In the trough between COVID outbreaks, my mind has been occupied with how to support our workforce in recovering from the traumas inflicted by this pandemic.  In debriefing sessions, Schwartz Rounds and personal conversations, clinicians have shared with me their stories.  They describe the feeling of “moral injury” from enforcing severe visitor restrictions.  They share dramatic stories of treating multiple members of the same family and watching some recover and some succumb to the disease.  They tell of the exhaustion from never-ending worry – both the anxiety of coming to work and the fear of taking it home.

I reached out to peers (CMO and COO) from 11 different health systems across the nation, and the discussion is similar everywhere.  One revelation from all of those discussions is this – our current focus on “resilience” as the issue may be adding to the problem.

Many caregivers have told their organizations that the focus on resilience can be seen as one more thing that THEY have to fix – one more area where THEY haven’t measured up.  “If only I were more resilient, I wouldn’t be so emotionally and physically exhausted.  I have to be stronger…” 

We must change the dialogue.  Merriam Webster defines resilience as “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.”  What if, instead of focusing on the “capability” in this definition (which is internal to the caregiver), we focused on how the organization can help with the compressive stress and the recovery? 

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Author: Clay HoldermanAs Executive Vice President and COO for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, a not-for-profit integrated system of hospitals, clinics, a medical group and one of the nation’s largest provider-led health plans, Clay Holderman leads operational alignment across the health system and is focused on the continued transformation of the delivery of care to achieve the quadruple aim. During his 22 years in health care leadership, Clay has been successful in both for-profit and not-for-profit systems, led new program development, hospital consolidation, new hospital conception and construction, and health system performance improvement.