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Tending Lavender

May 2, 2018

A few months ago, I noticed my primary care doctor down the aisle of the grocery store. Having hurried to the store fresh from the shower, I looked a bit damp and bedraggled and avoided saying hello. But I noticed that she too, looked less like the well-dressed, professionally smiling, and seemingly perfect woman who annually checked my heart and lungs. Her hair, like my own, had been quickly pulled away from her face and her pants, also like my own, were of the elastic-waistband variety. It felt a bit like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs, to see my doctor looking so human.

This experience wasn’t the first time I’ve come to see a healthcare provider as a regular person. I’ve seen them make mistakes, stumble over words, and look rushed and harried. But I’ve always been quick to forgive and forget these instances, because they’re doctors. It’s easy to put them on a pedestal, to see these instances of humanization as a fluke, to patiently wait for them to pull themselves together and resume their day as a superhero. To someone who can’t reliably discern her tibia from her fibula, a doctor who not only knows the difference between the two, but can also build me a new bone, is nothing short of a magician.

But of course they’re not magicians. The line between science and magic may be thin, but our doctors exist firmly on the side of science; bound by the same human limits as their patients. Though many physicians are undeniable heroes, it is their humanity which elevates them to that status. For a successful healthcare system to thrive, we must protect this humanity, this thing that makes them heroes. We must create and sustain a system which allows the hospital to act as more than a workplace. Let it be their Hall of Justice, their Fortress of Solitude. How? The same way these providers help patients every day. Call a code.

A Code Lavender® Program is a simple but powerful approach to combating physician stress, overload, and burnout, as it is carefully designed to bolster the emotional and spiritual well-being of those it serves. Whether that be care team members, staff, patients, or families, a code lavender is ready for your human moments. Just as a Code Blue denotes the need for immediate resuscitation of the heart, team members call for a Code Lavender intervention to resuscitate well-being.

A Code Lavender not only helps physicians through their time of need, but also offers the necessary peer network and the tools necessary to build themselves back up to a healthy state of mind. It’s about prevention and protection for physicians, our awe-inspiring superheroes.

Part of learning to be a healthcare provider in any capacity involves a learning stoicism. While not always a bad lesson to learn, this practice can be disadvantageous for our providers. Hospital leadership must demonstrate that they are mindful of the assorted stresses their staff endure. Some are incident driven, such as witnessing severe pediatric trauma, while others are chronic and on-going, such as fatigue. Implementing the Code Lavender® Program goes beyond simply recognizing the problem and offers demonstrable evidence of the hospital’s willingness to implement change, to combat the overload placed on healthcare providers

As these programs grow in popularity, Code Lavender calls sound out across the country. Different hospitals implement Code Lavender® Programs differently, but always succeed best when implemented with thoughtful planning and appropriate communication.

If you’d like to learn more about how health systems have implemented Code Lavender® Programs and would like to better understand the basics of how to set the stage for your own successful Code Lavender® Program implementation, visit Vocera’s website or register for the 2018 EiH Conference. There, Rachel Urbis, MPH and RJ Salus, both of Vocera Communication, will host a breakout session, “Supporting Well-Being with Code Lavender® Programs,” and will be happy to answer any questions about this exciting innovation. To invest in our health means investing in our humans, no matter what kind of hero they may be.

Calling all Conference Attendees:

During the 2018 EiH Conference you will have an opportunity to record a congratulatory video to share with your organization. Please make sure to arrive 10 minutes early to your appointment. We appreciate your cooperation!