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

How One Health Professional Finds Joy by Aligning Her Strengths With Her Values

November 29, 2023 Dr. Peggy Odegard Season 3 Episode 9
Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being
How One Health Professional Finds Joy by Aligning Her Strengths With Her Values
Show Notes Transcript

Peggy Odegard, PharmD, honed a simple technique for overcoming workplace burnout in the healthcare field as a practicing pharmacist and Vice Dean at the UW School of Pharmacy. Dr. Odegard focuses on being aware of both her personal values and personal strengths while moving through her daily tasks. Aligning her values and strengths with the work she is doing allows her to consistently find joy. She shares details about her techniques for overcoming healthcare workplace anxiety and burnout in “How One Health Professional Finds Joy by Aligning Her Strengths With Her Values” as well as her insights into the working conditions for healthcare professionals working in pharmacies and medical students studying to work in the field of pharmacy.

“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: We also encourage you to visit our podcast blog as well as our team's website at:

Finding Joy podcast 19: Peggy Odegard  

This is “Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being.” It’s a podcast 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.    

[theme music] 

I’m Doug Nadvornick. Today, we hear a story from a health care academic in Washington about juggling responsibilities as an administrator, a faculty member and a teacher during the Covid pandemic, while also trying to keep herself grounded.  

Peggy Odegard: “My name's Peggy Odegard and I'm currently a professor and interim dean at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. I'm a pharmacist by training and have spent a lot of my career in practice and have worked in chain pharmacy, independent pharmacy, and then for many years in health system practice and had roles in clinical education in practice and as a clinical manager. And then kind of shifted to the academic setting after many years in practice, kind of bringing that insight and expertise from the practice setting into the academic setting.” 

Peggy Odegard is a diabetes specialist and educator who works with older adults.  

 Peggy Odegard: “There's a lot of listening and meeting people where they're at and then with the individual, figuring out what's the best way to support you to achieve whatever the goal is you're trying to achieve. I've been doing that in care setting for many years and found that in my kind of manager roles, it really works well to lean on those skills because even though you're going into a different setting and the people you work with certainly aren't your patients, it's still really good to listen, meet people where they're at and figure out what is the best thing to do to support everyone to achieve the goals we're trying to achieve.”  

Doug: The name of the podcast is Finding Joy, and I've asked most of the people that I've interviewed, where do you find joy in your personal setting, in your professional setting? 

 Peggy Odegard: ”I seek it out in many ways, but I think that the base to how I keep paying attention to joy and kind of re-finding joy when maybe I've gone through a tough time at work or in personal life is to really be very self-aware of my values and my personal strengths and make sure that whatever I'm doing is aligned well with my values and my strengths. I think I've been in my career long enough to realize that when you have a misalignment and what you're doing isn't supporting your values or maybe it's drawing from personal styles that really aren't your natural strengths, that you feel that misalignment and sometimes you start getting into some dysfunction or sense of not feeling joy in the work you're doing or the relationships that you have. So I've tried to be really conscious about my values and make sure I'm being self-aware through some of the personality tests and personal attribute kind of self-assessments on kind of what are my strengths and kind of keep those aligned. So, at work, when I feel myself, feeling a little bit more of the drudgery in the work that I'm doing, usually the first thing I do now, because I've had enough years in my career to sense when it's happening and say, okay, slow down what's going on, I either realize what I'm doing is not aligning with my values or what I'm doing has really pulled me outside of my strengths and I'm working harder to make something happen. And so when when your values and your strengths line up with what you're doing, you can feel that real sense of flow is what I call it. And where you're just feeling like, this is fun, I'm having a great time, and it's making me feel good. I try and work with our students a lot early in our program on identifying their own personal values. For me, my values are very aligned with relationships, family, friends, caring. For me, those are important values and then thinking about your strengths and we have some self-assessments that we can also use. A key strength for me, my top strength is connection. And so you can see, if my values are relationships, friends, family, working in teams, you're also seeing my strengths kind of come out. I have to make sure what I'm doing is lined up with those types of things. If you put me alone in a room and ask me to work through a really detailed issue on my own, that's when I might start feeling like this isn't fun. I need to get out and engage people. I also know one of my strengths is kind of futuristic, so I like to vision out. So if you're like, Peggy, we have a whole bunch of things that need to be done today, I can get it done, but if I'm doing it every day, I might start feeling like this, I’m not having any chance to go up and look out at where we're trying to go. So again, I think the way I kind of find joy is by keeping myself self aware.” 

 Doug: So much of this podcast has been around how do people in healthcare, whether you're a student or a faculty member or practitioner, deal with the challenges brought on by the pandemic. So how did the pandemic affect the way that you identify and process things? 

 Peggy Odegard: “My role in the pandemic was I was vice dean of the School of Pharmacy and I oversaw our PharmD program, which is our professional degree training program, which included over 400 students. A couple of things happened quickly. We flipped very quickly to remote education, which most of us weren't trained in how to do well and we had to learn it overnight. I also had to be a steward of the faculty to help make sure they have the resources and support they needed. We also had a pandemic going on, and pretty quickly, as testing and then later immunizations or vaccination became available, we needed to engage our students and the clinical faculty like myself in helping with the response to the pandemic. What I saw happening around me was a lot of leaders and attention pulling on myself to shift into sort of a top-down management mode, kind of a command and control mode. I will be honest with you, that really impacted my sense of joy because, as I just shared, I'm a connection person. I'm a relationships person. I like to engage. I like to be very inclusive, get people's input before we make decisions. And, all of a sudden, for a person with that style to be pushed into command and control mode, I found myself feeling uncomfortable. But the good news was, I was able to call that out and say, hey, we need to stay human through all this. People are hurting, people are at all different places on a spectrum of their readiness for this drastic change we're all experiencing. I found myself literally retreating into almost like a care provider mode where I could say, okay, this is big change we're going through and people need information to do it well. And so you're just gonna have to be very intentional about listening, being as inclusive as you can, being clear on expectations of when a decision needs to be made and how much people can inform it and then moving ahead with what needs to happen. It was hard and, as we all know, it was not a sprint, it was a marathon. It still is. We're still living in a pandemic world. This year, for me, has been very intentional about helping people reconnect and refind that sense of belonging in the community as they returned in person and as we've also embraced and been in support of some telework schedules that we hadn't even considered five years ago and helping people feel comfortable with that. Having a lot of intention and this year around connection and belonging has been also a key.” 

 You’re listening to the Finding Joy podcast from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane. Our guest is Peggy Odegard, the interim dean at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. 

 Doug: You've had a chance to observe your students as they've gone through this process as well. Are they getting back to normal, so to speak? 

 Peggy Odegard: “The one thing that the students modeled for us, which I found fascinating during the pandemic, is that we had adjusted our admissions process about two years before the pandemic hit and we became very intentional around looking for the qualities of resiliency and what we termed comfort with uncertainty in prospective students, because we felt healthcare's changing so rapidly and we needed to be bringing in candidates to our PharmD program that had a natural sense in experience with resiliency, a bounce back or a fail forward ability. And then were also comfortable with uncertainty because a drug that is used today may not be the drug that's used tomorrow. And so we had been selecting for those types of students. Then the pandemic hits. What we found and what was modeled wonderfully by our students to us is the students were very comfortable with uncertainty, maybe more comfortable than some of the faculty and others around then and we noticed it. We thought, wow, we've been selecting for comfort with uncertainty and now we're witnessing it. It was humbling and it was a good model to follow. But, you know, even if you're comfortable with uncertainty, you can still want information, so trying to also be really aware of what people needed in regard to communication and knowing that people hear things at different times and in different ways. So we kind of went into like a multimodal communication strategy to try and make sure that as people came back to the in-person education, we could try and be in front of the communication as much as possible. And I'll be honest with you, it was tough. Last fall we came back and then omicron hit over the holiday period and so then we ended up being back to remote the first part of winter quarter and then we came back in person. And so this push-me-pull-you of going back and forth started really creating too much uncertainty for people. But you know, in my position, kind of being between the students and faculty and then the university's administration, trying to kind of be the listening ear on each side of that equation and then figure out with a lot of my colleagues, how do we help people feel a little more certainty rather than just a week-by-week change.” 

 Doug: What about the healthcare system as a whole as it tried to adapt through all of this? What are the things that you find encouraging and what are the things that you find that are not so good?” 

 Peggy Odegard: “The healthcare system, I think, adapted quickly and really well in that, when it became very clear that we couldn't all just keep gathering in person for healthcare, we shifted quickly to figuring out what could happen that not in person such as what could telehealth visits be used for. And honestly, I think that accelerated us to a change that probably should have been reflecting on 10 years ago, including our government stepping in from a policy standpoint and changing reimbursement policies and things like that. And the output of that is we currently have a healthcare system now that embraces telehealth visits and is set up to manage those. That was, I think, good. I think one of the challenges the healthcare system had at the same time, though, is almost like a depersonalization. We were trying to make sure people are getting the care they needed, but then, we quickly realized people, for example, aren't getting their regular prescriptions filled because they don't want to go to a pharmacy, so we have to figure this out differently. And we realized people with upper respiratory infections sometimes are those people who need to get into a provider and be assessed. We’re telling them, don't come to the clinics if you have an upper respiratory infection. So then we had to set up kind of Covid clinics for people to go to. And so some of those things I think they were a little maybe more reactive then what was helpful. And I mean, to this day, if you have cough or cold symptoms and call your provider, they almost don't want you to come in, so that slips to a telehealth visit. I think we're still kind of learning as a healthcare system. In a pandemic, because everyone's affected, I think we tried to alter a system quickly, but pay a lot of attention and important respect to the fact that the clinicians in the system also needed to be kept safe. And I know, for pharmacies, for example, at the beginning, the community-based pharmacies felt really, frankly, a little bit left out because they were out in communities with people coming in sick and saying, how can I get tested? It took a little while before we paid attention to the fact that pharmacy staff in communities are really at high risk right now. I think if we could do it over, we might have more proactively thought about how to do that because that also resulted in people getting burned out and thinking, why am I doing this? Does anyone care what I'm doing? And, of course everyone cared, but I think we were all in a little bit of survival mode.” 

 Doug: Is the pharmacy profession in good shape right now? 

 Peggy Odegard: <laugh> “The pharmacy profession to me is awe inspiring with the ability to be in so many communities. Almost every community in America, and that includes hospitals and long-term care settings and all the different places that pharmacists work. So I think that's a wonderful opportunity. Th  e pandemic sort of shined a light on some of the working conditions in pharmacies. The dollar kind of follows the product and so there's still a lot of focus on kind of getting prescriptions filled in, especially the community setting when there's so much opportunity for enhancing access to non-dispensing types of services through pharmacies. And, you know, we're really lucky in Washington state, we have the legislative and policy support and the training of our pharmacists who are doing fabulous things in community settings. But I know, across the country there's been some tough press about working conditions in pharmacies and a lot of us are giving some thought to that of how do we change that, because it's really a wonderful profession that's been around for hundreds of years. I would say pharmacists are trained to kind of think like a drug and so it's really a unique expertise. You're trained to think about what the drug is for, what it does once it's in the body, how well it's going to help, what problems it might cause and how someone might need to live or what they might need to do to be able to use it. You have this whole perspective through the lens of what the drug is bringing to the situation and really no other health professionals are trained in that same set of domains. I think the profession is in a spot of it's poised for opportunity, let's say that. We've got a lot of opportunity that we're also taking advantage of in Washington state, but I think across the country and the world, to have pharmacists have more positioning as real accessible healthcare professionals, especially in community settings, will be nothing but good for the public health.” 

  Peggy Odegard is the interim dean and a professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Washington. We thank her for joining us. 

 [theme music] 

 We also thank the following individuals for their contributions to the Finding Joy podcast series: 

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

• Cameron Cupp, creator of the “Finding Joy” musical score and a current student 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, the original executive producer of the podcast, and student intern Solen Aref. They developed the first five episodes of “Finding Joy.” 

This episode was produced by Doug Nadvornick. 

If you are interested in sharing your perspective about well-being as a healthcare professional or would like to reach out, you can contact our team by sending an email to: We encourage you to visit our website at: