Surgery center leaders and staff can improve their resilience and coping mechanisms during the COVID-19 pandemic by practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, healthy eating, exercise, and group sharing.
Below are some suggested techniques to help those who are short on free time:
• Get rid of the “what ifs.” When trying to center, the whole point is to stay in the moment, not worry about all the “what ifs” that could lie ahead that day.
“You want to be prepared if something happens, but stop thinking about it,” says Deborah McElligott, DNP, AHN-BC, HWNC-BC, CDE, a nurse practitioner at the Center for Wellness and Integrative Medicine at Northwell Health in Roslyn, NY. “That’s where mindfulness comes in — prayer, imagery, meditation.”
• Morning check-in. “A daily check-in with the team is very powerful,” McElligott says. “Before you start your day, do a morning huddle, a brief check-in of ‘How is everybody doing? Is there anything personal going on?’ That environment has to be created by the leader, and it has to be a mindset that everyone honors and respects each person they work with.”
It can be challenging to incorporate this into daily routines. McElligott suggests starting small, perhaps start the day with a short prayer or quick meditation.
“We have heard throughout the crisis of how many people have bonded together and been supportive,” McElligott says. “But there’s the added pressure of ‘Am I bringing this home to my family?’ There are so many stressors involved in that.”
Create a space for people to verbalize when they need to discuss their issues. Also, provide employee wellness and health education and encourage everyone to engage in this learning in groups. That way, employees may not feel they are going at this alone.
• Storytelling. Nurses and other healthcare professionals may be reluctant to talk about what they are going through during the pandemic. One technique that might provide employees with an outlet for communicating their experiences is a workshop on storytelling or expressive writing.
“Expressive writing is when a small group of nurses comes together, and one person facilitates the gathering,” says Jin Jun, PhD, RN, assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing.
Each group member is asked to write a story of his or her life. They do not necessarily have to share their writing, but the act of writing can be therapeutic. “It’s very much like a therapy session,” Jun offers. “It works because a lot of times what people need is the space and time to process their emotions and think it through.”
Every nurse wants to do a good job, but sometimes they are bogged down by what happens at work and at home. After a while, they forget why they were bothered in the first place.
“Storytelling gives them time and space to think,” Jun says. “I interviewed nurses who participated in these workshops last year. The topics they wrote about were varied.” Often, the nurses did not want to talk about their own stories, but they did want to talk about how they felt after writing the story.
“They felt it was therapeutic and healing,” Jun says. “A lot of them said they cried during the storytelling ... because it was the first time they had processed their experiences.”
Just putting their stories on paper made them feel heard, and it was healing. “A few said, ‘If I could do this again, I could do it on my own,’” Jun says.
The biggest limitation is the time and cost of providing nurses with this experience. A less expensive option might be to offer nurses an online version of a storytelling group that they could seek on their own.
“They need to come together and share with one another,” Jun says. “They want to be heard.”