Physician Well-Being During the COVID-19 Crisis, Part 2: Finding Joy in Work

By: Jason Horay
2 Minute Read

Part II of our series on physician well-being during the COVID-19 crisis

At a time when healthcare professionals are working around the clock to fight the spread and severity of COVID-19, it may seem like an odd time to talk about joy in work. However, as clinicians face a growing number of new and unfamiliar challenges, it’s important to their personal and professional well-being to step back and regain focus on why they chose this profession in the first place.

It’s times like these that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are more important than ever, and it’s an important time to remind themselves why they do what they do.

Defining Joy

Joy in work is about cultivating a sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfilment. We all know that burnout has become a severe problem throughout the healthcare community, even before COVID-19, but what healthcare professionals are experiencing now goes well beyond the challenges faced in the past.

Healthcare professionals are working like firefighters in continuously burning buildings, committed to saving others while directly exposing themselves to danger.

How to Cultivate Joy in Work

As a first step to cultivating joy in work, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) recommends that organizations (and colleagues) ask their staff what matters most to them.

For example, many people working in healthcare have understandable concerns about their own personal safety or lack thereof. They may worry in new ways about elderly or immune-compromised family members or children who are staying home from school or college. As we work toward finding solutions for this virus, the simple act of expressing and sharing these concerns with colleagues and leaders will help to alleviate feelings of isolation and hopelessness. You are not in this alone.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement also recommends:

  • Articulate constancy of purpose: In times of pressure and challenge, it can be easy to focus on the urgent issue in front of us and lose sight of our principles. People are struggling to sift through their daily tasks, new requirements, and changes in policy and operating environments. Leaders need to spend time with staff at the point of care to see the challenges they’re facing, remove barriers, recognize the value of their efforts, and keep everyone pointed in the direction of “true north” – providing the best care possible for their patients.
  • Enhance individual resilience and sense of meaning: Though we shouldn’t rely solely on individual resilience as the answer to our current challenges, we must do all we can to help healthcare professionals recognize that their work makes a difference in the lives of their patients and colleagues.
  • Maintain teamwork: Teams are being sorely tested as they get refocused, reallocated, and pulled to different parts of our system. Leaders and managers should work towards finding ways to maintain teamwork, even as some teams are being fragmented to adapt to the changing needs of their patients and organization.
  • Create and encourage psychological safety: IHI President and CEO, Derek Feeley, states, “A psychologically safe environment is one in which anyone can ask questions without looking stupid. Anyone can ask for feedback without looking incompetent. Anyone can be respectfully critical without appearing negative. Anyone can suggest innovative ideas without being perceived as disruptive.” For more information on this, see the  Framework for Safe, Reliable, and Effective Care.

Please continue to visit our News & Knowledge blog and dedicated COVID-19 landing page for future updates on maintaining well-being throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians and practice leaders can also reach out to me at jason.horay@curi.com if you have any questions.


Picture of the author
Jason Horay
Jason Horay is Curi’s Manager of Health Strategy and Well-Being, based in Raleigh, NC.

Visit the new Curi Blog

News & Knowledge