High incidences of burnout, quiet quitting, suicide, workplace violence, excessive and relentless stress, and chronic staffing shortages reveal a huge need for resilience among health care workers. Resilience is a complex competency involving flexibility of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in response to adversity. Adversity, especially when it comes to working in health care, involves individuals and the cultures they work in. We must keep the culture in mind because, as human beings, health care workers are part of complex adaptive systems. The relational properties of complex adaptive systems, such as adaptability, flexibility, nonlinearity, and self-organization, are key to effective problem-solving. Therefore, health care workers need to be more resilient to face these issues, but they also need to be empowered to impact the issues they face.
Individuals need skills associated with healthy interprofessional and therapeutic boundaries and communication that enable them to have difficult conversations, respect a wide range of diversity, manage conflict, set limits, and collaborate effectively. They also need to work in cultures where they are respected, and such efforts are supported. Respect includes having the necessary resources to provide safe, compassionate care consistently. This added component brings financing health care into the mix.
All of this paints a complex and urgent picture of a problem that needs to be addressed. But how can we address it? Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals can take self-care steps to become more resilient, but that isn’t enough. They also need to become positive change agents for their teams and organizations, and to be effective in that, they need to be stronger collectively. This interrelationship of individual, team, and organizational behaviors is exemplified in a recent KevinMD post called “Why emotional intelligence is critical for safe nurse staffing.”
Professionals need opportunities to develop skills associated with emotional intelligence and communication, as well as build relationships that promote positive contributions to teamwork and culture. From a complex adaptive systems’ perspective, efforts to build soft skills and interprofessional relationships will create the conditions from which solutions can emerge.
Enter medical improv.
Medical improv activities, when facilitated properly, can be used to promote resilience in several ways.
They are based on a “YES AND” philosophy that promotes emotional intelligence and communication skills. Remarkably, different people grow in various ways at the same moment. In other words, one person practices listening while another practices assertiveness and/or confidence, empathy, perspective-taking, and more.
Participants are engaged and have fun. Even a few minutes of play can help to relieve stress.
Participants are engaged and having fun together, building relationships that can shift away from bullying and blaming to forgiving, ownership, and learning.
While this may seem oversimplified for a short post, these conditions nurture professional growth in ways that can positively impact the culture and critical outcomes. As such, individuals become more resilient, and systems become healthier. Not overnight, but over time.
Beth Boynton is a nurse consultant and author specializing in research, training, and writing about emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork, and complexity leadership. She’s a pioneer in developing medical improv as a teaching modality for health care professionals and the founder, Boynton Improv Education. Find out more about upcoming open events, videos, and articles related to medical improv. She can also be reached on Facebook and LinkedIn.