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superpower | Danny van Leeuwen Health Hats - Part 2

A new threshold – laid off

By | Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient, Leader | 9 Comments

As you were recently informed, due to the need to reduce operating costs, the Hospital is required to eliminate positions. Unfortunately, your position is one of those affected by this difficult decision.

A definite threshold in a health journey. Going through the stages of grief exiting one space and excited by new prospects as I enter the next. This is where some earlier posts on my blog come in: ResiliencySuperpowersRest, Improvisation.
What have I learned these past few weeks about the industry? Frantic rush to merge, expand, and cut expenses – dynamic tension between these simultaneous imperatives. A few organizations are well poised to consider, now what – many are not. The challenges of creating systemness and alignment from diverse cultures and entities, always endemic in health care, are now more pressing. Rapid, intense change causes teams within organizations to constrict, contract, protect. Leaders can leverage this stressful opportunity to create alignment by focusing on the patient, providers, and staff experience. Who can disagree with this beacon? Focusing on patient experience across the continuum of care is intrinsically rewarding – spiritually healing – and makes business sense because positive experience prevents leakage and increases loyalty. Clinicians are critical – they understand healing. Leaders need their help applying their craft to organizational health. Their jobs are harder, they need superpowers more than ever. They know where the system is weak and wasteful, just look at their workarounds – pearls  for change. Patients want their journey to be simpler and kinder – it’s far cheaper and more effective to anticipate their needs rather react to their dissatisfaction. Everywhere we find relationships requiring information and communication – patients, caregivers, providers, staff, leaders. Automate that sharing of information – bidirectional where possible.
I need to rest and heal to prepare for the intensely exciting new vistas ahead. I have worked my whole career to be ready for this moment. Be still my heart.

Magic lever – resilience

By | Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Leader | No Comments
Tragedy is the common unifying force of life and organizations. The more seasoned you are, the more likely you are to have experienced personal and organizational tragedy – a death, diagnosis of serious illness, job loss, legal difficulties, downsizing, loss of a contract, loss of key staff, loss, loss, loss.


My daughter-in-law texted me, May the force be with you, as I was in the midst of a personal tragedy.  What is this force, this superpower? How does a person or an organization survive a loss, a tragedy and regain best health? Resiliency. According to SAMHSA resilience is the ability to:
  • Bounce back
  • Take on difficult challenges and still find meaning in life
  • Respond positively to difficult situations
  • Rise above adversity
  • Cope when things look bleak
  • Tap into hope
  • Transform unfavorable situations into wisdom, insight, and compassion
  • Endure
The American Psychological Association reports the following attributes about resilience:
  • The capacity to make and carry out realistic plans
  • Communication and problem-solving skills
  • A positive or optimistic view of life
  • Confidence in personal strengths and abilities
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings, emotions, and impulses
Can resilience be learned? How can we increase the resilience capacity for ourselves, our families, our organizations, and our communities? What tools can help increase our resilience capacity?

Magic lever – changing habits

By | Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient | 4 Comments
One of the magic levers impacting best health is automatically using widely accepted, well tested practices (evidence-based practice). For example hand washing. Seems like a no brainer – washing hands between patients for professionals, before caring for your loved one, after going to the bathroom for everyone. Another is limiting antibiotic use to treat viruses. Also preventing or reversing obesity. I’m fascinated how hard it is for professionals to change practice informed by widely accepted research or even common sense. Is it similar to maintaining good life habits? I suspect that inertia plays a major role. It’s hard to change gears in a busy productive life. Heck, its hard to change gears in an unproductive life. How do we get the stars in alignment to do the right thing when we definitely know what the right thing is? How do you effect change in your professional and personal life? What are key factors that others can replicate? We spend so much money and human capital on trying to change behavior – consultants, training, how-to-manuals. What works? Being able to change habits is a superpower.

Releasing the Inner Improviser

By | Caregiver, Clinician, Leader | 2 Comments

Best health includes improvisation in the relationship between health professionals and those in their care. One picture of improvisation is discretion to customize response and interaction and go off script and track with each individual’s or families journey. Yet the capacity of health professionals to remain up-to-date in their knowledge, compliant with practice and regulation, and productive while still able to be kind and improvise approaches possessing a superpower. As Kate commented yesterday, other knowledge workers – teachers – have the same challenges.

What conditions release the inner improviser?  Let’s consider a few: clarity of purpose; trust and team dynamics; predictability and responsiveness of  systems; and ability to learn from the improv: fix what seems broken.

Clarity of purpose can be mission, focus on the task at hand, or even clear boundaries. Every organization I’ve worked for had a mission statement. St. Peter’s Health Care Services (SPHCS) in Albany, NY, was committed to being a transforming healing presence in the communities we serve. Like the golden rule, easy to say, tough to do. Difficult decisions at SPHCS often included explicit consideration of the mission.  Focusing on the task at hand is mindfulness. As in right now the task at hand is pain relief, teaching, mobility, whatever. Not my co-worker, not the next person who needs me, not Dancing with the Stars. Concentration. Zen. Finally, improvisation occurs within boundaries – knowing the tune. For health workers the tune is policies and procedures, regulations, standards of practice.

Trust and team dynamics. Sustaining kindness and improvisation without feeling trust in yourself and your team truly IS superpower. Good team dynamics are healthy relationships – role clarity, communication that greases the constant shifting and movement of the day’s flow, re-prioritization, and mutual helpfulness.

Predictability and responsiveness of  systems used by your team –  workflow, supply chain, information systems. Knowledge workers create work arounds when systems don’t work quite right. They ingeniously seek a state where they can accomplish their daily tasks productively. Disruption of these systems draws valuable energy away from kindness and improvisation.

If all the stars are in alignment and staff feels able and empowered to improvise, we are idiots if we don’t learn and fix. Some proportion of improv is kindness and some is in response to something that is broken. Often both. Lord, I feel another post coming on.

I contend that the most important job of leaders – the people who supervise those who touch the public – is to nurture the environment of kindness and improvisation. Nurture the environment and model the behavior.

Improv and Health Leadership

By | Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Leader | 7 Comments

Why improv and health leadership? Health experience is unique, of the moment, a journey. A different possible riff every moment.

The patient, client, consumer (let me use the term consumer for now) expects safe, quality, kind, empathetic care and service from professionals and their organizations-it’s a given. Even when safe, quality, and kind are present the health journey can be a very rough road. The challenge for the professional and support staff is to maximize the ability to know and relate to consumers as individuals and respond to the roadblocks, detours, potholes of that journey. 

The compliments my peers hear about health care are not usually about saving a life, successful surgery, hand washing. Rather it’s about the housekeeper who brought coloring books to the child; it’s about the nurse who knew the child’s passion for Ninja Turtles and brought a Ninja Turtle balloon to the bedside or exam room; it’s about the doctor who called the family on her day off; it’s about the registrar who found a private space for a mother to breast feed a non-patient child. These leverage the whole experience positively.

The relationship between professional caregivers and consumers includes constant improv-discretion to customize response and interaction and go off script. Yet the capacity of caregivers to stay up-to-date in their knowledge, compliant with practice and regulation, and productive while still able to improvise approaches superpower.

How can professionals and support staff tap their inner superpower without the intentional complicity of their leaders? Health leaders model and create the conditions that cultivate and learn from this improv. More about those conditions in the next blog.

Superpowers

By | Caregiver, ePatient, Family man | 2 Comments

What are my superpowers? What are your superpowers? Love having this conversation with my grandson. Today, he has atomic breath like Godzilla (especially in the morning). I first had this conversation with my son when we first knew he was dying of cancer. His superpower was poetry.

i am not things.
i am sums of things,
guessing that i’m part of God,
wondering if there is some place
where my soul will go
from where i might look down
with advantages my eyes did not have
and see the tops of trees
which i used to walk beneath for
shelter from rain and sun,
and see the way things go together
like continental tracts of land
punctuated by water and lights
and roads and other concrete artifices

Preface to “the way I become about dying” by Michael P Funk, 2002

When diagnosed with MS, my superpower became the ability to accept what is. Superpowers are a magic lever for best health.

What are your superpowers?