Maintaining Momentum in 2022February 7th, 2022
From the start of 2022 it seems our spirit of hope and inspiration has been dampened by the recent surge of COVID-19 and the relentless impacts of the pandemic. Across the health care industry, we are faced with ongoing challenges of a changing labor market, employee burnout and the struggle to maintain wellbeing and positive mental health.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “To lose patience is to lose the battle.” During a time when we are still battling and waiting for the end of the pandemic, Gandhi’s advice rings true, both in our professional and personal lives.
Patience and equanimity can so often provide the calming force that our patients and families need, particularly when they are vulnerable, scared or anxious. Positivity and calmness, combined with direct and transparent communications, is also something that we can practice to help our colleagues and team members in times of high stress or work pressures.
Maintaining patience is hard, even in the best of situations. But it can be nurtured and cultivated, with the help from a little bit of hope. So, how can we better manage stress and sustain our patience in a relentless pandemic?
It takes a village
First, teamwork (one of our critical core values) and reaching out and supporting one another can help buoy our patience through the tough patches.
A brief check-in to see how others are feeling can make a world of difference when we encounter colleagues and support staff who are experiencing high stress, overburdened workloads and work-life imbalance. I have personally experienced the gratitude and appreciation of our front-line staff for just taking the time to listen and being heard, with empathy and compassion.
Please know that we are using all available resources and support staff to maintain patient safety, recruit aggressively for critical positions, mitigate risks and support you through this turbulent journey.
We have made several operational changes within U-M Health to strike a delicate balance between meeting emergent patient needs, managing staffing, and anticipating future volumes due to deferred care. This includes postponing some elective inpatient surgeries when needed and being as flexible with our workforce as possible.
We have put recruitment, retention and workforce stabilization strategies in place to address our significant staffing issues. This work includes bonuses for critical positions and a Michigan Answers campaign to support recruitment efforts.
We are also advocating for you by informing the public about the stress on our system and how the community can do their part to stem the surge. We have brought our experts together to share with our communities scientific, data-based information about best practices to reduce COVID-19 transmission and illness and maintain hospital access for those who need it the most.
Protect yourself and others
The fast infiltration of the Omicron variant has caused many of our employees to become infected, even among those vaccinated. It’s important for us to role model the best preventative measures against this pandemic, which begins by getting your vaccinations and booster shot, if eligible.
Although the vaccines and booster are our best weapon against the pandemic, it is important to continue to be vigilant about social distancing and wearing masks. Guidance around masking and PPE has been updated, including wearing medical-grade masks vs. single-layer cloth masks, neck gaiters and bandanas at all Michigan Medicine facilities.
Pause for wellness
In our personal lives, it is critically important now that we pause, and exercise the patience that it takes to slow down, self-assess and practice self-care. Burnout is all too common in health care, but exponentially so now, when some physicians and other care providers feel compelled to leave medicine. Our oath to help people and do no harm starts with ourselves, to ensure we are equipped, able and in the right frame of mind to care for others.
Patience is difficult to nurture during these times, so it is important to be accepting and compassionate with yourself. Recognize that there are so many things out of our control, but we can focus instead on how we have a positive impact on those around us, especially when we work together. This can cultivate a bit of patience, and a sense of hopefulness.
The reality is that remaining ever-patient during this pandemic is incredibly hard, but every day I witness moments of tremendous patience and caring, not only among those who care for our patients, but among faculty, staff and learners who exhibit great professionalism despite daily obstacles laid in their path by this pandemic. Thank you for your tremendous dedication and perseverance during these difficult times.
Do you have suggestions for cultivating patience during these challenging times? Please share in the discussion box below.