An Honorable Mention goes to Cathy over at Healing Through Connection. Her essay “Don’t Give Up!” made me think about caregivers in any capacity and how important it is to reconnect with joy on a regular basis in order to continue caring for others.
She was sent a Green Study Coffee Mug, a unnecessary Minnesota postcard and I donated $25 to the American Red Cross on her behalf.
Don’t Give Up!
By Catherine Cheng, MD at Healing Through Connection
We could not have planned a more uplifting conclusion to our workshop if we tried.
Eileen and Liz, my rock star colleagues from New Mexico and I, presented a seminar on institutional strategies for physician well-being at the International Conference on Physician Health last month. The two of them have done this for a while. They generously invited me to participate this time, as we had collaborated on a Grand Rounds series on physician wellness last year. This was day two of the conference and we were already jubilant from communing with Our People, the Tribe of Healers trying to heal our profession.
We had the data. Investing in physician well-being improves patient care, decreases physician errors, and increases patient satisfaction. We knew it would be a friendly audience. Still, we struggled to frame a role play exercise that would reliably help our colleagues make the case to their leaders that funding programs in physician health would ‘pay off.’ We came up with cases. We had a back-up plan in case nobody volunteered. But how could we really engage the crowd? Most people loathe role play, especially before a group of strangers.
I had ideas to break the ice. We could preface the exercise with communication techniques from two of my favorite TED talks. The first was by Nancy Duarte: The Secret Structure of Great Talks. A core tenet of any great presentation, she says, is to make the audience the hero. We must engage our leaders with a call to adventure, inviting them to embark on a journey of discovery and triumph, leaving them with a sense of empowerment, ready to heed the call to action. As a primary care physician, it struck me that this approach resembles counseling patients on health behavior change using motivational interviewing. Rather than coming at our leaders with complaints and demands, we can instead come alongside them with observations and counsel. This method would tap our deep capacities for empathy and connection, which were core values endorsed throughout the conference already.
The second practice, based on the talk commonly referred to as “Power Posing” by Amy Cuddy, would help people feel more confident while presenting to leadership. Cuddy’s research shows that taking more expansive, upright postures helps people feel more powerful, and improves performance in high pressure situations, such as job interviews. I stood like Wonder Woman in front of my hotel mirror for ten minutes before my presentation at the University of New Mexico last year, and I am convinced it helped me stay grounded and self-assured throughout my talk. We could have the whole audience power pose before the role play!
When Eileen finished presenting the wealth of evidence for promoting physician well-being, it was my turn to inspire workshop attendees. I wanted to light the fires of excitement, spark their imaginations, and help them bear the flames of commitment home to engage their leaders. I mustered my own passion for clear, strong, confident communication. We were here to empower one another, and I was going to lead by example.
The audience responded with enthusiasm and joy. We did one short role play, and then people just started openly sharing. Some asked for practical advice, like how do we actually bring it up in a meeting? Others told us what had already worked for them, such as aligning physician well-being with existing strategic plans around improving patient safety and decreasing physician turnover. The overwhelming atmosphere in the room radiated generosity, collaboration, and shared mission. It felt warm and hopeful.
As time ran out, Ted stood up and asked to make one last comment. “Don’t give up,” he said. He had been doing this work for twelve years, since before the phrase ‘physician well-being’ existed. He had witnessed the evolution of technology and its deleterious impact on our work and our relationships. This gave him the perspective we all needed. He testified to the turning of the tide, the rising swell of attention and dedication to buoy physicians up from the undertow of burnout. He, the veteran physician advocate, told us three that our workshop made his registration fee for the whole conference worthwhile. He could not have offered a higher compliment. Liz, Eileen and I stepped out that afternoon each feeling a little taller, a little more like Wonder Woman.
Ironically, prior to the conference, I had given up on my leaders. But my own presentation taught me a new lesson in humility and partnership. I have since re-engaged, and I feel hopeful again.
Don’t give up.
Stay on the Path.
We can make a difference.
We will change the world.
Congratulations Dr. Cheng!
Here’s a Healing Through Connection sampler: