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90 in 90: Dr. Heather Farley, ChristianaCare

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Fix the coal mine. Don’t just make the canary stronger.
You can’t take the canary, teach it to be more resilient, then stick it back in the same coal mine and expect it to survive. You must change the coal mine. That means, for example, changing the environment surrounding all employees, fostering a culture of well-being and removing inefficient administrative burdens.

ChristianaCare Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Heather Farley

Respect that healing takes time.
Over the past three years we’ve experienced collective trauma. At ChristianaCare we’ve developed The CARE Model as a framework for our healing. 

C: Cope with communication, compassion, and creativity 

A: Acknowledge experiences at all levels within all organizational units

R: Remember the losses, challenges, and changes faced 

E: Emerge by integrating experiences into values and behaviors 

We must remember the workforce is still healing. The fastest way to heal and effectively move forward is to take the time to do so. 

Never underestimate the power of human connection.
It’s OK to not be OK. Being vulnerable can create a powerful connection within a team.  As trauma specialist Dr. Judith Herman once said, “the solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience.” 

Take microbreaks.
Human beings can’t stay at peak mental and physical performance for 8, 10, 12 hours a day. Our brains and bodies need microbreaks to perform optimally. It’s not a weakness; it’s just how we’re wired as humans. Microbreaks make us more effective.

Find joy in your work.
Joy at work doesn’t necessarily look like skipping around the office. Joy is deeply personal and comes from developing meaningful relationships, finding purpose or achieving a goal.  A Mayo Clinic study found physicians are at a lower risk of burnout if they spend at least 20% of their work effort engaged in activities they find most meaningful. Identify what is meaningful to you and add a little more of it to each day.

Stalk your calling.
“A weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.” In her essay ‘Living Like Weasels,’ Annie Dillard says you need to stalk your calling, like a weasel does.

Once you’ve figured out your calling, you’ll see through the noise and make your way through obstacles with clarity. You’ll do whatever it takes to hold onto your one necessity.

Dance lightly between change and acceptance.
Change management consultant Dr. Lani Nelson-Zlupko says when you have a problem, you have three choices. Stay stuck. Change it. Accept it. You can’t always change it; you shouldn’t always accept it; but you should never stay stuck. Not choosing is, in fact, a choice – the choice to stay stuck.

Take the leap of faith.
As we’re stalking our calling, we must take risks. To be true to your calling, you need to jump off that cliff. Have faith in something – your skills, your ability to grow and adapt – is there to catch you. You’re going to be OK.

Put and keep yourself on your calendar.
We are good at keeping our professional commitments. But we often do that at the expense of keeping the commitments we’ve made to ourselves. Give yourself permission to protect your personal commitments as fiercely as you attend to your professional ones.  

Make the positive stuff stickier.
Our brains are wired to pay attention to the negative stuff. So, we must give active and direct attention to the positive stuff.

While you’re doing that, notice the people who helped make positive things happen and express gratitude to them. That will not only help make the positive things stick better for you, but also for them.

Dr. Heather Farley is the chief wellness officer of ChristianaCare. 

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