Why did you come to work today?

COVID-19 continues to put pressure on hospitals in unprecedented ways.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, a lack of resources and medical supplies contributes to the frustration that many health systems in the US are feeling right now. That, along with the intensity and strain of the work facing so many physicians, nurses and support staff, could have a significant impact on patient care. As hospitals prepare for potential capacity issues, everyone is scrambling for extra beds, nurses, doctors, PPE… the list goes on.

However, there’s an opportunity for health organizations to excel and overcome this challenging moment. Take the time to ask yourself and your staff, “Why did you come to work today?” Because that answer is what’s going to carry you through to the other side.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

Read the transcript

David Shifrin: Welcome back to J|Insights on the High Stakes podcast. I’m David Shifrin. It is Monday, March 23rd and COVID-19 is moving so fast, in so many ways. We at Jarrard are watching the myriad issues closely and trying to look around some corners to see what’s next. So with that, our CEO, David Jarrard, is here to talk about what’s evolved over the past couple of days, and what are the rising issues that we see that hospitals and health systems need to be thinking about.

David Jarrard: Certainly, David. One of the issues that is top of mind for our clients and the hospitals and health systems and for the media regards capacity. There’s the capacity of the stuff that you have, to do your job or don’t have, to do your job here. And that’s masks and respirators and ventilators and gowns, and the things that are so clearly necessary to treat this disease. But there’s also the capacity of your staff and your organization to mentally do this work.

If it’s all hands-on deck today, can it remain all hand on hands on deck for a week or two weeks or five weeks? And, acknowledging and being able to address the issues of stress and fatigue, is a different kind of capacity issue that we see some hospitals dealing with and others are likely to be dealing with in the future.

DS: So how are they beginning to deal with it? What are some of the pieces that providers can put in place or begin preparing for putting in place right now to support their staff and also manage the physical resources.

DJ: On the physical resources, the first piece of work is to know the answers to the questions, to the extent that you can. It’s moving so quickly, and resources are moving and being used so quickly, even that is a challenge. But it’s hard to be able to address the questions about capacity if you’re really don’t know if your organization doesn’t know.

So, a priority is to get a handle on that.

On this issue and other issues that we’re sure to talk about, a fundamental goal, I think for all our healthcare providers, is to be a voice of authority in this because there are so many voices speaking on this issue. So, when it comes to addressing the issues of a capacity, you’ve got to be able to lean into this conversation because others will.

Your nurses will, your physicians will, and they’ll either do it privately in relational conversations, or they’re going to do it on social media or maybe even in the media. And if you’re not talking, they will be the voice of authority. So, you’ve got to know where you are – you can speak to it and then have the energy and the effort to be sure you’re doing that.

DS: How about on the emotional side of things – getting ahead of that and making sure that plans and resources are in place – so that, down the road in a week or five weeks, you’re not scrambling and trying to retroactively build up the health of your workforce.

DJ: Every organization that we work with recognizes that stress and burnout and fatigue are or soon will be an issue for their staff. It’s important that the organizations communicate their acknowledgement of this with their employees and communicate what they’re doing about it – how they’re working hard to make sure that they are safe and in a safe place and working in a safe environment. And providing them tools to address some of the difficult conversations that they’re likely to have at home or with your patients or with each other.

Sometimes, people will feel the emotion of stress and not know what to say about it or what to do about it. So, healthcare organizations can help their staff by equipping them with language to accompany their very real emotions. Beyond that, I think everyone is scrambling for enough nurses and enough doctors to fulfill their mission, to serve their patients and take care of each other.

I wish I had an instant solution to that. I know a lot of very smart people are looking for it.

As difficult as this is, this is an opportunity for hospitals and health systems to shine. To tell the story of their essential service and the critical nature of who they are to a community, and to a region, or to a state.

Beyond that, it’s also an opportunity for your nurses and physicians to shine, and I am sure they are, but to capture that. We know of one health system that is approaching their nurses and physicians in this time, and asking them a simple question: ‘Why did you come to work today? Why are you here?’ Knowing that on the other side of this terrible moment, they’re going to be able to take those stories and those answers and celebrate the work they did, acknowledge the mission of the caregivers who came to work for them, and define themselves in one of the most difficult moments we’ve ever faced.

DS: That’s great. Thank you, David.

David Jarrard