In healthcare, life comes at you fast — and case managers may struggle to handle it all. That is when it pays to bring up the adage, “Control what you can, accept the rest.”

But that’s not always so easy, says Joan Brueggeman, RN, BSN, ACM-RN, director of care coordination at Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, WI.

“Healthcare has gone through a lot of changes,” she explains. “There’s been a lot of growth in uncharted territory. Case management has been an integral part of that. But we feel like we’re being pulled in different directions. It throws us off balance; it’s decentering.”

This leads to discord, as team members react with their default behaviors — impulsive and reactionary responses. This is similar to the fight-or-flight response, says Brueggeman. It is a normal human failing, but not always effective.

Instead, we need to learn resilience, she explains. Resilience is defined as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

“Resilience is also a component of mental toughness, a way of reacting to a difficult situation in a disciplined manner,” she says.

In every difficult situation, it is mental toughness and perseverance that will predict the level of success, Brueggeman explains.

One must learn to quickly “hit the big pause button” in the middle of the difficult moment, she says. “Hitting the pause button buys you a little time. You can then think about the situation and make a thoughtful response.” That is what she calls a “disciplined response.”

Of course, if it’s an emergency, it must be handled immediately. “But most things are not emergencies,” she says.

Developing resilience can help with the following:

  • listening more carefully;
  • purposefully trying to understand the facts;
  • responding in a disciplined, purposeful, controlled manner.

When this becomes your new default behavior, you will have a better outcome in these tense situations, she explains. Like emotional intelligence, you can develop mental resilience.

Mental resilience requires being accountable for actions. If you’ve made a mistake, you need to hold yourself accountable, then fix it.

A mentally resilient person also realizes he or she can’t control other people’s opinions and thoughts. You can only control your own attitude and response. “It takes effort,” says Brueggeman. “And you must remember to forgive yourself, as you won’t do it perfectly. That’s OK.”

Case managers also should remember the gift of gratitude. The next time you have a difficult discharge, challenge, or other difficulty that went well, it is important to acknowledge that moment of success, she says.

Let yourself feel gratitude that things went well. “We move so fast, we forget we did this great thing. We don’t take time to say, ‘Wow, we did it.’ Gratitude helps you move on to the next challenge. Gratitude helps us build resilience,” Brueggeman says.