What we value most in any work place are problem solvers. Such people are the engine of the business. They increase productivity and efficiency, reduce costs and complaints. Creative, intuitive, energetic, generous, observant, empathetic, compassionate, committed people who consistently give their best. People who deploy their skills to produce value rather than to maintain employment through crisis and catastrophe. The healthcare industry and medicine in particular has fostered an environment where problem-solving capacity is limited.
Extensive literature suggests that contributors include excessive workload, loss of autonomy, inefficiency due to excessive administrative burdens, a decline in the sense of meaning that physicians derive from work, and difficulty integrating personal and professional life. Shanafelt et al
We sometimes take the brightest and best train them at great expense and place them in circumstances in which survival is the best on offer. The consequences are that those who have the greatest potential to improve outcomes for patients, themselves succumb to ill health.
If we accept, as many do, that the cost and demand for health care is rising exponentially then we need to generate ideas on how to face the future.
Total global health spending was expected to rise by 2.6 percent in 2013 before accelerating to an average of 5.3 percent a year over the next four years (2014-2017). This growth will place enormous pressure on governments, health care delivery systems, insurers, and consumers in both developed and emerging markets to deal with issues such as an aging population, the rising prevalence of numerous chronic diseases, soaring costs, uneven quality, imbalanced access to care due to workforce shortages, infrastructure limitations and patient locations, and disruptive technologies. Deloitte
We need to harness the insights of those who apportion scarce resources on a daily basis. Those who know from personal observation when resources are not being put to the best use. These individuals, like those of the many who work at the coalface in other industries, will only rise to the challenge when they are resilient.
Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. Stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial worries, among others. American Psychological Association.
Four personality traits in particular have been identified as having a strong influence on one’s capacity for resilience: self directedness, cooperativeness, harm avoidance, and persistence.
- Self directedness: people who are conscientious, resourceful and goal oriented
- Cooperativeness: Resilient people don’t lose sight of their own principles but work out solutions to achieve the best outcome for everyone. They are empathetic and excellent communicators.
- Harm Avoidance: Their ability to accept uncertainty and a degree of risk generates confidence for decision-making in medical dilemmas and emergencies.
- Persistence: They have a bias towards maintaining behaviour with stamina despite frustration, fatigue, or discouragement.
How do you support your team to foster these qualities? One-way is to encourage reflection and reflective writing in particular. Help the individual to assess if their expectations of themselves and others are realistic. To become aware of their unhelpful reactions or attitudes to the behaviour of others. And to have a sense of their own standards and expectations. There is some evidence that the habit of reflection has a therapeutic value. Empirical evidence for benefit of resilience to productivity comes from elsewhere but finds great resonance in health care:
Teachers working in inner city high schools in the United States face enormous challenges. Their students, most of whom come from economically disadvantaged minority families and often do not speak English as a first language, present a daunting array of educational needs for teachers and schools. Resources and school structures are seldom sufficient for the task. Despite such conditions, some urban high school teachers persist for many years in the classroom and experience success and satisfaction in their work. Through a survey and extended interviews, this study identifies three broad factors that motivated a group of these teachers to remain in inner city classrooms for more than 12 years: (1) the students, (2) professional and personal satisfaction, and (3) support from administrators, colleagues and the organisation of the school. The study discusses how the teachers’ resilience enabled them to overcome difficult challenges and recurring setbacks and to persist vigorously in their work. Gerard Brunetti
Picture by Gabriel S. Delgado C.