7 Key Themes on Working Human in Healthcare

April 28, 2020 Lynne Levy

4-minute read

healthcare worker

Across the healthcare industry, nurses and doctors are braving danger while caring for the critically ill, while others are racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19. To show our appreciation for the challenges faced by healthcare workers, Workhuman® Chief Human Resources Officer Steve Pemberton spoke to four healthcare heroes as part of our “Keeping Work Human” series.

Despite being on the front lines of this crisis, each speaker had hope and relentless optimism for the future. Here are seven key themes that emerged from our interviews:

1.     Take time to pause.

While at the hospital, healthcare workers do not have time to process emotions or take care of their personal needs. They are focused on the crisis at hand. Between caring for patients and communicating with patients’ family members who cannot be in the hospital, the days for healthcare workers are long, emotional, and intense.

Jen Miller, a nurse in New York, uses her 30-minute commute to process whatever she is feeling. And if she is still processing when she gets home, she makes sure to take care of herself so she can be ready for the next day. "You just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and do it all over again," she said.  

The importance of introspection applies to the rest of us as well. We each must dedicate some time each day to process the challenges we are all experiencing. We cannot pretend things are normal; they are not. We all need to give ourselves the space to take care of our emotions. 

2.     Put people at the center.

Even before the pandemic, hospitals were facing supply and staff shortages. Megan Walsh, a physical therapist, is hopeful there will be an awakening in the healthcare industry where people will be at the center, not budgets and profits. "It's a business first and foremost, but it's a business of people,” she said. “Without healthcare providers, you don't have a business." When you see pictures of hospital workers on the front lines – with exhaustion in their eyes and bruises on their faces from masks – you realize people are at the heart of healthcare, not technology.

3.     Stay home and be careful.

The most important thing we can do is stay home and socially isolate. In his interview, Doug Mason, scientific group director at ZeptoMetrix, focused on the global effort to build a COVID-19 vaccine. "Never take any chances if you're uncertain," he said. Whether cleaning a surface at home or keeping 6 feet away from another person at the grocery store, take the necessary precautions. 

4.     Small gestures matter.

Every message helps lift the spirits of healthcare workers on the front line. If you live in New York, go outside and clap at 7 p.m. If you have a few minutes, visit Workhuman’s Thank You Healthcare webpage and express gratitude to a specific hospital or individual healthcare worker. Each expression of gratitude matters.

5.     Celebrate every win.

The entire country is expressing gratitude in so many ways to our healthcare heroes. Even within hospitals, nurses and doctors are expressing gratitude and celebrating each win. In the AtlantiCare hospital system, teams are having “grateful gatherings” where the staff gets together to share success stories of people surviving COVID-19. The hospital also plays "Here Comes the Sun," by the Beatles, each time a COVID-19 patient is discharged. Heather McVey, AtlantiCare’s corporate director of customer experience said, "Not only is it celebratory for the patient, but it brings the staff together and reminds everyone that they are all in this together."

6.     Appreciate connection.

As we work through this crisis, there is a renewed understanding that we are all connected as a human family. We each need to take care of ourselves, but also the greater community. For example, the AtlantiCare Foundation is supporting food banks and local restaurants are delivering gourmet food to hospital workers. 

7.     Live the power of “yes.”

Steve said: "I believe in the power of saying ‘yes’ because it opens up new opportunities, dreams, and goals. When we have this opportunity to be home and take a side road off our normal path, we can focus on what we've given up and what we've lost. But we can also say ‘yes’ to things that we've gained, the things that we never really thought were possible."

If we all focus on the word "yes," we will get through this together. Whether, "Yes I can help you," "Yes, I can support the community by staying home," or "Yes, at this moment I am present with you," this simple mantra gives us hope.

This too shall pass, but it will not pass on its own. It will pass because individuals such as the ones highlighted in this healthcare series are dedicating themselves to getting us through this crisis. And to them we say, “Thank you.”


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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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