3 Strategies for resilience as a healthcare provider

By Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN

Floating in water illustrationAbove Water v2 (3)Choosing to work in today’s healthcare environment can be a difficult decision. Most people who choose a position in healthcare do so because of their desire to make a difference. They want to help other people, while improving the overall public health.

Being a nurse is no different. Nurses enter the profession of nursing with a desire to teach, advocate, and care for patients. However practicing this heart-based care is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s world of modern medicine.

Nurses are struggling. From locking themselves in the bathroom at work to crying all of the way home in the car, today’s nurses feel disconnected with the profession they entered into so passionately. Staffing numbers are short; budgets have been cut; and advances in technology can make it hard to connect with the art of nursing.

Organizations know that their staff is burned out, but struggle with what can be done about it. Mid-level management is caught between supporting frontline staff and answering to executive leadership. I am not sure who has it worse, but I can tell you from experience that everyone has it hard in healthcare these days.

So what can we do about it? Instead of trying one tactic here or there that may or may not work for everyone- I encourage healthcare professionals to focus on resilience.

Focus on Resilience

According to Merriam Webster, resilience is “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens” or “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, or bent.”

Think about healthcare--it stretches us. Bad things can happen. There is a need for us, the individual practicing in this crazy, chaotic world of healthcare to bounce back from time-to-time.

Now--if you or anyone you ever know has ever experienced burnout--you know that there are options. You can continue down the negative spiral of burnout until it creates physical havoc on the body… and even maybe a chronic condition that never goes away. Or you can put burnout to work for you! You can choose to bounce back after bad things happen or after you have been pulled, stretched, and pressed to your max.

It’s up to you. I will tell you that people do recover from burnout. They implement strategies that help them prevent the downward spiral from happening again. They learn from the experience and bounce back so that they can continue working in the profession that they love.

How can we do this? How can we ensure that we are a resilient employee, even if our organization is putting pressure on us more and more each day?

Three Ways to Promote and Be a Resilient Healthcare Employee

  1. Make deposits into three accounts: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
    When you are feeling tired, rest. When you are hungry, eat. The physical body cannot run on empty. How long do you think that you could survive without food or drink? You need to refuel in order to run, literally. Now I know as healthcare providers and clinicians, we tend to give to everybody else. We put patients and their families first, only to neglect our own needs. While we can continue to practice patient-/family-centered care--we will be able to do so in an even better way when we pay attention to our own well-being. Being resilient means that you have the capacity to bounce back, right? Well, if you are so super exhausted that one more thing will throw you over the edge… that will likely result in a “falling splat” rather than bouncing back.
  2. Observe and shift your focus.
    Healthcare can be an “all or nothing” sort of environment. Check out the email communications you receive--“None of the units have IV pumps or poles today.” Or the conversations in the nurses’ stations--“We don’t have enough staff again.” While these challenges may be very real--they are presented in a very black-and-white way. There is no way that every single person in your entire department did not get a lunch today. Or that you never ever have enough supplies. We must start to be mindful of how we speak, write, act, and behave. This all-or-nothing thinking can get us into trouble. Why is that? What we focus on expands. What we give attention to grows in energy. So if you never have what you need, you are sort of inviting that reality into your work day. Instead of looking at the benchmark that needs to be reached and how many percentage points it will take to get you there, can you focus on where you are and how far you have come? Is it possible to celebrate the 1-2% points of improvement you have achieved? Pay attention to the accomplishments, and you are likely to experience more of them.
  3. Reach out for and receive support.
    A resilient person does not come to be this way all on his or her own. Remember above when I was talking about burnout and its having a purpose? There are many people working today in healthcare who have burned out--who have and who have not come back from it! The victors can now help, teach, listen, or support those going through challenges of their own. Mentors can also provide encouragement. They can help you network as you achieve more and more advances in your role. They can problem-solve, brainstorm, and act as a sounding board. And it is up to you to find that mentor, reach out to them, and ask them if they will be there for you along your career journey. A resilient person reaches out to other people and receives the help that is available. One of the best ways to bounce back is to learn, grow, heal, and change with the help of another human being!

What are some suggestions you can add to help us all up-level our bedside manner? What tips would you recommend to a colleague? Be sure to tweet me @ElizabethScala. Thanks for reading!

About the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference host Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and a playful pit bull.