient unending and unyielding distress when they are mentally exhausted, and their hearts are broken. No one tells you what to do with the helplessness you feel, the unexplainable grief pulling at your heart, or your emotional distress the keeps chasing you like a bear running through the woods. No one ever teaches us how to feel these things as we support other humans, nor do they teach us how to support ourselves and others along the way. This is not healthcare as we have seen before. The stakes are higher, and the toll is growing.
The more we talk to professional caregivers about their experiences through this pandemic and the toll it is taking on them mentally and physically, the more we hear about plans to leave healthcare or stories about how they just left. These are people who believe they have been called by a higher power to serve and protect. Now, with the unending pull of COVID-19 and the upheaval in our communities and our political environment, they have decided the price to themselves and their families is simply too high. Who is going to be left standing at the end of this period in our world history to carry on life as we knew it? Is it you? Can you identify people on your front line that are going to be standing when we get to the next step in this human experience? Is it the quiet person that shows up every day with less and less affect as the months progress - the one that used to care the most and now has shut off those feelings and become numb just to survive another day?
Affirmation of what we are seeing in the industry can be found by starring down at a half empty staff schedule and wondering who is going to be your “heroes” today and get you through another week. Are you seeing staff that is tired, trudging and testy? Is there more drama than ever before? More absenteeism? Our staff is living their trauma stories today, how we support them through it matters.
The reality of most situations is that it’s taking more and more work to fill shifts, meet new pandemic-born regulations and still function on an everyday basis. Supporting the staff that shows up for you every day is getting harder and harder because we are running at full capacity and our tanks are simply empty.
No matter what your role is along this journey, no one can do it alone. It takes courage and vulnerability to go to someone else’s humanness. Without someone spending some time and their emotional energy to come to our humanness and support us through the heartache, frustration and defeat this pandemic is demanding, we will not be the same when the world starts to emerge from this. There has to be some counterbalance to maintain the capacity to care and serve another day.
Nobody asked for this to sweep the world. Nobody gave us a heads up or a plan to support it all once it did hit. And yet, it is up to each and every one of us, as leaders, to chart a new path. One that is filled with empathy, gratitude and resilience building. It is true that we are all in a situation that requires us to show up differently, plan creatively and work collectively to survive.
If you are looking for someone to help you on this journey, I am here to tell you to reach out to you. Sitting in inaction will not help and it’s likely to cause even more of a decline in your staff and your support of our patients and loved ones. Contact us - together we are stronger, and we can leverage the tools and methods of support that work in every environment to bring support and comfort in others.
To learn more about supporting your staff the way you expect them to support their patients, go to https://www.embracingjourneys.com/human-connector