As I reflect on my experiences working in health care over the last few years, I can’t help but think of the exhaustion the staff at University of Iowa Health Care has felt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through witnessing that exhaustion, I have gained an even greater sense of pride and appreciation for health care workers around the world.
We are still in unprecedented times as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn continues to take a daily toll on our employees. I’m in somewhat of a unique position at UI Health Care in that I don’t provide direct patient care. I do, however, support our leaders, staff, and providers as they navigate a new normal. I specialize in teamwork and communication, and over the past two years have helped lead the hospital’s efforts on staff resiliency and recognition.
I believe that resiliency, positivity, and appreciation start with YOU. With that in mind, I'd like to share some strategies that have helped me, my team, and our hospital staff get through the past few years.
Control the Controllables
I consider myself a positive and forward-thinking person. I also believe that perspective drives performance. “Control the controllables” is a mantra I live by. In other words, control what I can control and respond positively to things outside of my control. I can’t control adversity, other people’s mistakes, or other people’s actions. I do, however, have full control of my attitude, effort, behavior, and my own actions.
I can’t control if a mistake was made, but I can control how I respond to it. I can be a positive presence in an emotional environment by embracing adversity and approaching it with a positive mindset. I can look for ways to help a situation by being a good team player, encouraging others, and troubleshooting a situation without placing blame. This helps create a positive culture both at work and at home. It also drives connection among each other and reinforces the emotional and physical impact that a positive environment can have.
3 Good Things
Celebrate three good things that have happened within the last 24 hours. I often do this on my way into work when I verbally tell myself three things that I’m thankful for that morning. It has taught me to be fully present and to appreciate all the amazing things going on around me. I especially enjoy doing this activity with my 5-year-old each night as we read bedtime stories. It’s so refreshing to hear the insights of a child and what’s important to them.
As adults we can often overthink this activity and look for life-changing events or accomplishments to celebrate. A 5 –year old is so appreciative of the small things like recess, donuts for breakfast, or coloring a picture at school. I would love for all of us to take a step back and look at life through the eyes of a child and see all the amazing things happening around us each day.
The Power of Positivity
I choose to be positive not because it is easy or because life is easy. I choose to be positive and appreciative because life is tough. How you view what you do will affect your approach to each day. You are all special and are meant to do great things.
I had a good friend rhetorically ask me once, “How do you know when someone needs encouragement?” He answered quickly – “If they have a pulse!”
That simple question has stayed with me during this challenging time because it’s so true. Our friends, family, and coworkers need to be encouraged. I’m sure you do as well. We all want to hear from our peers and leaders that we matter and that we’re making a difference.
How do you make sure the people around you are encouraged and recognized for their hard work?
One of the most effective ways to show appreciation in a work setting is to regularly check in with those who are doing the work. Make sure staff consistently see you in person, showing gratitude, and asking how you can help make their day better.
Recognizing people in the moment who are going above and beyond with a genuine “thank You” or positively calling out a behavior that makes a difference is extremely important. I still write thank you notes to staff and mail them to their home address. There is something special about receiving a handwritten note and hearing that we are appreciated.
As this year comes to an end, I challenge you to reflect on all that you have accomplished individually and as a team. I bet your list of accomplishments significantly outnumbers the times you didn’t meet your own expectations. Don’t be too hard on yourself and learn to live in the moment by celebrating your success and the success of those around you. When you are met with adversity, learn to embrace it, and lean into it with a positive outlook and appreciation. When challenges do come (and they will!), it will be a wonderful opportunity for growth.