What in the world is going on? I am sure you have said those words these past two weeks, I know I have. Two weeks ago, my family and I were on Spring Break in Florida when all this hit. We cut our trip short and came back early.Now seeing businesses close, social distancing put into place, many aspects of our society being shut down, in some cases whole states closing and shutting everything down, and our government attempting all efforts possible to prop up the economy, it is hard to get our minds wrapped around why all of this is occurring.
I have always operated with transparency as a leader, counting on the best of human nature, believing the best in people, and believing that if you give people the truth, even the hard truth,they will step up and deal with it. Then if you give them a common goal and some practical tools to navigate the situation, miracles happen. This is the “why” behind this blog.
Shooting Straight – this is what is going on
To the question above regarding what is going on, the efforts being put in place while alarming and truly historic are being put into place in order to “bend the curve,” which is depicted in the graphic below. The casualties we are seeing now are still low which leads many to believe this is being blown out of proportion, but the predicted numbers of people who could be infected from COVID-19 are staggering and could overwhelm our healthcare system.
The below diagram illustrates perfectly what we hope to achieve via the drastic measures of social distancing and shutting much of our society down. We want the blue curve, rather than the red curve. In order to achieve this, everyone must play a part. Each of us is either going to be part of the solution via minimizing the people we interact with, or we are going to be part of the problem via not taking this seriously. This coming week and the next are going to reveal whether the drastic measures that have been instituted have bent the curve enough. That is what we all should be praying for and doing our part to make it so.
Let’s be prepared
Now what if the curve does not bend and the spread is too rapid? I believe that thinking through worst case scenarios is helpful in dealing with a challenging situation, and ultimately getting on the other side of it. In that spirit, we know that the next weeks and months will be a battle. I say this to paint a picture that helps us understand the impact of our own mindsets and attitudes as we walk forward – and the importance of the hero within each of us rising up into action during this time (I wrote a blog about that on Friday - Leadership during Times of Crisis). While I do not want to overstate the point, I do believe that this is a war-like time that should invoke the hero in all of us, especially those of us who work in healthcare. In the calling of our profession, a time like this is going to require the best of all of us.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of being able to shadow an instructor from the Army War College. I had one question for him: “What is more important in war - preparation or improvisation?” Can you guess his answer?
“Both,” he said, “We bring more materials to the battlefield than anyone, and we train on various scenarios. Then, when the battle hits, all that goes out the window and it becomes about improvising. The key is that improvisation actually comes from prior preparation.”
I realize that many of us in healthcare feel like we are not fully prepared for this. With that in mind, here is an exercise to draw in our focus:
- Think of the scenarios we are likely to see the next weeks and months. Don’t shy away from the scary but reasonably expected ones. If you are interested in the ones our TCN team has come up with email me firstname.lastname@example.org, I would be glad to share.
- Then take those scenarios and sit around (via Zoom of course) with a smart, creative group of people on your team and think of the possible solutions to those scenarios. Be sure to capture those ideas and then utilize some of your administrative team members working from home and delegate to them to run down those items so we can be as prepared as we can be for the coming weeks and months.
Also a common goal is critical right now
Abraham Lincoln said over 150 years ago that a house divided against itself cannot stand. In the past week I had two different news stations on side by side trying to glean the right need to know to get critical answers for this huge COVID-19 challenge before us. It was very frustrating to listen to. We all know we were divided as a country prior to this pandemic. Perhaps this challenge before us literally puts two paths before us like Frost’s poem, “The Road not Taken.” One road we can come together around a common goal, or the other path we can continue with the division and rancor. I know where the later of these paths will lead. When people are not united around a common purpose there is no way the goal is accomplished. So in that spirit here is a proposed goal for all of us for the rest of 2020:
Taking care of our families, each other, and getting through this crisis with minimal impact on life and property (I mean that in broadest sense personal and the broader economy).
Here is my ask and my challenge - anything that is not supporting the goal above, don’t give it your attention, your energy, or your support. If enough of us follow this advice we will get through this. If we don’t then the odds are against us.
I am blessed to have friends and co-workers who I love and work alongside and we have different backgrounds, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and family units. The amazing thing is we do amazing work because we are united around a common cause. It works, let’s try it.
These next weeks and months we are going to be making history, what kind will it be?
Last night, as I was reflecting on all this craziness, I remembered an interview I did with my grandfather as an 11- year-old boy. He was a World War II veteran who served in Africa and Italy, and I was interviewing him for a class assignment. He never liked to talk much about WWII, but this time when I interviewed him, he was quite open with me. He shared the challenge of losing friends and he and his friends often thought that they might not make it back. I remember he said the following and I think these are words we all need to hear right now:
“We did not know we were making history. We were just trying to do our job, and we were just trying to do the right thing and to survive.”
Considering the times during which my grandfather learned his survival wisdom, our entire nation mobilized, with men and women being drafted and volunteering for various branches of service, and those on the home front stepping up to contribute to the cause. There is a good chance we may need to do that again, but in a much different war. So, remember the hero that is within you. We’re all depending on you.
Blessings and praying for all of us.
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