There’s a strength in there somewhere 

One of the things I think about is the stresses of managing others. Whether it’s patient management/teaching, management of staff, management of students, etc. it’s all hard. You’re dealing with imperfect people who seem to make it their goal to turn you gray early. 

I’ve taught. I had, and at times still have, great aspirations as a teacher. No matter what level you teach at, you go into it believing in the crusade. 

“I’m here to give and make the person I give to better.” 

We go in strong determined to make an impact that changes lives for the better. Somewhere along the way, as I taught, the paperwork/attitudes/lack of support wore me down. Instead of feeling like I was making an impact, I felt like a failure. It was difficult to see how the students were improving from my interactions with them. It was tough listening to their complaints. I walked away. 

I’d never take on management. Why? Because there’s too much pressure above and below you. Too many people to please at the expense of your sanity. Someone loses and most of the times its you (and your staff). 

So let’s call this my ideal world. I’ll be discussing my ideal labor and delivery floor. Not today, but soon because I like to daydream about a world where it isn’t about money and the nurse finishes her shift feeling like she had everything she needed. You can picture it already, can’t you? Nurse Nirvana. 

Today I’m going to talk about building staff up. 

Everyone has strengthens. My ideal manager pinpoints the strengths in each employee and let’s them shine. Someone likes committees, let them be involved. Someone is passionate about breastfeeding, send them to be a lactation consultant. Someone is whip smart, put them in charge of researching current evidence basis practices to present to the floor (doctors and nurses imcluded). 

These people thrive and feel real ownership from their involvement. It has to be deeper than gift cards. It has to target them where they can feel valuable. 

But what about weakness? The first thing I always say is address the offender instead of punishing the whole floor. The person in question will not change their behavior because they do not see how they are the problem. My ideal manager goes to the source instead of putting the whole floor on blast for issues. 

The next thing is how do we change behavior?? Unwillingness to help, laziness, disrespect. How do you target those things? Maybe it is a matter of hearing it from their peers. Or it’s a matter of assigning tasks to them directly. “You will be so and so’s buddy. You are to take this patient from Kate because your load is lighter now.” Sometimes that’s necessary. Even though you shouldn’t have to tell people to help, but many times that’s the only way to keep others from drowning. 

My ideal manager listens and comes back with honesty. Even if that means they say they understand and maybe that change isn’t possible right now. They pull you aside and hear.

The personalities of the floor are hard to deal with. I don’t understand all the dynamics of keeping a floor on track. I don’t want to do that behind the scenes work. 

I think of a conversation today about people we care for who do drugs. It’s easy to look at someone and the things they do  and just wash your hands of them. They’re difficult and an addict. We’re challenged to change our views in order to deliver good care. Learn their story, get them to trust you, be non judgmental, adapt an approach that makes them open to and (maybe) willing to change. 

We can apply that to the work environment. We aren’t going to fix the people we work with, neither patient or staff, but we can alter ourselves. Sometimes that means helping someone even when they refuse to help you. Saving a life that seems wasted. Buddying a coworker’s delivery even though they left you hanging before. 

We continue teaching and trying even when it seems hopeless. One kind word can lead someone to change. Helping even when they didn’t help you can lead them to help next time. Our vulnerabilities and understanding can lead to something good. We’ve seen it and know it’s possible in spite of our cynical selves saying differently. 

Here’s to good managers. I’ll never be one so I commend you for trying to wrangle cats all day. 

Travel on, road warrior


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