Opinion | Centura Health chief clinical officer: Treat caregivers with compassion and kindness
Centura Health chief clinical officer
Throughout the long, painful 21 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have worked alongside some of the most courageous, resilient people I have ever met. Each day, health care workers tend to our community with grace, compassion and incredible expertise. They fight for the lives of strangers with their whole being, and they come back day after day to do it all again, no matter how tired or burdened they feel. Without exception, they are our heroes in this tragic time in our history, and I know so many of you are truly grateful for them.
Unfortunately, this gratitude is not shared by everyone. Frustration with COVID-19 is hitting a crescendo within the community, landing on the backs of health care workers. In the past two years, our workforce has seen a concerning increase in violent behavior from patients and guests, including being kicked, hit, choked, spit on, cursed at and threatened. Over the past months, we have seen a four-fold increase in these deplorable occurrences, including some that have caused injury to our health care heroes.
During the season of joy and kindness, usually so evident this time of year, our caregivers have felt the blow of anger, threats and physical violence. These incidents are so commonplace that we enhanced our de-escalation training for our caregivers, created and posted “kindness fliers” throughout the hospital, and are working on many other ways to support our staff, including launching a system to track and trend these incidents.
As a community, I know we are better than these acts of violence. It wasn’t so long ago in 2020 when every night at 8 p.m. my neighborhood rang with the sounds of cheers and pot and pans banging in support of our health care heroes. Like clockwork each night for months, the community came alive with hope and gratitude — the whole country did.
I look back on that time with such great pride in my health care colleagues and in our supportive community. We were in this fight together, and that felt powerful and hopeful. We are still in this fight together; however, gratitude has traded places with fear, frustration and the anger of today.
I am coming to you directly, asking for you to remember what those days felt like and to reinvigorate your soul with compassion, kindness and respect for health care workers who are doing everything in their power to care for you. Our caregivers want to serve your every health care need so that you can be healthy and safe. It is our goal every time with every patient.
But they cannot be successful if you stand in their way, cause them pain or despair, or threaten their lives. They cannot help you if you do not leave the door open to accept help.
Our compassionate caregivers feel the weight of this pandemic so very deeply, including the death of loved ones and the pain of family who can’t be in the room. They have seen so much loss and carry it in their hearts. Please don’t make this harder on them. Please help them be the best caregivers possible by treating them with compassion and kindness, just as they do for you.
Dr. Shauna Gulley serves as senior vice president and chief clinical officer for Centura Health, which owns St. Anthony Summit Hospital in Frisco.
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