Remembering who we are. Remembering our Wholeness.
We as humans are facing an international mental health crises with nearly half of us having a mental health diagnosis by the age of 40. Emotional exhaustion, burnout, depression, and PTSD are now commonplace within our families, communities, and places of work.
Root to Thrive History. While the Roots to Thrive program is now adapted to serve all humans, it began as a program for professional caregivers. A multi-disciplinary group of caregivers, curriculum, indigenous elders, organizational, and administrative experts identified a need among caregivers amid the rising tide of professional burnout and moral injury in healthcare. Motivated to address this need, we applied for and won a Michael Smith Foundation for Research REACH Award to develop a curriculum that would address the significant developmental factors that could bolster the ability to thrive amid highly individualistic (often disconnected) and stressful environments. Because the requirements of thriving apply to all humans, based on participant feedback, the program has now expanded beyond caregivers to include all people.
Roots as a Resource to Address Caregiver Burnout. We are in an international crises with healthcare workers suffering from mental health conditions, caused or exacerbated by the toll that high stress and often trauma laden careers exert. The statistics are alarming: some as high as 94% of healthcare providers that work with emergency events screening positive for PTSD (Iranmanesh, Tirgari, & Bardsiri, 2013), nearly half of healthcare employees, including physicians, screen positive for depression and report being unwell due to work stress, which impacts morale, absenteeism, retention rates and patient care (BMG Research, 2013; Chandler, 2012; Simon & McFadden, 2017). For every one dollar spent on Canada’s healthcare system, about 70 cents of it is spent on human resources, not including education costs (BC Ministry, 2014). The ultimate cost, billions of dollars aside, is patient safety as unhealthy providers are more likely to make errors, call in sick, and ultimately leave the profession, which causes a huge cost in terms of recruitment and training. While some providers leave the workplace as a result of burnout, many stay – further contributing to toxic work environments. In fact, most of us who have been in the field long enough are familiar with the symptoms of burnout and have contributed to workplace hostility as a result; these experiences have become a norm in today’s healthcare culture. Burnout is recognized as an occupational hazard for many service-oriented professions with ongoing and intense personal and emotional contact. In fact, the province of BC recently extended presumptive PTSD coverage for mental health claims by all types of nurses (Providence Health 2019).
Resiliency is important to enable thriving. Personal thriving requires a sense of coherence (mindfulness, gratitude, and optimism) and congruence (self-compassion, forgiveness, and resolving trauma). Workers who exhibit congruence and coherence generally feel positive about their contribution to the organization, are more effective and productive, and show less absenteeism (Salt et al. 2008; Steger et al. 2012; Steege & Rainbow 2017; Dames 2018). Further, since Canadian workers spend an average of 10.5 hours working and commuting every day, promoting healthy behaviours at work is essential to decrease the burden and cost of stress-related absenteeism, lost productivity, disability claims (Bodenheimer and Sinsky 2014; Worksafe BC, 2018). Research shows that working on congruence and coherence with providers naturally impacts workplace culture, especially if well supported by leadership (Steger, Dik, & Duffy, 2012; Dixon-Woods et al. 2014; West, 2018). For our service providers, for the future of our healthcare system, for us and for our children, we can do better, we must do better.
The Roots to Thrive Curriculum was developed to fill a gap in resiliency training program offerings. We spend the majority of the course developing inner and outer resources as we cultivate awareness, promote self-regulation, heart-full connection, and alignment with the ‘real’ self. While based on science, the program focusses on experiential methods over 5-6 weeks with two full days, three virtual sessions, and a final face-to-face wrap-up session. We cultivate inner and outer unconditional positive regard and develop evidence-informed inner resources that promote reconciliation by bolstering sense of coherence and congruence (the two primary factors that enable us to thrive). We continue to pilot and evolve the program within a program of research, ensuring it remains relevant and impactful.
As a core value, we honour Truth and Reconciliation principles. We promote decolonization by recognizing conditioned ways of being that contribute to disconnection and oppression. The curriculum has evolved in partnership with Indigenous Elders and continues to be informed by this work. From this aware and heart-full space, we can do the healing necessary to re-connect to self, to others, and to the planet. As we reconcile with self and others, we learn to walk in two worlds, tending to the inner, while navigating the outer. We come to know that while we may move faster alone, we are much stronger and can go much further together.