Transforming Healthcare – From the Inside Out

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Personal Reflection on Recent Events

Earlier this fall I was given the profound privilege of witnessing the recovery of organs from a woman whose wish it was that in her death others would be given the gift of life. As a Safety, Health and Wellness Professional my role was to look for opportunities to ensure the health and safety of the staff involved. Although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, the experience was so much more than a technical exercise. The procedure started with a moment of silence to honour the profound gift that was being given. In that moment I found myself feeling connected with a team of individuals whom I had just met. Five hours later as I stood beside the earth heartsurgeon who in his hands held a human heart I felt something move within me that I had forgotten was there – an awakening to a deeper realization of just how extraordinary the work is that goes on behind closed doors in our hospitals. The following day I felt quite emotional, and in the days that followed something shifted in me as I began to feel a deeper sense of gratitude for all healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses and all those who share their skills and determination, simply for our well-being.

With the recent events in France and other human tragedies occurring around our world today, it’s so easy to become disillusioned, fearful and angry. I’ve been struggling with my own emotions and fears this past week. As I reflect on recent events and recall my own experience in the OR, I realize that there are so many more helping hands than harming ones – police officers and paramedics who arrive on dangerous and chaotic scenes to provide protection, security and emergency medical care; doctors, nurses and first aiders working hard to save lives, reduce suffering and providing healing; clean-up crews who come in afterwards to do the unenviable task of removing the signs of trauma and horror; mental health professionals who help heal the emotional impact of witnessing the unthinkable; OT/PTs who help the injured restore their strength and mobility; Armed Forces and Health, Safety and Security professionals who work around the clock to look out for our safety and security; ordinary citizens who hold the hands of the injured and dying and who open their doors to those who need of a comforting place to go, and all of us who pause, each in our own way, to show we care. There are so many, many more helping hands than harming ones – hands who are rich in diversity yet common in intent – working often unseen to offer their skills, compassion, knowledge and determination for our safety, security and well-being, often at  great personal sacrifice. And with deep gratitude that realization gives me hope.


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3 Clues You’re Living Life on Purpose!

Ever wonder what is meant by ‘your-life-purpose’? It’s a term we hear a lot of these days as more and more people desire greater purpose, passion and authenticity in their lives. First, your life-purpose is multifaceted. Often we think of it in terms of our livelihood i.e. how will I make a difference in the world?  In addition to service, however, our life-purpose includes our healing, learning and the ability to live life joyfully. All four components are essential aspects to the overall purpose of our lives.

So how do you know when you’re awakening to a deeper aspect to your life-purpose? Well there are several clues to guide you along the way. One clue is a deep sense of restlessness, frustration and/or anticipation that something in your life is changing, or needs to change, even if you don’t quite know what it is. A second clue is a strong emotional reaction, often in the form of tears when you consider a particular issue or possibility. This is often accompanied by a sense of expansion within your heart.

Your life-purpose is reflected by the intersection of your passion (something the moves you), a talent (something your good at) and a need in the world. When these 3 components line up, a third and important clue is revealed; the synchronicities, flow and unexpected support that come when you move forward in the direction of your purpose.

This has been my experience recently through the discovery of another important aspect of my work. I have been moved deeply for some time to inspire hope, healing, wellness and resiliency for those dedicated men and women who serve and sacrifice for the public good. I am moved to tears when I hear of suicides and depression among veterans, police officers and those in similar professions. I am inspired by research that simple self-care techniques can make a powerful, positive, lasting impact. Thus it is my commitment to serve in a way the best meets the needs of those individuals who need it most.

I invite you to visit my new website at www.ErikaCaspersen.org if you’re inspired to learn more.


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Transforming Healthcare – From the Inside Out

Transforming Healthcare – From the Inside Out

heal-the-healers2Healthcare is more than a career, it’s a calling.  Unfortunately, for many healthcare providers it’s also a source of stress and burnout.  Research tells a story that is both disturbing and compelling.  According to research summarize by the Public Services Health and Safety Association:

  • The average number of days of work lost due to illness or disability was at least 1.5 times greater for workers in health care than the average for all workers.  
  • Healthcare workers have the highest frequency of violence and aggression-related injuries of any occupation, representing nearly 67% of all violence-related injury claims to the WSIB in 2009.
  • 28% of Ontario nurses report being assaulted by their patients in the last 12 months.
  • A 2008 study of personal support workers in long-term care in Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia found that 43 per cent experienced physical violence on a daily basis.
  • Approximately 46 per cent of Canadian physicians reported they were in advanced stages of burnout.

An unhealthy work environment impacts the quality of patient care. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) continues to provide evidence that caregiver workload is related to patient safety, working conditions affect medication safety, and caregiver stress and fatigue have strong effects on skills and error rates.

This issue is multi-factorial and complex. A healthy work environment is critical to well-being and job satisfaction and essential for quality patient care. Unfortunately, healthcare restructuring, increased workloads, staff shortages, funding restrictions, diminished leadership and staff burnout continue to contribute to unsafe and unhealthy work environments.  

Healthcare organizations are well advised to invest in cultivating healthy, safe, and supportive work-environments. Additionally, It’s essential for healthcare providers to invest in their own self-care, resiliency and healing, and research is promising. For example, research at the Centre for Mind-Body Medicine shows that mind-body skills groups (an experiential group program teaching mindfulness and self-care practices) are a highly valued experiential approach to teaching and promoting self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-care.  Additionally, numerous studies published since 1960 demonstrate the efficacy of mind-body medicine techniques in lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels, relieving pain and improving immune functioning, as well as improvements in clinical conditions such as HIV, cancer, insomnia, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With up to 80% of all illnesses  related to chronic stress, tools for self-care are an essential part of a healthcare worker’s resiliency toolkit.

Erika Caspersen a Healthy Workplace Innovator, Engaging Facilitator, Success Coach, Registered Kinesiologist and Certified Exercise Physiologist. She is transforming healthcare by facilitating healing, self-care and resiliency for healthcare leaders and providers; reigniting passion and purpose in service and in life.