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Stress Relief.

It's been a well-known fact for years in the long-term care field that the positions of nursing home administrator and director of nursing are as stressful as any executive positions in America. The pressures they face--regulatory oversight, financial uncertainty and turbulent markets--are unending and, if anything, intensifying. Small wonder that turnover rates in these positions are 30 to 40% or more.

Which made it all the more striking for me when, in conjunction with some work for another of our company's magazines (having nothing to do with long-term care), I heard a presentation by a leading business management analyst, Andre L. Delbecq, DBA, on a study he had performed on Silicon Valley CEOs. The study addressed, specifically, how they coped with their very high-pressure jobs. From software and microchips to long-term care management might seem to be a bit of a leap, conceptually. When you think about it, though, the business environments are not so different. Silicon Valley executives, too, must deal with intense uncertainty, risk and change. Perhaps their advice, as conveyed by Dr. Delbecq, would prove helpful.

I won't go into everything he imparted; there simply isn't space here. I'll have to go on the assumption (probably a large one) that the dedication to home life (the "sacrosanct weekend," for example) and the supportive spouses that Dr. Delbecq found among these executives are true of our readers, as well. But I was particularly impressed by findings indicating how these executives view their work and their workaday lives.

According to Dr. Delbecq, who is professor of organizational analysis and management at Santa Clara (California) University, these CEOs viewed their jobs as "a mission, not a position." What's more, the mission had to fit in with their personal view of life--this was the source of their drive. Second, they knew how to step back from the job periodically during the day--to engage in brief periods of silent meditation or prayer when they could and, at the end of the day, to go home and leave work behind.

He noted that these leaders took good care of themselves physically, getting regular exercise, napping when possible and avoiding sleep deprivation virtually at all costs.

Finally, said Dr. Delbecq, the CEOs tried to maintain a philosophical clarity about their work, to recognize and control feelings of overweening pride or greed when they surfaced, and to accept a degree of pain and suffering as part of life. They tended to take people for who they are and tried to make the best of it.

There was also this quote from the study, originally published in the Journal of Management Inquiry (September 1995): "We found high-survivor CEOs remarkably free of whining. They cope with competitive upsets, lawsuits, dishonest employees, and technological failures with remarkable aplomb. The personality trait of optimism shines clear."

I can attest that Dr. Delbecq's presentation and comments played well with his healthcare executive audience, if the corridor conversations I overheard were any sign. It also occurred to me, however, that the CEOs he studied lacked one significant motivating factor that sustains many a long-term care administrator--daily contact with residents who enrich their lives. Still, there was plenty of grist for the mill. Maybe you'll find something in Dr. Delbecq's fascinating study to help you get through the tough times ahead.
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Publication:Nursing Homes
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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