Replenishing the Organization’s Emotional Bank Account

Most people enter healthcare with a full emotional bank account. They start out engaged and inspired, with a deep desire to be helpful and useful, and can’t wait to get started. Go to a pinning ceremony and see how excited the nurses are.

Watch a doctor get their white lab coat in medical school. Notice their excitement when accepted into a residency. 

Non-clinical people are just as excited to get a job in healthcare. Hospitals and healthcare practices tend to have great reputations in the community, the job likely has a good benefit plan, and they’re feeling really good about being part of the healthcare profession. 

The challenge is that while people start full of passion, there tends to be a lot more natural withdrawals from the emotional bank account, many of which there is no control over. 

In healthcare, we experience tough things on a daily basis. Consider what it’s like for a clinician caring for a seriously ill or injured person. At times, despite their best efforts, they just can’t save that patient. While they do heroic work every day, doctors and staff are human. The loss of a patient is a huge withdrawal from the emotional bank account. 

In addition, work/life balance provides unique situations for healthcare workers. For example, you’re an ICU nurse. You get a call from the school saying your daughter got a bump on her head and is probably okay, but you will want to come get her. When you do frontline care, especially when you’re caring for very sick patients, it’s just not always possible to break away like it is for people in other jobs. 

Leaders have added struggles. There are so many things that cannot be controlled. With the stroke of a pen, reimbursement can change drastically. And when this happens, cuts, changes, and delays are often inevitable. Reductions in force may need to take place. Purchases may need to be postponed. These are messages that are hard for leaders to deliver and hard for staff members to hear. These can be huge emotional bank account withdrawals.

The takeaway is that because there are so many natural withdrawals from people’s emotional bank accounts, healthcare organizations must be great at making deposits. Leaders are not immune from withdrawals from our own emotional bank accounts, either. To help replenish others, we must also replenish ourselves. We need to become experts at replenishing—ourselves, our employees, and our organizations. 

My new book, The Calling (September 2021), is meant to help those working in healthcare to keep their emotional bank account full. It starts by identifying common barriers that can subconsciously prevent us from keeping our bank account full. Then it lays out some mind shifts, tools, techniques, and best practices—replenishers—that help refill and renew the sense of passion that can get temporarily depleted. 

The good news is we can build replenishment into our culture. We can hardwire tools and tactics that create consistent processes and behaviors, and ultimately, consistent outcomes. We can benchmark departments that are performing well, harvest those best practices, and transfer them to other areas. We can teach the phases of competency and change so people know what to expect when we ask them to do something new. 

There are ways to communicate that reduce anxiety, create engagement, and resonate with people’s values. We can reward, recognize, and say thank you (gratitude is a powerful force). We can use storytelling to connect people to the difference they make. Many of these replenishers seem like small acts, but done consistently, they will have a huge impact.

People in healthcare need replenishing more than ever. The past year and a half has left so many of us stressed out, burned out, and traumatized. And COVID is certainly not the last disruptor we’ll face. Healthcare will always be defined by change, which is why emotional bank accounts need constant refilling.

By creating cultures of replenishment, we can live up to our human responsibility to our patients, our clinicians, our employees, and ourselves. 

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Quint Studer is a highly regarded expert in operational excellence. His books, tools, and techniques are staples in healthcare. Thousands have been touched by his work. His new book, The Calling, helps individuals replenish themselves, their teams, and their organizations. To learn more, please visit www.thegratitudegroup.com/the-calling.

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