Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being

Recreating Community within the Healthcare Workforce to Address Organizational Burnout

May 31, 2022 Washington State University Health Sciences Season 2 Episode 10
Recreating Community within the Healthcare Workforce to Address Organizational Burnout
Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being
More Info
Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being
Recreating Community within the Healthcare Workforce to Address Organizational Burnout
May 31, 2022 Season 2 Episode 10
Washington State University Health Sciences

Andrea Durst is a Medical Social Worker at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. While focused on helping patients and families address their needs during the pandemic, many healthcare professionals are navigating ways to reestablish connection following this extended period of isolation. Creating opportunities for professional growth, reclaiming “space” to foster engagement, and empowering new ideas through community building are a few ways to address organizational burnout among healthcare professionals.

“Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being" is a podcast resource developed by a team of interprofessional education researchers from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane. They’re promoting well-being among students, faculty, and healthcare professionals during challenging times. Funding is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The Interprofessional Education Research team wishes to thank the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this project:

• Dr. Barb Richardson, nurse, educator, and interprofessional champion;

• Cameron Cupp, creator of the “Finding Joy” musical score and current enrollee at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine;

• Washington State University staff from Marketing and Communications, Financial Services, and the Collaboration for Interprofessional Health Education Research and Scholarship; and

• Claire Martin-Tellis, Executive Producer, and Solen Aref, student intern, who developed the first five episodes of the “Finding Joy” podcast.

This episode of “Finding Joy” was produced by Doug Nadvornick, Program Director, Spokane Public Radio.

If you would like to reach out, please contact our team by sending an email to: medicine.ipoc@wsu.edu We also encourage you to visit our podcast blog as well as our team's website at: https://opioideducation.wsu.edu/about/.

Show Notes Transcript

Andrea Durst is a Medical Social Worker at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. While focused on helping patients and families address their needs during the pandemic, many healthcare professionals are navigating ways to reestablish connection following this extended period of isolation. Creating opportunities for professional growth, reclaiming “space” to foster engagement, and empowering new ideas through community building are a few ways to address organizational burnout among healthcare professionals.

“Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being" is a podcast resource developed by a team of interprofessional education researchers from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane. They’re promoting well-being among students, faculty, and healthcare professionals during challenging times. Funding is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The Interprofessional Education Research team wishes to thank the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this project:

• Dr. Barb Richardson, nurse, educator, and interprofessional champion;

• Cameron Cupp, creator of the “Finding Joy” musical score and current enrollee at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine;

• Washington State University staff from Marketing and Communications, Financial Services, and the Collaboration for Interprofessional Health Education Research and Scholarship; and

• Claire Martin-Tellis, Executive Producer, and Solen Aref, student intern, who developed the first five episodes of the “Finding Joy” podcast.

This episode of “Finding Joy” was produced by Doug Nadvornick, Program Director, Spokane Public Radio.

If you would like to reach out, please contact our team by sending an email to: medicine.ipoc@wsu.edu We also encourage you to visit our podcast blog as well as our team's website at: https://opioideducation.wsu.edu/about/.

This is “Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Wellness and Resiliency.” It’s a podcast resource developed by a team of interprofessional education researchers from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane. They’re promoting wellness among students, faculty, and healthcare professionals during challenging times. Funding is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration. 

 

[theme music]

 

I’m Doug Nadvornick. For health care workers, “burnout” has become more common during the Covid pandemic. People work hard and get tired but they don’t get the chance to fully recuperate. My guest, Andrea Durst, is a medical social worker at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center. She and her colleagues work with patients and their families to navigate the health care system. But they also keep a pulse on the people with whom they work. Andrea Durst says some of their co-workers struggle to stay motivated. 

 

Andrea Durst: “What we see and probably what I think of as what we consider burnout in our field looks a lot like feeling like you care less, that you’re less invested in what’s going on, not being able to really connect on a human level with the people that you are trying to support and help navigate the system, not looking forward to the work anymore, but really starting to feel like you want to avoid it.”

 

There is burnout on the individual level, but what about burnout at the organizational level?

 

Andrea Durst: “We had been actively working on that in our department prior to the pandemic and so that as a question is very interesting to me. But also I think with the addition of the pandemic on everything, the thing that happened the most was people became increasingly isolated. I feel like, in a lot of ways, that allows whatever is happening to just become more intense, that when we put isolation on top of everything that people don’t have that sense of community in the same way. A lot of us work from home and so we weren’t in the office together every day. Or some of us would be here and some of us would be out as a way to keep each other safe and help not bring more risk into the hospital. We were here intermittently and definitely there was a lot more space in our lives where there had been relationship.”

 

Doug: “Does Sacred Heart have problems with burnout?”

 

Andrea Durst: “I would say that, yes, I feel like our health care providers, as a group, are probably at high risk after the last two years.”

 

Doug: “How can you measure that?”

 

Andrea Durst: “I think they do a manual survey and I’m sure they pay money to people who are really good at measuring that. I think they are in the process of trying to ascertain what exactly has happened. You witness burnout from the sidelines as people moving around in their jobs or leaving their jobs, calling in a lot, just not being engaged in the same way, not really sure if they’re going to stay in the profession. Those kinds of things I think we’ve all kind of seen ripple out in all of the different departments. I think it’s kind of an increased stress around things people would normally have more resilience around. I’m sure in every job, particularly in health care, it comes with a significant amount of stress and difficulty and getting people through those moments and it looks like having a lot of compassion around that, for yourself and for others, and you notice that change in the compassion. You notice that change in the engagement. You notice that change in people being really able to connect with each other.”

 

Doug: “What is Sacred Heart doing to alleviate that burnout?”

 

Andrea Durst: “I don’t know that I can speak for all of Sacred Heart, but I can talk about what’s going on in the Social Work department. Burnout was something that, like I said, we had taken on earlier, prior to the pandemic, and really focused on creating opportunities, creating community, focusing on growth for people and engagement. Finding out what was interesting to people and letting them follow that pathway forward, trying to give people the opportunity to solve some of their problems. We actually borrowed an idea from nursing, the unit-based councils, where people take on the task of what can we do about the issues that we’re facing. What is in my power to change? Not every idea has to come from leadership. They don’t always have the same perspective. So allowing people to really work on building a community that they were wanting to be engaged in, I think has been important for us.”

 

Doug: “I was talking with someone from another health care organization a few weeks ago about trying to bring some fun into the organization, to create ways that people can get away from it and get back on a social level with each other. How difficult would that be in such a big organization such as Providence and Sacred Heart?”

 

Andrea Durst: “It’s funny that you say that because we were just talking about that this morning. There used to be regular meet-ups after work and that is something that, of course, just like everything else, has gone by the wayside. We share much larger spaces now than we did previously. We were crammed into tiny little offices. It’s interesting to think about how much more we can do when we can connect with each other physically in each others’ physical presence. I think that our manager tries at different times to do things that are fun and plan activities. Things that are engaging. We all appreciate that.”

 

Doug: “I was reading something about how, Harvard Business Review articles, about burnout and they say it’s not, some organizations would say it’s a problem at the individual level and maybe you just need to get away for a little while, whereas they posit that it’s really an organizational issue. So how do organizations take stock of that and try to figure it out to make it better for employees?”

 

Andrea Durst: “I think I would agree with that. You know, as much as we all, I’m going to be really social work right now, as much as we all need to meditate more and do the breathing exercises and go for walks and be out in nature and do all those things, take care of ourselves, as well as set good boundaries around workloads, which is always an issue for social workers, realizing that some of that organizational responsibility is a big deal and I think getting people engaged, creating community and creating growth are really, really important.”

 

Doug: “I guess I would say that a lot of administrators are just not very good at that. That’s not what they were trained how to do. Who leads in a case like this where there’s no one who seems to have a lot of expertise about it?”

 

Andrea Durst: “In our department that didn’t come from administration, it didn’t come from HR. It came from the people in the department and we sat around and we talked about what we wanted to be different, based on that annual survey that I talked about before. There were some clear indicators about things that were problematic from the people who do the statistics and the math pretty well. We were able to take that information and sit around and come up with some ideas about what would make things better and work on those particular issues. We really worked on education and professional ideas because, to us, that was tied to growth and any time you talk about building resiliency, it has a lot to do with building competency and growth. A lot of times when you talk about what makes people want to stay, what makes people want to stay engaged, it has to do with building a career ladder, having opportunities beyond a single level and so those are the types of things we’ve done over the last few years.”

 

Doug: “As we talk, we’re crossing our fingers and hoping that we’ve been through the worst of the pandemic. How are you seeing people changing as we’re rounding this curve here? Is it getting better?”

 

Andrea Durst: “I think it is because we’re able to see people’s families re-engage and be able to be at bedside and be able to walk the path of illness with their family member, which was not a small thing to not be able to have that. For the families it was just an extra trauma on top of diagnoses and I think being able to watch people’s natural support systems lift them up in the way that they’re supposed to has been really pivotal and the hospital opening up a little bit to family members and that kind of stuff is a really big deal from our perspective. This is a couple of days, this a week out of their life, this is a moment of time and whether or not the rest of it works, really has to do with their supports.”

 

Doug: “As it gets a little easier for them, how does that trickle down to the hospital employees who work with them? Does it necessarily then get easier for them too?”

 

Andrea Durst: “For us, I think it has gotten a little bit easier, but one thing I should note, some people are still dealing with the after effects of Covid, of course, but I think, just generally, the health care community is a little exhausted and the reserves of energy are low and so, as things get easier, I think we’re all grateful, but I still worry that there’s not enough of a recovery for all of us before we keep plugging away at stuff.”

 

Doug: “What kind of recovery would it take? Leaving the job? Extended vacations?”

 

Andrea Durst: “In a dream world where I get to write policy at the national level, sure, that would be amazing. I think extended vacations for health care workers would be just the thing. I think having a different idea about our work/life balance, I hope, is going to become a more permanent part of the conversation as we go forward because many of us have to deal with intergenerational needs for our families, trying to take care of our parents and our kids and our work through all of this. I hope that that becomes a bigger part of the conversation.”

 

Doug: “Whereas I think, as we go more towards normal, that perhaps the administrators will say, ‘Ok, it’s time to go back to where we were three years ago,’ and not learning from the experience. Do you worry about that?”

 

Andrea Durst: “100%. Yeah, absolutely. I definitely, and most social workers, we’re working on the immediate level, but we’re always thinking about how policies from housing to child care to the rent prices in Spokane are impacting the people that we work with all the time.

 

Andrea Durst is a medical social worker at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. We thank her for her perspective. 

 

[theme music]

 

The Interprofessional Opioid Curriculum team also wishes to thank these people for their contributions: 

• Dr. Barb Richardson, nurse, educator, and interprofessional champion; 

• Cameron Cupp, creator of the “Finding Joy” musical score and current enrollee at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine

• Washington State University staff from Marketing and Communications, Financial Services, and the Collaboration for Interprofessional Health Education Research and Scholarship; and

• Claire Martin-Tellis, Executive Producer, and Solen Aref [so-LEN uh-REF], student intern, who developed the first five episodes of the “Finding Joy” podcast.

This episode of “Finding Joy” was produced by Doug Nadvornick from Spokane Public Radio.

If you are interested in sharing your perspective about wellness and resiliency as a healthcare professional or would like to reach out, please contact our team by sending an email to: medicine.ipoc@wsu.edu  We also encourage you to visit our website at: https://opioideducation.wsu.edu/about/.