Connect Live @ Adventist Health

Connect Live | January 6, 2022
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In this week's episode of Connect Live, Adventist Health's Chief Mission Officer Alex Bryan joins host Joyce Newmyer for an important conversation about how we can support our frontline caregivers as they navigate unprecedented times.

Joyce Newmyer: Welcome to Connect Live at Adventist Health and a happy new year to all of you. I'm Joyce Newmyer, the chief culture officer at Adventist Health, and your host for Connect Live. Live this week Together | New Year, New Day, hope in 2022, and KATE | A Trusted Partner.

On January 1st, Adventist Health released Together | New Year, New Day, a message from Kerry Heinrich, our brand-new chief executive officer for Adventist Health. It's online for you to watch and together, choose hope.

Last year, when we ended season one of Connect Live, we shared that Kerry Heinrich, our new CEO was going to join us for the first Connect Live in 2022. That was the plan, but travel all over the country has been massively disrupted. And as a result, Kerry will be with us next week.

Today I'm delighted to welcome back Alex Bryan, chief mission officer for Adventist Health. Thanks for joining me at last minute, Alex.

Alex Bryan: Hey, there's nothing like being the substitute teacher. So I assume that I'll be treated really well.

Joyce Newmyer: I knew you were going to say something about being the substitute. It's never a second best to have Alex Bryan on the show. Alex, you and I have been talking a lot about how deeply concerned we are for our frontline caregivers. Those who have been through so much over the past two years, it's hard to believe we're actually about to enter year three of this pandemic. And we're concerned for peoples’ — not just resilience, but perseverance. Tell me more about your perspective on what you and I have been talking about.

Alex Bryan: I appreciate you mentioning it, Joyce. To all those that are watching and listening, Joyce and I have been text messaging, calling — really worrying over the emotional health, the spiritual health and the resiliency of our absolutely incredible physicians, nurses and all of our clinical teams on the front line.

One thing we've been talking about — and I think this is important to acknowledge because maybe those of you who are leaders are leaning in — is that we don't have all the answers. It's important for us, Joyce, to acknowledge that this is really a challenge. We're in unprecedented times in many respects.  You and I were sharing a newspaper article that just came out yesterday, that was talking about some 70, 75% of healthcare providers that are at dangerous levels of stress and burnout. Depression, despondency — and so we also need to acknowledge the size of the problem.

Joyce Newmyer: It's a big problem. I was talking yesterday with one of the Adventist Health hospital presidents. As a chief culture officer, I’m trying to figure out how to support culture in the middle of a pandemic where people are so disconnected from one another.  I'm so frustrated. I said, "Help me know what you need. How can I help you?" And the answer was, "I don't even know what to ask for at this point. Our people are exhausted, they're stressed. You don't have a license to come and take an assignment of patients. No one has time or attention to put into anything other than just taking care of our communities.".

So Alex, I don't know. As chief mission officer, how do we help?

Alex Bryan: I think there's a couple things that strike me early and one is something Jesus did in Luke chapter two. He sent His ministry teams out two by two. So the first thing to keep in mind is that compassion means that we will suffer together. Calm is community. We will do this thing together. First we acknowledge how much we need each other.

You talked about kindness in your opening remarks, and I think that's exactly right. We need loads of kindness. We need to support one another. We talk about that all the time, but I think that's really key. In addition to that, I think that it's important to acknowledge and to remind each other about the honorability of the profession — particularly for our frontline caregivers.

The article you and I read, talked about some of the stress that's coming as physicians, nurses and others are saying that they’re just not respected anymore. We're serving a population that's not working with us to deal with this great challenge. And I think it's important for us to remind each other about the nobility of the work we've committed ourselves to. It's honorable work. It's beautiful work. And even though it's difficult, this is historic stuff, and we will look back at these times, Joyce, and be able to acknowledge just what remarkable labor was given in a service of love.

Joyce Newmyer: I agree. I'm blown away by the bravery and the determination that we see from all of you, the people who are taking care of patients. The people who are showing up to the hospital every single day, not knowing who's going to come through the emergency department or what their needs are going to be. The clinics where you never really know who's coming through the door. I'm blown away by the bravery and the determination.

I know Alex, you and I have talked a lot about this, how we want to help and how we don't want to be in the way. It feels like showing up at a hospital and saying, "I'm here to help," is almost like becoming something more for people to do and to pay attention to. And yet, I think I can speak on behalf of all the cabinet, that any of us will show up and do whatever you need us to do. We just don't understand what that is. And to the caregivers, we see you and we want to help you. But we're not always sure what that looks like.

Alex Bryan: That's exactly right. The first question before every single meeting that we engage in and every piece of work that we do needs to be, “have we put on our glasses?”. That is to say, “are we going to think about these problems the way that physicians, nurses and other frontline caregivers are going to experience them?” Every dollar, every strategic move, every ask — we need to begin with those people in mind. That's an important commitment, but it’s also about dialogue. It’s about community. This is about all of us knowing we don't have the answers but pushing through it together.

Joyce Newmyer: I think 2022 needs to be the year of that increased dialogue with real conversation about what people taking care of patients need and how we can help. I don't have a license. I can't show up and take a patient assignment, but I can do other things. And all of us need to figure out how we support the people who are supporting the communities and caring for them, right?

Alex Bryan: I think that's exactly right. I know that we have a lot of viewers, listeners that are even outside Adventist Health, and I would say to every church, to every synagogue, to every business, to every government person, we all need to rally around our healthcare providers in this country and around the world. They are an incredible gift and they should not be taken for granted.

We're in a moment where we're putting them at risk, not only with disease, but sometimes with our behaviors. And so I think that we need to be praying. I think we need to be supporting. As a society, we need to understand just how fragile and how precious the gift of modern healthcare is in this country, and other places around the world too. We all need to step up. Not only those of us who wear a badge that says we work for a healthcare company.

Joyce Newmyer: Well said. Thank you, Alex. Kind of last minute due to some travel interruptions, but always valuable conversation. I appreciate you being here with us.

Alex Bryan: Thank you.

Joyce Newmyer: Our final story today is superhuman. Triage nurses have one of the highest rates of burnout, but at Adventist Health hospitals, they have extra expertise at their side that you could say is superhuman. The machine learning powered tool called KATE is helping care for patients who come to the emergency department and ensure that they're getting the very best care they can receive, whether there are a hundred people to see, or just a few.

While we think that our nurses are superhuman, we've just been talking about that, we're so excited to provide a tool to help. You can discover more about KATE and how it's used at Adventist Health White Memorial and many other stories at Friends, thank you for connecting live today and we'll see you here again next week, when Kerry Heinrich, our new CEO will be with us. Until then, let's all be a force for good.