What is Organizational Health?

Organizational Health

Downloadable PDF to share with your organization

It is widely accepted that many jobs are stressful. Anyone working in fast-paced, high-pressure environments can attest to the wear and tear that they can experience over time when the demand outweighs their capacity to deliver, or when the work is dangerous or numbingly repetitive, when the hours are long, and the pay is low, or when they work in a service industry where dissatisfied customers use staff as a lightning rod for their frustration or even, at times, their rage.

Ask any airline customer service agent what it is like to handle a horde of angry travellers when all flights have been delayed by an unexpected storm and this poor person’s power to solve the dilemma is limited, or even non-existent. Ask the factory worker operating a dangerous machine for 12 hours a day on a line with poor working conditions and a hostile climate. Ask the call centre operator (call centres have one of the highest turnover rate of any job at the current time) where you are underpaid, monitored for the length of your calls (“that was too long” “you said the wrong thing, take the next call, go go go!”), and sometimes they don’t even have the right to go to the bathroom during a shift without being penalized. The speech writers working to deadline, the day trader, the server in a diner who is on their feet for 12-hour shifts, air traffic controllers … the list is long, and most of us have worked in such settings at some point in our lives.

The term organizational health refers to the varied and often complicated factors that affect the capacity and performance of an organization. Work hours, type of work, stress levels, budgets, workload, turnover and so many other factors all have an impact on the health of an organization.  At the very core of this is the health of each individual including: how they feel about their jobs, how they perform them, how committed they are to their roles and how their jobs are affecting them personally.

 

How Does Workplace Trauma Exposure Affect Organizational Health?

Stress has an enormous impact on the health of an organization, and when the added element of secondary and/or direct trauma exposure is present, balancing workplace wellness becomes far more complicated, and we would argue, even more critical. High-stress, trauma-exposed work environments such as health care, law enforcement, mental health services, child welfare and many other related fields have unique and specialized organizational health needs.

 

Why Don’t Employee Wellness Initiatives Always Work?

Many human resource companies have become interested in staff wellness over the past two decades and have explored ways to reduce burnout, increase employee satisfaction and eliminate workplace grievances, disability claims and attrition. Some of those initiatives have been effective, but the generic “in-the-box” workplace wellness programs have not always been successful in the complex settings that we, at TEND, work in: hospitals, correctional facilities, child welfare, law enforcement, anti-human trafficking, refugee boards and similar challenging work environments. Over the years, we have been approached by leadership in these workplaces who are extremely concerned about the emotional and physical health of their staff and are witnessing high turnover rates, low morale, and difficulty attracting and retaining skilled labour.

 

A Framework to Understand Organizational Health in Trauma-Exposed Settings

 TEND’s Co-Executive Director, clinical psychologist and trauma specialist Dr. Patricia Fisher, became very interested in the truly unique characteristics of workplaces that have regular exposure to a combination of high stress, high volume of work, diminished resources and trauma. Dr. Fisher has spent the past two decades developing a framework to understand these workplaces which she refers to as “high-stress, trauma-exposed” work settings.

Dr. Fisher developed the Organizational Health Model for Complex Stress environments that can assist leadership in developing a better understanding of best practices and effective interventions to support their teams.

Dr. Fisher’s model has demonstrated that we need to start with the foundation elements which are Leadership, Succession Planning and Health and Wellness.

Leadership: Leaders are people too, and they are powerful role models for their staff. Leaders are also often working under extremely high stress burdens themselves. We also need to remember that leaders are often promoted into their roles with very little training or experience managing other people, and we need to give them the time, support and training to get competent in their new role.

Succession planning refers to several factors: addressing the inevitable loss of staff through retirement (a very large demographic shift that we are in the midst of, with many Baby Boomers retiring), illness and job change, and the critical need to attract and retain new hires such as Millennials who often have different priorities and values in terms of work-life balance. As the proportion of new workers in teams increases, we often find that the more experienced staff are depleted and have sometimes become disillusioned and are, as a result, unable to perform the crucial role of supporting and guiding their more junior team members.

Health and wellness is also an essential element. New research on the impact of toxic stress has clarified how trauma-exposed work creates a unique climate with increased risk for serious stress and burnout effects for individuals, leaders and teams. These can inevitably lead to a rise in sick time, low morale, lack of team cohesion and high turnover. These consequences can, in turn, seriously limit a team’s ability to work effectively and efficiently.

 

Where to Start?

The good news is that there are some excellent resources to help high-stress, trauma-exposed organizations assess their functional capacity and decide where to begin in implementing effective strategies to support their teams.

 

1) The Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organization Assessment Tool (STSI-OA)

Dr. Ginny Sprang, from the University of Kentucky and some of her colleagues (Sprang et al, 2014) developed a free Organizational assessment tool: the Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organization Assessment Tool (STSI-OA). The STSI-OA is an assessment instrument that can be used by any organizational member at any level to evaluate the degree to which their organization is STS-informed, and able to respond to the impact of secondary traumatic stress in the workplace.

To access this test, go here: http://www.uky.edu/CTAC/STSI-OA

Click Here to read an article on the psychometric properties of the STSI-OA

 

2) Organizational Health in Trauma-Exposed Environments – Online Course

This intensive online course was designed by Dr. Patricia Fisher for managers and supervisors of teams working in high stress, trauma-exposed environments. The course supports participants to be effective leaders and to build strong, resilient and productive teams by exploring their vital role in Organizational Health and recognizing the impact of chronic stress on individuals, teams and organizations.

LINK to the COURSE Here

 

3) The Organizational Health Roadmap

Dr. Fisher also developed the Organizational Health Roadmap to meet the needs of the thousands of individuals from so many trauma-exposed fields who have taken our Organizational Health and Leadership training and who asked for more resources to take them beyond the basics. The Organizational Health Roadmap provides a guided 10-module program that supports your Implementation Team as you develop a practical and sustainable action plan to meet the specific need and circumstances of your team.

While trauma-exposed organizations share a range of specific risks and resiliency factors, the Roadmap program recognizes that each workplace experiences a unique profile. You are the experts in your own workplaces – and the Roadmap is designed to guide you as you first evaluate your own unique resiliency and risk profile, and then build a custom set of practical solutions and implementation plans to fit your specific circumstances.

Organizational Health, wellness

Learn more about the Roadmap here

Books by Dr. Patricia Fisher

 

Sources:

 Fisher, P. (2016) Building Resilient Teams: Facilitating Workplace Wellness & Organizational Health in Trauma-Exposed Environments. Kingston, TEND ACADEMY.

 Sprang, G., Ross, L., Blackshear, K., Miller, B. Vrabel, C., Ham, J., Henry, J. and Caringi, J. (2014).  The Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organization Assessment (STSI-OA) tool, University of Kentucky Center on Trauma and Children, #14-STS001, Lexington, Kentucky.

“Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Ottawa Shooting: What happens when we all go back to our regular lives?”

Today, October 22nd, marks the 1-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. As we honour and remember Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, we also pay tribute to the first responders, paramedics, police officers and Ottawa citizens that rushed to the scene. We recall a nation in mourning and the millions of Canadians shocked, saddened and scared by the traumatic scenes splashed across the media. How did this happen? What comes next? How will we cope?

Following the shooting last year, Francoise wrote this piece entitled “Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Ottawa Shooting: What happens when we all go back to our regular lives?” Today seems like the perfect time to reflect and to think critically about secondary traumatic stress, and particularly the STS experienced by those directly and indirectly affected by this shooting.

The article is available below in French & English.

“Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Ottawa Shooting: What happens when we all go back to our regular lives?”

“Le stress traumatique secondaire et la fusillade d’Ottawa : Qu’arrive-­t-­il après notre retour à la vie de tous les jours?

Maclean’s Magazine recently published an article on the coping strategies used by those first on the scene after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot. Click here to read more.

Q&A Interview: Dr. Patricia Fisher & Meaghan Welfare

On November 9-10th, Dr. Patricia Fisher & Meaghan Welfare, BA, will be offering Manager’s Guide to Stress, Burnout & Trauma in the Workplace at the Lamplighter Inn in London, ON. Last week, I sat down with Dr. Fisher & Meaghan Welfare to ask them a few questions about this unique training opportunity for managers in trauma-exposed workplaces.

Q) Why did you decide to offer this course together?

Dr. Fisher: I am excited to offer this program with Meaghan both because of her extensive professional background in mediation and compassion fatigue and expertise in working with highly stressful, complex workplaces such as the Canadian Armed Forces, and also because of her enthusiasm, commitment and passion for the work.

Meaghan: Dr. Fisher is a trailblazer in the field of high stress and trauma exposed work places. I am thrilled to be working alongside her to offer this amazing course.

Q) What are typical issues you see manager’s encountering in trauma-exposed workplaces?

A: Many work setting with a high level of trauma exposure such as corrections, child protection services, law enforcement and health care, to name a few, are dealing with significant external pressures such as inadequate funding, escalated staffing challenges with higher staff turnover and recruitment and retention, insufficient resources, interagency complexity, difficulties maintaining a positive and collaborative work culture, generational issues and succession planning, etc. This environment of heightened stress leads to higher levels of negative effects on staff and that in turn impacts the capacity, culture and productivity of the organization at all levels. Given all this, managers typically face multiple competing demands for their time and attention, and are often highly stressed, isolated and pressured themselves. Often managers are forced to be in a reactive, crisis-driven mode where they have to attend to the fire burning highest and closest. The challenges they address are often complex, layered and their immediate crisis-responses can sometimes lead to unintended consequence – these in turn generate more challenges that they need to deal with later.

Q) What kind of management strategies will participants learn about in this course?

A) Participants will learn how to understand the complex stress environment that they work within and to assess for the specific areas of resilience and the focal areas of risk. We will help each participant learn how to increase staff resiliency and reduce stress consequences. We use a risk needs assessment tool to define the participants’ priority action areas and help them develop practical plans and strategies to preserve and amplify their strengths, and address their challenges.

Each participant will be able to re-evaluate the efficacy of their strategies and make necessary adjustments over time.

When we consider the Organizational Health Model – the 12 vital factors are all causally linked and this approach supports them to effectively address the areas of:

·        Leadership

·        Staff wellness

·        Succession planning

·        Trust and respect

·        Communication

·        Work-home balance

·        Training effectiveness

·        Vision

·        Rewards and recognition

·        Ability to adapt

·        Employee commitment and teamwork

 

All of these are central to the capacity of a group to function effectively in a healthy and productive way. With this training, participants will develop skills to help them achieve resiliency and promote these vital factors.

 

Thank you Dr. Fisher & Meaghan!

 

 

 

 

Q&A: Diana Tikasz on WTF and Other Strategies to Keep You Grounded

Tend Associate Diana Tikasz, MSW, RSW, has created WTF and Other Strategies to Keep You Grounded. It will be released this upcoming spring and sp Francoise caught up with Diana to ask her about the workshop, her inspiration and what participants could expect from this training.

Q: What inspired you to develop this workshop?

A: This workshop was developed out of my own personal struggles in my career as well as hearing from numerous workshop participants about similar struggles.  As a trauma therapist in health care settings for the last 26 years, I have experienced numerous WTF moments.  These moments tended to go one of two ways; 1. I would be hijacked by my emotions (usually fear or anxiety) or, 2. I would completely shut down by becoming forgetful, not hearing my clients or just feeling completely numb.  When these moments turned into weeks, I noticed it was incredibly difficult to get through my work day or even engage fully with my family, friends or life in general.   I questioned whether I needed to leave a career that I loved.   It didn’t seem possible to me that I could do my work and also stay emotionally and physically well.

Before taking the drastic step of career change I decided to try to learn to work differently.  My training as a social worker taught me well the techniques to help others; it just didn’t train me on the necessity of applying these techniques to help myself.  This I had to discover on my own.

This workshop is a compilation of some theory but mainly techniques in how to weather the inevitable WTF moments and storms. It is about learning a process that will not only build our resilience, but also our personal growth and enjoyment in our careers.  I have come to view doing helping work as a privilege (mostly) rather than a chore.  Work is not a means to an end but meaningful in and of itself.  We need to enjoy the journey and not just hang in there until retirement.   This workshop is designed to give folks more time to reflect and learn tools that not only help them weather the WTF storms, but also allow them to navigate the ship to be able to enjoy the journey to its fullest.

Q: What kind of skills or strategies will participants gain from attending this workshop?

A: Participants will learn a framework that will help them to continuously self-monitor.  This framework is grounded in neuro-science and will guide us so that we maintain our own emotional well- being.  It’s a framework that guides us to work within our optimal zone and fosters our ability to bounce back quickly after a WTF moment takes us out of that zone.  In this zone we feel calm yet energized, healthy and creative in our work.

The majority of the day will be spent learning and practising various strategies in a detailed way that helps us keep perspective, stay connected and present.  These strategies include:  learning how to quickly tap into our own personal resources as well as develop new ones; utilize tools that that help us self-regulate and recover; methods for gaining and maintaining perspective; skills in being fully present, aware and connected to our compassion.   These techniques will encompass the whole self as I find we can often retreat and get stuck in our heads. An emphasis will be on learning and incorporating strategies that change the way we work as opposed to using all our personal time to replenish what our work takes out of us.

Q: Who would most benefit from this workshop?

A: Those who would benefit are any folks in a helping profession that feel they are often overly stressed or hijacked by emotion, or those who are no longer enjoying their work and wondering whether they need to make a career change.  Helpers who wish to learn specific skills that they can utilize to protect themselves in difficult situations whether it is working with those challenging clients, sitting in a difficult team meeting or interacting with a colleague who pushes your buttons. It is also for those who find that at times their personal lives are creating the WTF moments, which makes it extremely difficult to be present at work.  I often say that helping work is even more difficult when the professional is going through their own personal stresses.   Again, we will focus on providing a framework and resources to help us navigate the storm.   This workshop is especially for those who are feeling completely detached from what they are doing, feeling as though they are just “going through the motions” or counting down the days to retirement.

Thanks, Diana!!

 

Compassion Fatigue in Healthcare: Insight from the Frontlines

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014

Compassion Fatigue in Health Care: Insight from the Frontlines

Working in health care has become more complex in the past decade: a rapidly ageing population, decrease in resources, increased workload from a perfect recipe for overload, burnout and compassion fatigue. In this plenary presentation, 3 nurses join forces to share their combined 50+ years of experience in caring for patients and discuss what they have learned about the importance of caring for each other.

Riding the emotional rollercoaster with patients

Jennifer Juneau, RN, Life Coach

Courage Coach

Jennifer Juneau has been a Registered Nurse for 18 years with combined experience in the Operating Room, fertility and women’s health. She recently became a Solution Focused Life Coach and specializes in fertility coaching and health and wellness coaching.

Education for next-generation frontline staff

Karen Mayer, RN, BEd, MAEd

Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board

Karen Mayer is a Registered Nurse with 30 years of healthcare experience in both hospital (Chronic Care, Maternity and ER) and was co-owner of a private, thriving home care business for seven years. She returned to school twelve years ago to obtain BEd and MAEd and has been teaching Personal Support Workers (PSWs) at Loyola School of Adult and Continuing Education for the past ten years. As a twelve year member of the Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators (CESBA), she has been Chair of the PSW committee for the past three years. Having experienced Compassion Fatigue, Karen developed a bucket list. Multi-tasker that she is, she knocked off two items from her bucket list, working in a mission and working with Patch Adams by completing a mission trip to Guatemala with Patch Adams.

Improving Morale by Supporting Each Other

Romney Pierog, RN

Kingston General Hospital

Romney Pierog has been a frontline Registered Nurse for 15 years with over 11 years in critical care experience. She currently works at Kingston General Hospital. She also has a degree in English literature and psychology from Carleton University.

Romney is currently working on a project where she has been interviewing frontline staff, management and patients on morale and satisfaction. She is looking at improving morale by improving communication and by recognizing the obstacles posed by stress, compassion fatigue and burnout.

 Click here for more info about the conference

A call to action: Help the Children of Syria to prevent a lost generation

Can we help prevent a new cycle of violence in Syria and the Middle East?

I don’t know if you had a chance to read Mark MacKinnon‘s very disturbing account of the current fate of Syria’s displaced children in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (“Why Young Syrian Refugees Will Haunt the Middle East for Decades to Come” Sept 14, 2013), and if you are affected by traumatic details, you may not want to as it is quite graphic. One of the refugee camps, the Zaatari camp in Jordan, is currently housing over 130 000 displaced Syrians in one sun-scorched site. That’s more people than the entire city of Kingston, where I live. Over 50% of those refugees are under 18, and they are struggling with post traumatic stress, and meagre resources. Many of them are acting aggressively towards each other and adults, and have few resources to cope with the unspeakable violence they have seen and experienced in their short lives.

McKinnon write that donations to Syrian refugees have been slow:

Despite the best efforts of a badly underfunded Unicef, only a third of the 180,000 school-age Syrians living in Jordan (the total refugee population is 600,000) were in classes this week as the new semester began. Similar statistics apply to the broader population of Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East.

Unicef relies heavily on the private sector, which covers about 40 per cent of the cost of schools and sanitation centres it runs in crisis areas. But with Syria’s refugees, private donors appear reluctant, thus far making a mere 6 per cent of contributions to Unicef’s region-wide appeal. So just over half of the $470-million being sought for Syrian refugee children this year has been raised. Aid workers suspect donors view Syria, unfairly, as a political problem, rather than a humanitarian one.

As a result, UNICEF classrooms have only 14,000 spots for Zaatari’s 30,000 school-age kids. (Another 30,000-plus kids are under 6, with 10 newborns arriving every day in the camp’s hard-pressed hospitals.) And the learning environment is far from ideal. School No. 2 is a collection of 70 portable classes surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. There’s no electricity, so no fans or air-conditioning in the blazing desert sun, and water reaches the toilets and sinks only sporadically.

Please consider donating to Unicef for this important cause.

How will you navigate the changing landscape of your work?

Has your work changed?

Is there more stress and uncertainty in your job than there used to be?

 

57% of Canadians report high levels of stress

 1/3 Canadians put work first and let it interfere with family

(Duxbury & Higgins, 2012)

 

In 1991, according to the Duxbury study on work-life balance, 46% of Canadians reported being satisfied with life. In 2012, it has plummeted to 23%. As many of you know first-hand, the recent economic downturn has led to significant budgetary compressions in the public purse. As a result, many of us working in the helping fields and in the civil service have experienced massive changes: layoffs, reorganizations, job abolitions, changes in mandate, elevated conflict and a lot of uncertainty and fear of what is yet to come. Over the past ten years, I have crisscrossed the country many times to offer compassion fatigue training in nearly every province and territory. During my workshops, I get to meet with public sector employees, health care workers and other helping professionals as well as with management and human resources. Lately, I have been hearing the same words from nearly everyone I meet:  “change”,  “stress”, “conflict”, “uncertainty” and “overload”.

Is this true for you as well?

Read More

TED Talks: Brené Brown on Vulnerability and Shame

Brené Brown touches on elements that are very relevant for anyone struggling with compassion fatigue.

In her first 2010 talk, Brené discusses her research findings on vulnerability. Click here to view.

In the second Ted Talk, Brené talks about shame and about the challenge of dealing with the immense success of her first TED talk. Click here to view. There are some gems in this presentation – watch for the section where she speaks of shame and how men cope, and the other where she discusses the difference between shame and guilt. 

Beautiful, moving work based on years of Dr Brown’s research.

 

Interview: How to use the Compassion Fatigue Workbook with your students

The Compassion Fatigue WorkbookToday, I am delighted to offer you an interview with Tanea Fortin, a Certified Child and Youth Counsellor and professor in the Child and Youth Worker program at St Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. Tanea has a wealth of experience working with children and youth, and is no newcomer to Compassion Fatigue education – she attended one of the very first workshops that Robin Cameron and I offered over a decade ago. Since then, Tanea has integrated concepts of self care into all of her teaching. I have had the pleasure of visiting Tanea’s class about once a year to meet her students and answer questions. When the Compassion Fatigue Workbook was published last year, Tanea decided to select it as one of her textbooks for the placement course.  I wanted Tanea to have the opportunity to share with other instructors what she has found useful. Tanea also generously offered to share two of her handouts with us. They are included as downloadable documents in the body of the text. Read More