How Can We Live and Practice and this New (Awful) Normal? With Attention to Connection!

Posted on May 1, 2020 in Wellness Committee | 0 comments

Well, I think we have all had that huge sigh of relief that Summit didn’t turn into Brooklyn’s Elmhurst Hospital west, but now here we are with this new awful normal: masks, gloves, social distancing, fewer patients and still plenty of COVID -induced anxiety to go around.

We may not be acutely afraid that we are going to die, but prolonged low (medium?) level stress is toxic.  What is not immediately apparent is that we are not just stressed, but we are losing much of what fuel so and builds resilience at work.  We can’t touch or even get near our great teammates.  We can’t see each other’s face.  Much of what keeps us going happens at an unconscious level: we see a smile we smile, we reach out and grab a patient’s hand and we feel our compassion flow. There is a virtuous cycle, a positive feedback loop where our sensations and proc-social emotions activate and amplify themselves.  The masks, the gloves, the distance, the anxiety all interfere with these and leave our work feeling just not the same.

To prevent the worry about infection, the financial stress, the frustration about political leadership from taking us on a downward spiral, we need to jumpstart positive spirals.  Since much of the external stimuli is missing we need to consciously think about using what we do have – and maybe even in a little exaggerated way.  We need to use:

  • Touch (with gloves, as we can) to convey connection
  • Body language that adds emphasis to our message and our
    emotions that may go above and beyond what we are used to
  • Tone of voice that enhances our words
  • Talk that emphasizes the big stuff, such as love, fear, connection and community when we talk to each other and our patients.

A poorly appreciated silver lining of disasters is that is frees us from our private never-ending stressors and give us a common goal that is only met through acting together.  We have a great culture here at Summit.  If we pay attention to what connects us to our patients and each other, we can come out of this craziness with a stronger more resilient medical center.

Lief Hass, MD – Wellness Committee Chair

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