I recently visited a client hospital in Southern California. They had been hard hit by the pandemic, but on one of the days I was there they were finally able to begin dismantling the auxiliary COVID-19 intensive care unit they’d constructed to cope with the overflow of critically ill covid patients.My first thought was that there should be a brass band and cheerleaders. COVID-19 hospitalization rates had finally fallen to a point where we could confidently take down the walls and the special air-handling equipment that had been needed to isolate the very sick patients that had overwhelmed the hospital. This calls for a celebration!
But then I thought of all of the heartbreaks that had occurred in that space. Every day, for the rest of their tenures at that hospital, caregivers would walk past the gift shop and remember the sick and dying patients they’d cared for. They’d remember the many times they’d had to help patients say goodbye to loved ones via an electronic tablet. A celebration seemed somehow inappropriate – better to let the walls come quietly down.
And hanging over these thoughts was the question of whether the walls were coming down too soon. Would we come to regret the move if new variants, or excessive public complacence, caused yet another surge? (Fortunately, that has not happened.)
From these observations, I’ve distilled three essential lessons for the culture of your organization in the post-pandemic era. These lessons apply whether you are in healthcare or any other field.
Lesson #1: Celebrate and Build Upon the Positives
We’ve all seen people come together in amazing ways during the pandemic. We’ve seen teamwork and fellowship. We’ve seen leadership qualities in people we never would have expected to stand out as leaders. And we’ve seen people who used to be labeled “justa” – as in justa housekeeper or justa grocery store clerk or justa nurse – being honored as the heroes of everyday life.
We’ve also seen incredible creativity and innovation. For example, telehealth has made more progress in the past two years than it would have made in ten years absent the pressure of the pandemic. I know I’m not the only one who, before being forced by the pandemic to use it, thought that “zoom” was something sports cars did.
Zoom is no doubt with us to stay. But how do you assure that the teamwork, the leadership, and the fellowship your people experienced during the darkest days of the pandemic become embedded into the culture of your organization?
Suggestion: This is a great time for you to pull your statement of core values off the wall and reassess them. Did you see values reflected by your people during the pandemic that should be formalized into your values – qualities such as courage and perseverance, commitment and resilience? Should you elevate the importance of self-care and mutual support to the status of core values?
One way you can encourage your team to remain courageous is to share the free eBook Stay Strong For Us. It’s a beautiful book that’s packed with great ideas and inspirations from more than a hundred healthcare leaders, motivational speakers, wellbeing experts, and frontline caregivers. You can read it as a flipbook and/or download the free eBook at this link:
Stay Strong For Us website
Lesson #2: Heal the HurtCOVID was like a comet blistering its way across the sky pulling a long tail in its wake. This tail of personal grief, emotional trauma, anger and anxiety, and career and financial dislocation will hang in the sky long after the COVID comet has disappeared over the horizon. Many authorities predict that we’ll experience an epidemic of PTSD among healthcare workers in the years to come.
One thing we know about PTSD is that onset often occurs after, sometimes long after, occurrence of the actual traumatic event(s). And it doesn’t come all at once like a broken bone; it sneaks up on its victims.
Knowing this, we must not become complacent. The light at the end of the COVID tunnel will not be like the finish line of a marathon, where we run through the tape and then go home to celebrate. It’s more like a torch that we must pick up to light the way for the people who are still struggling their way through the tunnel behind us, and to illuminate the way through the tunnels that we know still lie before us.
Suggestion: Encourage a support group culture. If you’ve ever been in a support group, you know that when a meeting ends its members still have cancer, are still addicted, or what they’ve lost will not somehow magically be returned to them. But because of the fellowship they’ve experienced, they have new hope and inspiration, new friends, and a new resoluteness to face their challenges bravely. 0
You know that many of your people are struggling with serious challenges. Help them help each other. Provide a space where groups can meet. Show that you care by letting them meet on paid time. Many of the organizations that have signed up for our Everyday Courage for Extraordinary Times program are using it as the structure for support group meetings. You can download the flyer at this link:
Lesson #3: Prepare for the Next Tunnel
The time to patch the roof is when the sun is shining. John F. Kennedy said that. The time to prepare your organization, and your culture, for the next storm is now, because we know more storms are coming.
In our book Building a Culture of Ownership in Healthcare (2-time AJN Book of the Year Awardee), Bob Dent and I share dozens of practical strategies for investing in your culture. As Admiral Olson says in the quote above, you can’t afford not to invest in culture even in the midst of a crisis. Especially in the midst of a crisis!
Everyday Courage for Extraordinary Times features 21 short videos, 12 eBooks, Leader’s Guide and Participant Study Guide. The course is incredibly affordable, easy to implement, tailored to your organization, and absolutely guaranteed to be effective.
Learn more by visiting the Values Coach website, emailing me, or by calling our office at 319-624-3889.