Strictly Clinical
  • Reduce Stress And Increase Productivity With Cognitive Reframing

    Author(s): By Thomas Davis, DNAP, MAE, CRNA

    We can’t always control the problems that are thrown at us, but we can control the way we respond to them. You have choices as to how you mentally react when stressful situations emerge.

    Healthcare delivery is stressful for both leaders and workers regardless of the title behind the person’s name or their position on the chain of command. Ever-increasing expectations from patients and their families combined with demands put forth by physician colleagues creates a high-pressure environment for leaders and workers alike. Chief CRNAs, OR managers and rank and file workers all experience production pressure in a high stakes environment and are all susceptible to work related anxiety and depression. Rather than succumb to the pressure, a little cognitive reframing creates a different perspective and changes the internal dialogue in the person’s mind. Here is what you need to know.

    What is cognitive reframing?

    According to Wikipedia, cognitive reframing is a process by which a person identifies and then changes the way situations, experiences, events, ideas, or emotions are viewed. It is a process by which thoughts are challenged and then changed. Simply put, it is looking at a stressful situation and consciously opting to consider alternative perspectives and then visualizing a positive outcome for the problem. It is a process that requires changing the internal dialogue in one’s head and replacing negative, fear-provoking thought with options that support a positive outcome.

    Choose your thinking framework

    We can’t always control the problems that are thrown at us, but we can control the way we respond to them. You have choices as to how you mentally react when stressful situations emerge.

    Asset-based versus deficit based. Asset-based thinkers step back, assess the resources that are available and consider ways to leverage them to achieve the goal. In contrast, deficit-based thinkers focus on what is lacking and throw in the towel.

    Proactive versus reactive. Proactive thinkers take control, rally support from others, and implement solutions to the problem. In contrast, reactive thinkers are at the mercy of others and often view themselves as a victim of the system.

    Reframe your thinking

    Whether in your personal or work life, the ability to reframe a stressful situation sets you free from being dragged down by the problem of the day. Start by asking yourself, “If I knew ahead of time that things will work out OK, how would I respond?”  Then proactively assess the situation and intervene as appropriate. The online resource Leadership Now offers the following suggestions for actions to take after you reframe your thinking.

    Structural changes. This requires looking at the process, redesigning the workflow, re-writing policies/procedures, and engaging colleagues to embrace the changes.

    Coaching. Assume that you are surrounded by good people, but not all are fully capable in every area. View the situation as an opportunity for career development and either work with the person yourself or assign him/her to a supportive mentor.

    Political. When discord within the group is causing stress, step in as a peacemaker. Review the mission, vision, and core values of the group and enforce a code of conduct that includes civility and bans gossip.

    Motivation. Teams function most efficiently when they have a sense of common purpose. Reduce stress by creating goals and ensuring that the team sees the connection between the goals and the overall mission of the organization. Generate milestones to assess progress and never miss an opportunity to celebrate success.

    Take control

    You can proactively ward off some situations however you can’t deflect every problem in either your personal or professional life. Rather than viewing yourself as a hopeless victim, take charge and reframe your thinking. Focus on what you can do with available resources, seek additional help, and focus on a positive outcome. You will be amazed at how your productivity increases and your stress evaporates after you alter your outlook and confidently take charge.

    Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center. Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.