How many of you remember the game Wack-a-Mole?  It was a fun, fast paced game that my kids would play, and I of course would get drawn in as well.  It was a game where you had a big plastic mallet and these little pretend moles would pop up out of holes all over the big surface and your goal was to bop them on the head as fast as you could.  It was fun and a little frustrating at times as the more moles you wacked, the more that seemed to pop up. 

Does life many times feel a bit like that?  I hear from many people that work in healthcare that 2020 and 2021 certainly felt like that.  We were trying to adapt to a brand new highly contagious virus that would morph in front of our eyes and quickly became a pandemic.  Our national healthcare and world healthcare organizations were trying to figure out how best to treat those that became ill, manage those that died, and were brainstorming how to decrease the spread.  It seemed like every other day there were new guidelines, new recommendations, new discoveries.  Meanwhile segments of healthcare were shut down and organizations were trying to manage the financial bleed. 

For those that worked directly with patients, it was long days and nights, living in constant fear of bringing this virus home to their families, trying to function in full garb, which was hot and exhausting  and made it hard to connect to others.  Dealing with the patients who could not see family, dealing with family who were worried and scared, and then also seeing the virus take over patient after patient and even some of our co-workers. 

As leaders it was a 24/7 job trying to research the latest information and re-write guidelines based on that information, trying to balance the need to downsize the work force, but yet cover the patient needs, and keep our staff healthy and supported.  It was dealing with supply shortages, cost increases, staff coverage challenges, to constantly training on the latest information and precautions.  Just writing about it brings back that fear and exhaustion that lived with us for nearly 2 years. 

What I have noticed is that since the pandemic is that many healthcare organizations are continuing to function in crisis.  In addition to that, there are huge amounts of healthcare staff, clinicians, and leaders that are still wallowing through life with the burnout that happened.  We never took a breath to say – thank you, heal a bit, slow the rapid burnout, and figure out what our new structure and process should look like. 

As a result of this we are working day by day next to frustrated, tired, cynical, and discouraged colleagues.  People are leaving the healthcare industry in numbers we have never seen before.  Some are retiring, some have taken a look at their life and realized there is more to life than working and are asking for flexible work schedules and new approach to work.  Many are just exhausted from healthcare and wanting to find a new industry.    We are also having struggles finding people to replace those that are leaving.

So what can we do?  We have to step back and find new solutions to the intensity of our issues.  We are facing continuous cuts in reimbursement and increases in supply costs along with supply shortages, needing  to pay more for staff and offer creative bonuses, and trying to face and brainstorm the violence that continues to plague healthcare won’t get us through the next 10 years.   We need to reimagine our work, reimagine our schedules, reimagine care delivery,  and find ways to truly support each other through healthy and supportive cultures that will draw and inspire the generations we have currently in the work force.  But sometimes we are so busy living in the day to day crisis that we won’t take time or are not able to get support to step away and redesign.  I have talked to many healthcare leaders that say, I am just trying to survive, don’t ask me to think through massive redesigns.  We are just surviving.   

I have brought up a number of suggestions for creative scheduling, creative staffing, creative work flows and most times they are met with an exhausted look. Our staff and our leaders are spending every day playing wack a mole and aren’t able to find the time to figure out why those little moles keep popping up constantly and at such a rapid pace. 

The days of root cause analysis and true re-design projects seem to have nearly vanished, QI departments are being cut or refocused.  Yet we hope to magically find big solutions. 

Our recommendation is that we take a little time to really heal and find out what is going on in our cultures.  Get to the real answers on why people are leaving on a regular basis and we can’t find replacements.  Once a year doing a survey is not going to get to the core issues, this takes human connection, deeper conversations, focus groups conducted in a  trusting environment, listening at a deeper level, being thoughtful and caring, and making the environment safe.

We offer a few programs that can help out our healthcare staff heal and our healthcare organizations begin to bring back the creativity and redesign capacity.  We also offer focus group solutions and exit interviews to help gain insight through a safe environment for healthcare staff and leaders to be honest and open about the concerns and challenges.

Our burnout recovery program is also launching in May and will be an exciting new opportunity for all roles in healthcare to take some time out, assess their values, assess their current life  – both work and personal and help re-create a joyful, values aligned and authentic life while taking time for self care and healing. 

Stay tuned for our official launch and enrollment in May.  We are here to help heal so that we can move on to a better-balanced quality life and be able to do the work that deep down we really love and leave the wack a mole game to the arcades and birthday parties. 

Contact us today to learn more or save your spot in our first group.