Priyanka Upendra: Taking Care of Your Teams (and Yourself) During Challenging Times

This year has brought challenges that we never expected would happen. The changing environments and the speed of change has taken us to new levels of perseverance and resilience. Our workloads, dedication to our family and friends, and the communities we serve has shot up! On top of all these stresses, we’ve struggled with fear of illness, social isolation, economic insecurity, disruption of routine, and anxiety.

A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that anxiety tripled, and depression quadrupled, among over 5,500 adults that were surveyed with compared to a sample from 2019. A similar study from Johns Hopkins University found that depression symptoms were triple those measured in 2018. Burnout and strain among healthcare workers rapidly increased during these times and the supply chain shortage not only overwhelmed the health care system, but also caused an anxiety around how we can serve our patients. All these only reinforce the large-scale trauma that we have all experienced this year from COVID-19.

During these times, being more kind to one another, to yourself, and taking care of our mental health is so crucial. Aside from caring for your family and friends, taking the time to get real and share feelings, listening, and lending support to your team members is critical and will go a long way. There is no harm in getting candid and asking how your team members are coping and how as a leader, you can make them feel cared for and safe. Whether you’re working on-site or remotely, use technology to lend support and make the connection. Metrics and repairs will stay and happen as they should, but expressing kindness, patience, and sharing positivity will allow your team members to trust you, have confidence that they can come to you, and will allow them to continue the chain of compassion forward.

Create new routines to practice healthy behaviors and share that with your team members. Remind one another to make fruitful use of breaks, lunch, and time after work—to unwind, relax, exercise, and seek comfort. Studies show that stress suppresses our immune function and makes us seek comfort foods. There’s really no harm in seeking them at the same time remaining aware of your overall health. Encourage team members and yourself to do what’s best for overall well-being.

Set aside times to work and stay off work after normal hours. Don’t take work back home— with all that’s going on, staying mindful of your needs after work is essential to achieving a balanced day. Also be kind to yourself when you don’t feel productive— your mind, body, and environment has had lots to cope with!

In this new year, make sure to connect with one another, renew appreciation, spread compassion, and enjoy much-needed relaxation—all while staying safe and healthy!

Priyanka Upendra is Compliance Program Director at Banner Health and a member of the AAMI’s Technology Management Council, Awards Committee, Nominating Committee, and BI&T Editorial Board, as well as the President-Elect of the American College of Clinical Engineering.

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