Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen burnout strike healthcare professionals and leaders at levels previously unseen.  Colleagues are retiring, dedicated providers are leaving, and countless others across the country are taking time away for stress and mental health renewal.    

Yet every day I see reason for hope and optimism as my healthcare colleagues come together to care, continuing to give their best to our patients and each other.  They have embodied Maya Angelou’s words:

“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Resilience—both organizationally and personally—has been the key for those who are working day-in and day-out to navigate providing quality care to our communities in the midst of a pandemic. 

Organizational resilience 

Organizational resilience is the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond, and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruption.  This pandemic is unlike most crises we face where there is a definitive beginning, middle, and end (e.g., snowstorm).  A crisis of this nature is more like a wave; it has peaks and valleys that we have to recognize and adjust to. The sustained disruptions brought on by the pandemic make it more challenging to move from response to recovery to thriving as an organization. 

However, despite the unusual nature of this particular crisis, I am struck by the way that the usual means of navigating a crisis still hold true: improvisation, clear communication, collaboration, problem solving, and—most importantly—trust.  Trust is key, and risk, innovation, efficiency, growth, and expansion can only happen when you have that solid foundation to build upon. 

Personal resilience

Resilience is essential to keep organizations moving forward in times of crisis, but it is impossible to have organizational resilience without personal resilience in each member of your team. Often, people who are attracted to careers in healthcare are deeply compassionate.  But to take care of others, you first have to take care of yourself.  As they say, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

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Author: Rand O'LearyRand O’Leary, FACHE most recently served as the PeaceHealth Chief Executive for the Oregon Network. Rand joined PeaceHealth in 2014 and had oversight for operations in Oregon at Sacred Heart Medical Center, RiverBend in Springfield, University District Medical Center in Eugene, Cottage Grove Community Medical Center in Cottage Grove and Peace Harbor Medical Center in Florence. Rand is an experienced healthcare executive and leader, seasoned by over 20 years of leadership in Surgical Services, Neurosciences, Cardiovascular, Ambulatory and Physician Practice Operations during tenures at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a 425-bed tertiary referral and teaching hospital and member of Ascension Health and the 537-bed St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor Michigan, the flagship hospital of the St. Joseph Mercy Health System and a member of Trinity Health.