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This edition of Dr. Wesley Burks’ Discussions on Leadership series focuses on finding moments of joy amidst the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

Dear Colleagues,

Things are difficult right now. For each of us as individuals and for our organization as a whole. We are exhausted and depleted. Every decision seems more intense and we are strained, whether that is work related or personal as we try to stay healthy and maintain at least a bit of normalcy for our children and families.

As we have worked together through the pandemic, we have done so with the priority of providing excellent care to our patients and to protecting each other. When we first laid out that priority, we meant physical protection in the form of PPE, but mental and emotional protection is just as important.

As leaders, we can help provide some scaffolding and support to our teams. However, we each need to find some hope and joy personally before we can share that with those around us. I keep a journal that I write in during my personal time. It helps me to express my thoughts and process all that we are experiencing. This is something that I have done for years, and time that I truly value, but I can assure you that through the pandemic I have written more than ever before.

Recently, NPR aired a story where they asked listeners to share what brings them joy. I enjoyed the stories of people who found new passions or recommitted to old ones, from learning to play the violin, gardening, and even roller skating with friends. I’m sure we could find the same variety of passions among each of you, from musicians to marathon runners, avid readers, and home chefs. As much as you can, find time – even schedule it – and recommit to these hobbies and practices that bring you joy.

It’s also important to acknowledge that no one is running with a full tank at the moment. Many people’s lives have changed dramatically over the course of the pandemic, from welcoming new babies, to children switching between in person and online school, or spouses beginning new jobs. If you’ve not done so recently, now would be a good time for open one-on-one conversations with your teammates to listen first, and then try to understand each person’s unique circumstances. Only then can you share your clear expectations.

It’s important to have created a safe and trusting environment where people feel comfortable sharing what is going on in their lives and where you can work together to create plans that benefit the individual and the team. Showing compassion is the most effective way to ensure teammates remain invested in our mission.

In difficult times like those we are facing now, we can continue to unite around our mission and the collective impact that we make in our communities and across the state. I hear stories every day about the lives you are impacting.

I recently heard one about the staff in the CVTICU and a simple act that meant a lot to the family of a young patient. This patient is a Boy Scout and close to starting the process of becoming an Eagle Scout. The staff wanted to do something special to raise his spirits and so they designed a sash covered with merit badges they had drawn and colored. They hung the sash in the patient’s room. When she saw this, the young man’s mother shared that through the thoughtful gesture she knew that the staff truly cared for her son as a person and understood what was important to him.

I know at this point in the pandemic, well-being is a relative term. Some days are certainly better than others. As we move along in this New Year, however, let’s continue to practice compassion and empathy for those we work alongside and those we serve, and let’s commit to celebrating each moment we find joy in our work or help bring a little joy to someone else.



Read previous editions of the “Discussions on Leadership” series: