Give your healthcare workers and your community support instead of lip-service.
As soon as you call someone a hero, you've dehumanized them. And not just because you've asked them to do something extraordinary and superhuman. Heroes necessarily sacrifice. To be a hero means that you've given up something precious to help others. In popular real-life examples - think the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center or the technicians who stopped the Fukushima reactor - we think of heroes risking their personal health or life to save someone else's. Heroes are necessarily disposable.
But they don't feel that way to their loved ones.
You can do better by your fellow healthcare workers. (And - believe it or not - we're saying this assuming that all your healthcare workers have sufficient PPE, which they very likely do not.)
When thinking about healthcare workers, please consider how you can help address...
More Than Physical Health
Let's get the obvious out of the way: the brain is part of the body. But we definitely don't treat it that way. It would make sense if we separated mental healthcare like any other specialty, but we treat psychiatry as a secondary consideration to, say, endocrinology.
This is emblematic of the problematic approach that healthcare takes to most issues: fix what's broken right now and worry about the rest when we have time for it. In the operating room, it may be necessary to address the punctured lung before the broken arm, but the most important word there is "before." You have to get to the thing you've been putting off eventually, because if you let it try to fix itself - just like the broken bone - it's probably not going to go seamlessly.
You have to address healthcare worker shortages and burnout. Because the alternative is no more clinicians. Which means no more healthcare.
To me, this is the most alarming chart from the Great Resignation: Skyrocketing quits in health care— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) January 4, 2022
Doctors, nurses, aides & more are burned out and we're still in a pandemic
Healthcare quit rate:
Nov: 3% pic.twitter.com/WZucDL0MjL
More Than Clinicians
If you aren't motivated by the dire circumstances that the people in your community are facing - whether that's the community of your neighbors, your coworkers, or your peers - you don't have to be. When we way "they," we mean "us" and "you." When we say "healthcare workers," we mean everybody.
The stories of nurses bruising their faces from prolonged use of decaying one-use masks get a lot of attention, because 1) they're horrible, and 2) clinical staff will always be the face of healthcare. That's inaccurate and a dangerous mindset to have, especially if you yourself work in healthcare.
Without the person keeping laundry clean, the person keeping the departmental budget balanced, and the person keeping every internet-connected device free of breaches, the healthcare provider can't provide.
So why is it that the healthcare support workers who are facing all the same fears and stressors surrounding infection as the clinicians are five times as likely to be food insecure as clinicians? Why are technicians still twice as likely to be unable to access nutritious food? Does you think you'd do your job well if you were underfed and had to add the stress of affording food onto all the other things stressing you out?
(Insert any basic necessity like housing, childcare, and healthcare itself in place of "food," and you start really understanding the problem.)
More Than The Present
Oh, god. We have to worry about the future, too?
Yes, let's presume for the sake of argument that the U.S. healthcare engine will still be running after we give it a couple of repairs and an extremely thorough inspection. So how do we do better than repairing and prevent the next breakdown?
That starts with hiring the right people, which we've talked about a few times over the years. And it continues by treating your new hires properly.
We ought to reward the next generation of healthcare workers - the people who see the suffering that they see in the patients and the people who serve them and are actually motivated to help - by extending them some respect. Stop talking about the differences between generations. It's unscientific, and what's worse for the workplace is that it's disruptive.
Dear #Nurses, for the 30 years I have been a nurse I have heard colleagues complain about the "new generation" of nurses. Instead of complaining, we should be learning with and from new generations of nurses. I love Gen Z nurses. They are change agents. https://t.co/XfH7tHRsP9— Dr. Anna Maria Valdez (@drannamvaldez) January 5, 2022
And that's just one part of how you can reinforce the supports holding up your future. Want to start planning for the near-term survival of your organization? We've been telling you from the beginning. Find savings opportunities in every department.
We're not saying that flippantly. It's a big ask. You don't have time to do it all yourself. The drudgery that keeps you going right now - finding food, fixing that thing that's broken, and keeping your shelves stocked - will take up most of your time.
For our part, we can help you with everyday tasks like keeping your shelves stocked. We can help you with the high-level tasks of finding savings opportunities to keep you afloat. We can even provide some labor to supplement your supply chain staff.
We're here to help. That doesn't make us heroic. It makes us people, just like you.