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What the Military Can Teach Us About Resiliency

The pandemic that has consumed the country — the world — for more than a year has come with a hefty psychological toll for many, especially hospital staff and front-line health care workers. They’ve been working non-stop to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. Staff burnout is real, and it’s been the topic of many recent discussions with hospital leaders. As we inch toward the finish line and start to contemplate a post-pandemic landscape, we need to keep our health care workers top of mind.

Recently, I was asked to participate in a virtual panel discussion about hospital staff resiliency with colleagues from around the country. One of the panelists was from the Air Force and likened the pandemic to the challenges faced by our military. Those challenges include:

  • A set of shared experiences
  • An unknown set of circumstances
  • A significant amount of life-and-death situations
  • Uncertainty as to the duration and intensity of the situation
  • The mutual support of a team facing the same set of challenging circumstances and stepping up when our colleagues needed help
  • Providing selfless acts for both the team and the mission — in the case of COVID-19, the patient

However, there is one big difference between what our military faces and what our health care heroes are facing. The military was specifically trained for these types of events; many of our health care workers were navigating the pandemic “blind,” having never been through something like this before, and in many cases were trying to build the airplane as they were flying. For health care workers, this was a mission unlike any they’ve ever faced and, hopefully, will never have to face again.

But regardless of the situation — whether it’s in the military or a hospital setting — resiliency and support are critical when facing an intense and challenging mission. The words that the U.S. Air Force Weapons School lives by — humble, approachable, credible — could also easily describe our health care workforce. And at the same time, they remind us that our fellow Californians are looking to their health care leaders to not only provide the excellent care they have come to expect, but also to continue to lead us to the conclusion of this pandemic.

As we transition to the next phase of COVID-19, Hospital Council remains dedicated to continuing its collective efforts to thank, support, and listen to health care workers.

 

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