COVID-19 taught me to let go of perfectionism and to accept that unprecedented crises demand unprecedented actions. Odile Hettler - Pharm.D., MBA, Doctoral candidate
On the business side, decluttering key insights from the background noise, conducting fast cycles of experimentation, collecting feedback, and taking decisions that may feel risky or divergent in normal times became the new norm. This required self-confidence, but mostly, self-compassion, especially when projects were either stalled or accelerated beyond light speed.
On the DBA side, COVID-19 also brought its mixed bundle of disruptions and opportunities. Face-to-face classes and meetings were cancelled, but I learnt to communicate through pixels and devices. Online interactions with DBA colleagues who experienced COVID-19 a few months earlier were a vivid testimony to how interconnected we all are. Before COVID-19, this understanding was cognitive; in the aftermath of the first wave of covid-19, it is embodied. Watching the minuscule and, to the human eye, invisible virus move around and disrupt so many things, ranging from our immune systems (sometimes sending them into overdrive) to the stock markets, was spectacular.
On the academic side, I have been interested in the process by which groups of healthcare professionals (HCPs) or individual HCPs have initiated and implemented changes that diverge from existing norms. These changes require their proponents to break away from the status quo and to convince others to rally behind them. It looks as if COVID-19, even if it will not be the focus of my empirical research, will be a great source of inspiration!
On the personal side, I experienced vulnerability, grief, and joy. Vulnerability from realizing our health status could shift in an instant; grief from witnessing healthcare colleagues and friends being exposed to the virus without the benefit of appropriate protection at the beginning of the crisis and from being overwhelmed by the amount of work and suffering that was thrown at them; and, finally, joy simply from being alive, day after day, while the pandemic unfolded in the world and in our lives.
To wrap up, I would like to mention a community project in which I was proud to participate and brought me a lot of happiness. This is the Rend-fort TOP Teams initiative (www.rend-fort.com) created by Emmanuel de Romémont, a retired French Air Force four-star general. Ideally, the purpose of this initiative is to offer customized resources and support to HCPs not only before but also definitively during and after health crises, such as COVID-19. A secular mindfulness workstream based on the Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme, which was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the United States in 1980, was included in the portfolio of offerings. Dr. Jean-Gérard Bloch, a practising rheumatologist in Strasbourg, France, and the vice-president of Rend-fort TOP teams, customized the MBSR protocol and wove it into the existing Rend-fort TOP teams initiative.
This is the workstream that I joined as a volunteer. I was to teach six sessions of short modules ranging from 15 minutes to 45 minutes to HCPs who expressed the need to take a break in their lives, either at work or after work, in order to reconnect with themselves, to exercise, and to fine-tune their attention and self-compassion before going back to caring for their patients, which often required them to make very tough decisions.
Odile Hettler - Pharm.D., MBA, Doctoral candidate