Inspiring Compassionate Communication
In Healthcare
January 2021
A Heavy Place

Friends, Each Thursday, I lead a short Zoom discussion on leadership. The intended audience is healthcare administrators, but really, it’s usually a leadership topic that can benefit pretty much anyone.

This past week, my topic was heavy: Suicide.

In preparation, I studied up on what we all know just from watching the news; there’s been a rapid and significant increase in suicide and suicidal ideology, specifically of health workers, brought on by the pandemic. The amount of post traumatic stress created by the constant and overwhelming flow of Covid patients has been horrible for the mental and emotional health of many docs, nurses, therapists, and others witnessing this tragedy up close.

Widen the lens a bit from healthcare professionals; look at the entire country. The anxiety and depression rates we are experiencing are mind boggling. More people are seeking mental and emotional help than ever before. That parts a good thing - I think everyone can benefit from professional counseling. The thing is, people are seeking counseling as a response to Covid trauma, not preventatively for life improvement.

The CDC is estimating that as many as 75,000 Americans may die from “deaths of despair.” Say that with me. Deaths of despair. I know, like me, just the words break your heart. That is things like suicide and overdoses caused from hopelessness.

There is so, so much pain right now. If there is ever a time when we need to lean into more kindness, it’s now.

That’s the philosophy I’ve been trying to live lately. We are a human race. A country, a world, that is in mourning. We show compassion to those who are in pain, right? I believe that we do… when we understand that someone is indeed in pain.

Empathy and understanding are human needs… and yet I’ll never truly know how it feels to be a hospital caregiver. Still, I can recognize that to witness so much loss and suffering is something we’re not really equipped to do as humans. And then we’re asked to do something so traumatic and it’s on going? That is just so, so much.

Several times per day, I have to stop. To pause. It just comes over me… this feeling of dismay for those at the bedside. I shake my head in awe at the strength of nurses. I am amazed by the ingenuity and steadfastness of docs. I marvel at respiratory therapists and their ability to perform under pressure… even when their health may be at risk.

I’ll never know the depths of what hospital friends are going through… and have gone through. I am eternally grateful for each and every one who has shared their story with me. By giving me a glimpse into their reality, and their pain. By allowing me to witness what they see day after day. When they bravely step forward to share, we get the opportunity to become empathetic. To help carry the burden. It is nothing less than an honor.

I’m proud of nurses and docs, CNAs and RTs - everyone who is hands on in this emergency. I know I’ll never fully be able to understand, but I’ll always listen. And, if you love someone in healthcare… please listen. Just be there. And let them know you’re here.

Presence is the greatest gift we can give another human being.
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