When I think back on my experiences in healthcare, I think about multiple environments. The environments in which I practiced – and continue to practice – are as different as the patients for whom I was entrusted.
I have knelt beside a combine, working in the dark with side floods lights of my apparatus and four wheeler headlights.
I have stood in immaculate kitchens where I broke the news to a time worn face that the code I had been leading in the living room was unsuccessful and we had pronounced time of death after speaking with medical direction on the phone.
I have helped deliver a baby in a bathtub to a non-English speaking mother who refused to look at the beautiful newborn chunky baby boy, whose eyes opened in wonderment at the sudden, bright new world around him.
I have hurried beneath ER lights, lifted homeless from curbside onlookers and sat playing card bingo with elderly who’ve been deprived of the touch of their loved ones for too many months to count.
The thing that carried me, motivated me, renewed me and inspired me to rise above the negative and strive one more time, for one more stranger’s face – was leadership.
When I think of leadership, I think of those who were identified by their vehicles or offices as my company’s leadership. I think of veteran healthcare providers who sometimes led by a hand on a shoulder, a look across a scene, a presence at my elbow in a trauma bay littered with futile remains of hard working efforts in a battle we couldn’t win, or even a quiet voice advising me through the phone lines.
But leadership too, was present the day a rookie employee taught me how to “not be so scary and direct”, or when a patient family taught me about letting go during a return hospice trip home for the last time.
Leadership was there, servant leadership, when a crew sat in silent solidarity with me at my mother’s hospice bedside. Leadership was in full, glorious display when my fellow paramedics packed up her belongings for me for the last time when I, simply, could not face that empty room that still smelled like her.
Leadership doesn’t come inherent with the title, the office or the seniority. Leadership comes in silent example, in uplifting encouragement, in the quiet certainty shared that makes me the better person, the better provider – and ultimately, shapes who I am on the clock as well as off. Leadership builds you up – or takes you down a peg. Leadership is a gift, and I believe the core principle of leadership is this – my personal saying “teach up, don’t talk down”. Leadership walks among us every day, and if we are wise – we recognize it, respect it, learn from it and emulate it.
As we go through this pandemic, we need to be servant leaders of one another. We are all under more stress, more pressure – from kids at home struggling with new ways of learning, from work stressors and patient stressors and all the things that can pull us by the hand, seeking our attention, our energy. If we are not careful, stress can boil over like an unwatched pot of water left on the stove too long. The worst of this is the added stress it brings to another, and the cycle continues.
Lend an ear, a hand, extend some grace and patience to those around us. We are all stronger together, but we have to lean together. Thank you for all you are doing, all of you. They will speak of this year, and of us who adapted and reacted to it, for years to come.Let’s be great. Let’s be leaders.