After navigating a pandemic that turned the world (including the world of hospital medicine) upside down for so long, the very idea of returning to a “normal” career and lifestyle may seem strange.
Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP, MHM, Assistant Dean of Scholarships and Discovery and Associate Medical Director for Clinical Learning Environments at the University of Chicago, provided guidance to hospitalists on the transition from pandemic to post-pandemic life on 5 May at SHM Converge, the annual conference of the Society of Hospital Medicine.
The pandemic, Arora said, demonstrated the importance of developing trust. When resources were scarce, as severe cases of COVID-19 flooded hospitals, a culture of trust was essential to overcome the crisis.
“My team expects me to speak on their behalf: it’s how we do things. It’s so important for safety,” Arora said. “That’s what you’re looking for in your organization: a place of psychological security and confidence.”
Surveys show that patients trust their doctors and that health care providers “have a big bump” during the pandemic, he said, which offers a unique opportunity.
“Doctors are trusted messengers for the COVID vaccine,” he said. “It’s really important.” But doctors should also uphold social justice, he said. “We need to speak even louder to fight everyday racism.”
As hospitalists move into the post-pandemic medical world, Arora encouraged them to “get rid of the delusions of greatness,” hoping for incredible successes on every corner.
“Amazing things happen, but they often happen because we hold on to the things we start,” Arora said. For example, doctors should consider small changes in workflow, but then they should keep those changes. Keeping the momentum on change is not necessarily the norm, he said, adding that all hospitalists are likely to be familiar with quality improvement projects that generate only 3 months of data, due to loss of focus.
Hospitalists should also “look for information intermediaries” in the post-pandemic medical world or those who interact with various groups who are often good sources of ideas. Hospitalists, he said, are “natural information agents,” who routinely communicate with a wide variety of specialists and health professionals.
“You need to know what’s important to your organization, to your patients, and to everyone,” Arora said.
He suggested that hospitalists find “zero-gravity thinkers,” and even for being such thinkers themselves, one who stays open to new ideas and has diverse interests and experiences.
Arora said it’s easy to set up the same way we’ve always done.
“The truth is, there are ways to improve,” he said. “But sometimes we have to look for new ideas and keep an open mind, and sometimes we need someone to do it for us.”
Often those closest to us are the least valuable in this regard, he said, referring to them as “innovation killers”.
“They won’t give you the next advanced idea,” he said. “You have to get out of your network to understand where good ideas come from.”
Now, with the trauma that hospitalists have experienced for more than a year, well-being would never have been a more vital issue than it is now.
“We ended up with online wellness modules,” he said. “Fix the system and not the person because we all know the system doesn’t work for us. As hospitalists, we are actually experts in repair systems.”
Arora said one way to think about how to improve hospital well-being is by emphasizing “the Four Ts”: teamwork (such as the use of clerks and good communication), time (considering new models of work), transitions (perfecting workflows)) and technology (technology that works for doctors instead of creating a burden).
As hospitalists try to advance in their post-COVID-19 careers, the key is to find new challenges and never stop the learning process, Arora said. Referring to a concept described by career coach May Busch, doctors said professional careers can be considered successful as an “S-curve series”; at first, there is a lot of work without much progress, followed by a rapid increase and after arrival. to the destination, which will take you to a new plateau higher up the ladder. On the highest plateau, hospitalists should “jump into a new S curve,” learn a new skill, and undertake a new effort, which will elevate them even further.
“Success,” Arora said, “is defined by growth and lifelong learning.”
Arora reported that he had no financial disclosures.
This article originally appeared on The Hospitalist, an official publication of the Society of Hospital Medicine.