My team and I are coaching dozens of managers in several healthcare systems. Our approach is a holistic one that focuses on the individual as a person as well as his/her leadership and results. One of the themes that has emerged is the level of stress experienced by healthcare leaders in today’s demanding environment. Of course healthcare leaders have always worked hard, but it seems as if the demands are accelerating at an unprecedented pace. When I see that happen, I find there is great potential for burnout even among the most seasoned managers. Think of the intellectual capital at risk!
My advice? Help foster a civil culture that promotes a more humane work life. Make it acceptable and even encouraged that your team members take care of themselves. I have found that so many of these leaders are running from meeting to meeting, skipping meals, and routinely working 12-16 hour days. They are tired physically and emotionally. In their hearts they want to be good leaders and inspire exceptional patient experience but are in a chronic state of frenzy.
We’d never treat our patients like this! So why are our leaders treating themselves like this?
I recently met with a nurse leader in her 30s. She is balancing a family and a career. She is seen by the executives as a bright, rising star and is being groomed for further advancement. Her department is humming, turnover is lower than ever, and all the metrics are in the green zone. The problem is that in private she admits that she’s chronically exhausted, has gained 30 pounds and is questioning whether this leadership role is costing her dearly. She is clearly at risk for burnout and attrition.
In the past 3 months her coach has encouraged better self-care including journaling, exercise, and getting home earlier each day to her family. The results? Her unit metrics have remained high but she reports feeling more balance, happier, and clear-headed. She is mastering her own coaching skills. She loves her work and her organization and wants to stay put in order to make a difference for her patients.
The bottom line is that if we want to create a culture of compassion for our patients and families, we must start with our own employees. How does your culture foster self-care?