Sunday 10 July 2022

Lessons for Caregivers in a New Book, The Power of Teamwork

Today I finished reading The Power of Teamwork: How We Can All Work Better Together by Dr. Brian Goldman and I had to share my excitement about it right away. There are SO many lessons here for family caregivers and the circles of care that we manage. I've written about Dr. Goldman before, notably in a review I penned of his excellent The Power of Kindness back in 2018. Dr. Goldman is an ER doctor in Toronto, and he is a compelling storyteller. He's the host of the CBC, widely syndicated White Coat/Black Art show as well as the podcast, The Dose. When Dr. Brian Goldman talks, I listen and learn.

So let me tell you what I learned about caregiving and leadership from The Power of Teamwork. I learned that groups are not the same as teams (we KNOW this but seeing the words in print made me stop and reflect on all the times I've been frustrated in "team meetings" for my son or my Mom and now I understand that it was because people at the table were actually in groups - groups that excluded me). I learned the term "flattened hierarchies." I love that! We are all human, we each have a particular role to play in a project of care, a role that is based on our talents, skills and knowledge. And from the team, leaders naturally emerge. And their roles aren't static; they can change, depending the situation. In his book, Goldman tells the story of Dr. Kevin Menes, an ER doc who happened to be working a shift on the night of the worst mass shooting in US history.  Fifty-eight people were killed on October 1, 2017, when Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Nearby Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center treated 199 patients in just six hours. Dr. Kevin Menes took charge of operations. He was an exemplary team leader. Rules were broken to meet the needs of the moment, hierarchies were flattened. It is a riveting story of coordinated care in the most horrendous and chaotic circumstances.

Dr. Trevor Jain, a young doctor on the scene of a terrible Swissair plane crash near Halifax in 1998, set up a massive makeshift mortuary and set about identifying the remains of hundreds of deceased passengers. He reflected on his own experience and that of Dr. Menes, "If you let people do what they're trained to do, and grow into the role and encourage it, you as a leader, it's just going to make you look outstanding. It's not insecurity. A leader should never be insecure. They (the other team members) are just going to make you look phenomenal."

So coincidentally, today I was scrolling through my personal facebook page when I saw a post from my friend, fellow complex care Mom and caregiving coach, Brenda Blais-Nesbitt

"Team work makes the dream work!!"
This was so true of Nikki's care in hospital tonight. She had such good days on Wed and Thurs and I really thought she would be going home on Thursday but that hope was vanished for a number of reasons.
I guess the fact that it didn't happen was a blessing in disguise or we may have been right back in the ER as there have been a few glitches. Today was a struggle for her.
But here's the thing. I had a theory about why Nikki was both lethargic and had increased difficulty breathing today. AND I knew how to fix it. At home, I would have just done it. But being in the hospital is a different story. So, I proposed my plan to the nurse ... it involved a medical procedure that I can and have done on a regular daily basis for the past 11-12 years. The nurse had to ask the Resident to order it though, before I could do it. The Resident (who did not know Nikki) did not want me to do it. She wanted to try something else and wait to see if that alternative would solve things by tomorrow for her. That meant Nikki would be incredibly uncomfortable with increased work of breathing throughout the night.
And then Nikki's nurse advocated for me and my idea. She agreed the procedure needed to be done ASAP for Nikki's comfort and to help her BREATHE. She also advocated strongly with the Resident that I be allowed to do it. The nurse explained that I knew Nikki's anatomy better than anyone and that I had significantly more experience doing the procedure than she (the nurse) did (she had done it twice in her 3 year career). I have done the procedure thousands of times and I've also trained all of our home care nurses on it as well.
The Resident consulted with the general surgery team to come up and do it. They gave her their blessing to let me do it. And you know what? I am happy to say that it was the BEST decision ever. By the end of the procedure Nikki was alert, breathing SOOOOO much better and will have a much more comfortable night.
This is what collaboration is all about. Collaborative care and team work literally did make the dream work for Nikki today. For someone as complex as Nikki is, it literally does take a team working together for a common goal - Nikki's comfort, her health, and her safety. Thank you to a very dear friend of mine who recently pointed out to me: Nikki has a circle of care around her, one that I've been very good at allowing others enter to help me care for her. What's not in a circle? SIDES!! There should be no sides in care. It's truly a privilege to be in Nikki's circle and be joined by others who are surrounding us with physical care for Nikki, and love, support, and guidance for both of us through such challenging times. Team work really truly does make Nikki's dream work for her.

There are so many lessons for caregivers in The Power of Teamwork. If you feel like your circle of care has "sides" or you just want to be a more effective care team leader, buy this book now! It is wonderful.

1 comment:

Adelaide Dupont said...


I found Nikki's story very powerful.

A writer friend and I had come to the same reflection about the circle.

And how you found less fear in "flattened hierarchy".

It was a good point about "Leaders should not be insecure" - a point that many teenagers and Young Carers can take on and in their stride as well.