In this podcast, Dr. JB discusses how building more resilience and resiliency training is not the solution to combating the burnout pandemic occurring in healthcare. The solution to burnout is providing fuel to healthcare workers’ empty gas gauge.
Hi everyone, welcome back to the Hope4Med podcast. I’m your host Dr. JB. As much as I try, I truthfully cannot jump onto this resiliency bandwagon. Resiliency kind of is the word of the year, along with coronavirus. But…do you know the definition of the word resilience? Well according to the Oxford dictionary, “resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability of a substance or object to spring back to its shape; elasticity.” Kind of like a spring….boing…springs can withstand a tremendous amount of insult. Have you ever tried it? Get a spring, place it in the palm of your hand, form as tight of a fist as you can muster and hold it for as long as you possibly can, then unclench your fist. What happened to that spring? I bet you it sprung right back to its original shape. What a resilient spring. Now, bend the spring backwards then let it go, wow…it springs right back to its original shape. Bounce it up and down and round and round and it springs right back! Have you ever stretched it, really stretched it, until it’s almost a straight line? The first time you do it, that spring might spring back to its original shape, but the longer it’s stretched, it starts to become disfigured. You’ll barely recognize it as your old spring. So what’s the solution? Make it more elastic, like a rubber band? Well, sorry to break it to you but even rubber bands get deformed and depending on the level of stress it is under, it might even break.
I don’t even know why we use the term resilient. Say what you really mean…be a spring…be a rubber band. Stretch. Push beyond your limits. Keep going…Oh, you have more in you, keep going, keep stretching. Now hold it…don’t let go. You’re getting tired. Please. Here’s a little more tension. What, you broke? Oh well…where’s the next rubber band?
I use this analogy not to be callous, I mean that’s literally the definition of resiliency. For me, the substance I want to be referred to is GOLD. Even gold gets deformed under pressure. It melts. But in that melting, gold becomes purer and has options to rejuvenate into something else. It could turn into a purer form of its former self or anything else, limited only by one’s imagination. So why is resiliency not gold? Well, because gold resists. Gold pushes back. There’s only so much you can push gold until you meet resistance. Gold can’t be bent, bounced, or stretched, at least not in its solid form. So, you pressurize it and at the right degrees of 1947 degrees Fahrenheit, it begins to melt. That’s a lot of heat, but it doesn’t break or get destroyed and thrown out with the trash. It simply transforms into something better.
Are you gold or a rubber band?
Maybe more appropriate words to describe the qualities needed to face the challenges a career in healthcare brings is grit…tenacity…perseverance. Saying “grit” isn’t as sexy as saying resilience, but that is really what we are getting at. Courage and resolve. Strength of character. Determination. Persistence. Life in medicine is not easy. It can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. As healthcare professionals not only do we deal with patients and their baggage, but also the patient’s family members, administrators, governing bodies, and let’s not forget our personal lives and experiences.
Listen very carefully, it’s not about being resilient. Healthcare professionals are some of the most resilient people I know. The issue is we are running on empty. We are expected to keep giving and giving when we are barely getting by on fumes. Where’s the source for our rejuvenation? Where do we get the gas to fill up our tanks to allow us to keep moving? What happens to a car when it runs out of gas? Even Teslas need a source of rejuvenation, a way to charge their battery. For some of us who are in tune with our cars, we can sense when the car starts to spatter. Sometimes the car won’t stay on if it is started remotely. Sometimes there are slight delays with uptakes in speeds. Sometimes we don’t realize there’s anything wrong until the car stops moving. However, when the car runs out of gas or charge and can’t move one inch, is that because there is something inherently wrong with the car?
Everything in life needs a source for means for rejuvenation. Future healthcare professionals need to make the decision to embark upon this career path with eyes wide open. The Hope4Med podcasts paint pictures of the reality of working in healthcare. Why sugar coat things? But the gift this provides you is an opportunity to better understand what it is that you are signing up for. Along with all the opportunities it entails to effect change. And, because Hope4Med was created by healthcare professionals with experience working at the bedside, the solutions provided by Hope4Med are applicable for those of us working at the bedside. However, the clock is ticking. Continuing to work on empty is not sustainable. We are seeing cars of all shapes, sizes, and makes stalling on the healthcare highway. May Hope4Med serve as your source of evergreen replenishment.