Staying Strong: Fostering Resilience in the Medical Community

For the last decade I have had the privilege of working alongside many talented and committed healthcare professionals across a multitude of complex and highly pressured healthcare systems – on both sides of the globe.  As an organisational psychology specialist, my work has been largely to develop and support clinical leaders to lead and develop their teams, strengthen cultures and develop healthy, safe, resilient organisations.  It has been humbling to sit alongside these colleagues and clients through multiple events; ongoing earthquake recovery, brutal and frightening terrorist attacks, excessive and sometimes harsh external scrutiny and now the unfolding events of the COVID-19 pandemic – unprecedented in its form.

What has become clear to me as I have supported clinical communities over these contexts is that no one entered these professions ‘lightly’.  The clinicians I speak with, knew that these careers would involve much intense study and postgraduate training; They knew they would be dealing with potentially stressful and emotionally draining situations; They knew it would be disruptive to social lives, relationships and potentially impact their wellbeing.

However, these ongoing pressures, alongside this constantly changing and volatile landscape, means there is now more need than ever for our clinical staff to build greater levels of resilience and for us to support them in doing it.

There is a strong body of research that has identified the core components in building optimal resilience which I have captured in the STRONG model here:

Staying STRONG

S       Strengthen your Relationships

Strong and supportive relationships are the number one predictor of wellbeing. Investing in, reaching out towards and cultivating healthy relationships is a core resilient behaviour

T       Take Control

Concentrating your attention and resources on the things that matter most and that you can actually influence and change increases your sense of control and agency.

R       Recharge and Restore

Restoration practices such as adopting a mindfulness practice boosts mood, concentration, and cognitive ability – much needed during times of pressure.

O      Optimise your Mindset

How we interpret events determines the choices we make in responding to these. Adopting an optimistic mindset is a skill that can be learned which enables us to use helpful ways to examine and interpret life’s challenges and setbacks.  

N       Nourish, Move and Rest

Making healthy food choices, sleeping well and moving our bodies regularly throughout the day contributes to building vital energy for building resilience.

G      Grow and Develop 

Challenging and stretching ourselves in new and unknown situations can enable us to adapt and grow – which contributes to our growth and wellbeing. New research about how adversity strengthens us can help us view challenging times as opportunities for growth and evolution rather than setbacks that limit us.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will dive into each of these areas, with a specific focus on how clinicians can adopt these evidence-based practices to support and strengthen their own resilience and wellbeing.  As I do this, I am keen to hear more about what is already working that we can learn from and build upon:

  • What are our healthcare workers on the frontline already doing that demonstrates resilient behaviour?
  • What are some examples of great wellbeing and resilience building practices that are helping our healthcare workers rise to these challenges?
  • What can we learn from practices that are already in place?

Stay Strong

Ruth 

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