This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a previous member of our team.
Wow is it a busy time! The legislature is racing against the clock toward sine die. The Connect for Health Colorado Board and staff are pushing toward technology, customer service, and financing deadlines. State agencies are working at a frenzied pace to react to new laws and regulations. Communities are urgently meeting to talk about how to increase coverage and access for their residents. Health care providers are feeling like they are already operating at maximum capacity. All of us who work in health care are feeling the weight of the enormity of the work that is required to have everything in place to deliver the promise of upcoming health care reform changes.
Unfortunately, what can happen when we are busy is that we lose one of the things that we need most when the work is hard - empathy. To me, the ability to empathize, to understand an issue or an experience from someone else's perspective, is foundational to leadership, authentic relationships, and to taking care of one another. Author Bruna Martinuzzi puts it this way, "It allows us to create bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, it sharpens our 'people acumen' and informs our decisions. At its core, empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly."
Empathy takes presence of mind and time; two of the things that are the first to go when the workload is heavy. But we must commit to not letting the strain of the work and the challenges of the change diminish our ability to try to understand one another and let that knowledge inform our decisions.
It's easy to adopt the mindset of "us vs. them", "our people vs. those people", "their job, not our job." However, these false dichotomies are wrong, especially when it comes to health care. Sickness and health are shared human experiences that are not limited to only certain groups of people. A high-quality accessible health care system is a foundational civic infrastructure for all communities. The economics of health care impact our family budgets and our local, state, and national economy.
The reality is that health care is about all of us. We ARE "them" and it IS our job. As we become even more focused on the demanding work now and through 2013, it is critical that we take the time to understand one another and remember that we do this work for our families, our neighbors, our communities, and our state because this is OUR health care system and because we believe Colorado is better when everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life.