We live and work in uncertain times. It’s impossible to avoid unforeseen challenges and setbacks that disrupt the status quo. Change is a certainty, so it’s best to embrace it and strive for resiliency at individual, unit and organizational levels. Becoming resilient will help you and others in your organization adapt to change and essentially learn to “roll with the punches.” Resilience, then, has a direct impact on creating a consistently positive patient experience. How? When staff are more resilient, they can adapt quickly to changing situations meaning that there is little disruption for the patient being served regardless of what is going on with staffing, management or other external and internal events.
A recent article in Nurse Leader Magazine (August 2013, Vol. 11, Iss.4) addressed the importance of resilience-building as a core leadership competency. The article defined resiliency as, “the ability to adapt to adverse conditions while maintaining a sense of purpose, balance and positive mental and physical wellbeing.” (Sergeant & Laws-Chapman).
I found it interesting that many of the resilience-building strategies cited in the article included the same elements outlined in the Baird Model designed to build a patient-centered culture. To be more resilient, the leaders should communicate openly about circumstances and be prepared to talk with staff about their feelings about the situations. Leaders need to provide recognition, coaching and mentoring that reinforces the individual’s connection to meaningful work.
When leaders come across as engaged, empowered and energized in the face of change, the staff are much more likely to reflect the same attitude. When the leader is pessimistic and voicing his or her own fears and anger, they can expect staff to escalate. But the reality is that change is hard and middle managers are often the ones carrying the message of change to the front lines. This makes it important for managers to quickly assess the situation, create key talking points and help staff stay centered on what is most important. It’s also important that you allow staff to voice fears and concerns and acknowledge their feelings yet redirect and reinforce positive actions.
Resilient leaders hold the key to navigating healthcare’s sea of change. I was coaching a nurse leader a few weeks ago during a difficult time in her hospital. She asked how she could be inspirational and optimistic in the face of some unforeseen and unpleasant changes. We talked about the need to model resiliency. The message I gave her is one that works in many situations. That message is this – Things may change all around us including regulations, reimbursement and staffing. But what doesn’t change is that every day, patients walk through our doors needing our help. They expect and deserve the best we can give them and we must be up to the challenge. They’re counting on us.
Call it resilience. Call it optimism. Call it mission-driven, brand-centered or patient focused. Call it what you like, but strive to deliver the message that regardless of what is happening around them, our patients need us and we will deliver on our promise to be there for them.