President's Column: Olympic-sized Lessons

May 01, 2021

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Recently I’ve been thinking about the Olympics. I’ve always enjoyed watching them.

I love the pageantry and excitement of the opening ceremonies, the thrill of vicariously hurtling down the bobsled run or launching into the air in the pole vault. Although I have never attended the Olympics, I still feel the power of the event.

The Olympics this summer will be different for the athletes, the fans and those watching at home. And that reminds me of our new, virtual National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition (NTI). This month we will be coming together to learn and to celebrate virtually at NTI. This is our Olympic event, and even though we can’t be together physically, we will be together, and we can feel pride in our profession, in ourselves and in our teams.

While I enjoy watching individual sporting events, I find power in the team events. Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic soccer gold medalist, wrote about the power of the team in her book "Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game." For me, one of the most impactful messages in her book is, “I never scored a goal in my life without getting a pass from someone else.”

If you ever watched Wambach after she scored, she would start pointing — at players on the field, players on the bench and the coaches — at every person who contributed to that singular moment.

Unlike soccer, our experience this past year was not a single event; it was every day. As I reflect on our journey, I think about all of the healthcare personnel who came together to create a caring environment under unimaginable conditions. So, as we celebrate at NTI, we need to remember to “point” at everyone who worked together as a team — the progressive and critical care nurses, the nurses and other professionals who came from all over the hospital, our advanced practice nurses and medical colleagues, our administrators, and those individuals who tirelessly kept our environments clean and well-stocked. They remind me of one enduring lesson from this year — the power of the team.

When the Olympics end, and the flame is slowly extinguished, I always have a sense of melancholy. I look at the faces of the athletes. Some will go home with medals, others solely with the honor of being an Olympian. I wonder how they transition from such a powerful experience, just as I wonder how we will heal and transition from the powerful experiences of the past year. In my explorations of this question the most common answer involves the team.

One of the main themes in the book "Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle," by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, that seems relevant as we begin to transition out of the incessant stress of the pandemic is that simply because the stressor no longer exists does not mean the stress does not exist. There is evidence of this concept in the results of a recent ANA well-being survey of over 22,000 nurses who rated their current well-being at 5.7 on a scale of 10. How can we move toward wellness when the stressors and stress still exist? The authors’ message is “you don’t have to wait for the world to be better before you make your life better — and by making your life better, you make the world better.” But for me, their most powerful message is that the “cure for burnout is not ‘self-care’, it is about caring for one another.” It truly is about the team.

Several years after Wambach retired from soccer she started running to get back in shape. She hated it. Her partner helped her identify the reason. It was because she was running alone, not with her pack. The lesson she learned was that life is more difficult as a lone wolf. We all need our pack.

When I first began thinking about this year’s theme and what “All In” means, I discovered it was about coming together in purpose-driven action to care for our patients and their families, to care for ourselves and to care for each other.

This Is Our Moment to give and accept support.

This Is Our Moment to point to and honor our team.

This Is Our Moment to be All In.

Tell me about your pack and how you lift each other up. Write to me at