There is another element of leadership that relates very poignantly to the concept of authenticity I raised in the January commentary1. This is the relationship between hospital culture and the workforce experiencing joy and meaning in what they do. Everyone wants to experience joy, meaning and professional satisfaction. Commitment to a healthcare profession is particularly driven by this as it is both an honor and privilege to care for others. Frankly, if I did not experience a sense of joy and meaning in my work, I could never have remained engaged in clinical medicine for so many years. The responsibilities of clinicians are great, the workload is often demanding and stressful, and the impact on family life can be substantial. Joy and meaning is the payback that really counts, knowing that one’s efforts as a clinician have made a difference in improving someone’s well being.
The responsibility for developing and sustaining a hospital culture that nurtures joy and meaning resides with leadership. Where leadership is lacking, things can go wrong very quickly. Sadly, morale amongst healthcare professionals is at a low point, with many retiring early or leaving the profession for other opportunities. Though there are many reasons for this, the fact is that experiencing a lack of joy and meaning is a major contributor to this trend. If healthcare workers are unhappy, feel disregarded, undervalued, powerless and/or when bullying and unprofessional behavior is tolerated, then the stage is set for error and harm, both for patients and staff2