Lee A. Norman, MD, MHS, MBA, spoke at The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®)’s Institute for Value-Based Medicine®'s March 2023 event on population health about leading physician practices and navigating through change; here, he talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic shifted how he thinks about resiliency during times of intense stress and work.
Lee A. Norman, MD, MHS, MBA, served as the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) from 2019 to 2021 under Governor Laura Kelly. Norman, who served in the US Air Force and later as a colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard, is currently senior medical director for Optum Care Kansas City.
He spoke at The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®)’s Institute for Value-Based Medicine® event on population health March 9 in Kansas City, Kansas, about leading physician practices and navigating through change. Here, he talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic shifted how he thinks about resiliency during times of intense stress and work.
Looking at the pandemic’s effect on health care workers, how have your thoughts about resilience and adapting to change shifted over the course of the last 3 years?
I've changed a lot, during and since the pandemic. A couple of things—of course, I'm a retired Army colonel, and I've been in deployed environments, where it’s very stressful, and I work really closely with fellow soldiers and other allies, for example. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was in Governor Kelly's cabinet and ran the COVID-19 response for the state of Kansas. I worked every day for 700 straight days, myself. And it was hard. But it was a different kind of hard than caregivers, and for that matter, people and kids in school, and that is it stretched everybody thin, and it reminds me of a couple things—3 things, really. One is that we all have our break point. And we all have a moment of fragility, and we have to recognize it in ourselves and our loved ones and our colleagues.
The second thing is to be honest with ourselves and say, I'm not superhuman, and I have to replenish myself. And then the third thing is what I refer to as having your battle buddies that watch out for you, so that somebody can say, you know, Lee, you look like you’re at your wit's end. Is there anything I can help you with today? Can you get out of here a little bit early today? I'll cover for you. And this is true at the bedside, in terms of with nurses, with doctors, we have to watch our colleagues, we have to watch our friends and loved ones. All those things will help to support people in their desire and their need to be resilient. But really, it does take a community; we have to watch out for each other.