Graduates in Cap and Gown — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Dean Primavera, distinguished faculty, honored guests, proud parents and family and my newly graduated colleagues…
I want to begin my guidance to you this afternoon by reminding all of you of just how unique and wonderful you all are. You see many people care capable to feel empathy for someone given the right circumstances. It is the rare few that cannot feel something when the news is filled with stories of the survivors of an earthquake or a picture of a five year old stunned by the events of war.
But it is the rare soul that can mobilize their empathy and compassionate nature into the action we call caregiving; and even fewer that take it on as their life’s work. Serving your fellow man, woman or child is the highest form of generosity I know and you have all chosen this Path.
So I would like to offer you three steps to take to ensure that you stay connected to the beautiful mission that you have accepted:
First: Create a place for stillness in your daily life.
Professional caregivers are perpetual doers. The only way to balance continuous doing is to stop and be still. The goal of stillness is to free you from the endless loop of thoughts in your head and encourage you to be more in your body. Simple exercises such as mindful-breathing can offer you an opportunity to pause and rest in a peaceful place. The answer to many of the questions that you will be asking yourself over the next twenty-five years lie in that wonderful silent, still place. Find the simple things in life that can offer you a momentary rest from the noise in your head.
Second: Allow others to care for you.
Suggesting to a professional caregiver that they may need to be cared for is often offensive to them. Caregivers see themselves as strong, indispensable and indestructible. When I suggest that someone may need caring for, it is often thought that I am suggesting that they are weak or even damaged. Self-care is an act of generosity not selfishness. Self-care allows you to stay available to serve. Taking good care of yourself keeps you connected to your compassionate nature longer and in a more authentic manner.
I often hear professional caregivers explain to me how they take care of themselves and indeed, that is the issue and my point. Taking care of yourself does not let you receive care. Allowing yourself to receive is vital. It is in the receiving of care from another, either through friendship, love, massage, reiki, or delegation of responsibility, that our spirits are renewed, reconnected and refreshed.
Finally: Develop you emotional intelligence.
We are at a time in our industry and professions where knowledge and skills are not enough. Gone are the days of accepting that someone is great at what they do but no one can stand to work with them. The days condoning of ego-dominated behaviors are numbered.
Emotional intelligence has not been stressed in healthcare largely due to the fact that we have been trying to figure out a way to survive. We have been trying to find a model of care and understand how we are going to pay for that model since 1984 with the break from the fee-for-service structure. We are now fairly clear on a model of care and how it will be financed. It is time to turn our attention to mastering the four skills of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. We need to master these behavioral expectations in the same manner that our non-healthcare professional colleagues are held accountable to do.
Solid emotional intelligence skills are tools for reducing the risk of compassion fatigue and reducing the prevalence of bullying and incivility in our professions. If we do not redirect our attention to these essential “soft-skills”, we will have no chance of creating a true, interdisciplinary model of care that is patient-centered and humane. We will continue to lose the best of us to venues of practice other than the bedside where we need the best most.
In closing, may you never forget that the Universe only asked a very few of us to devote our lives to the service of others…and you said yes. Blessings and congratulations Class of 2016.