Be Like Gumby: Use Emotional Intelligence to Come Back to Your ‘True Form’

Burnout is a hot-button topic in healthcare because of ongoing issues in hospital and health system work environments.

“When we use a term like burnout, it almost blames the victim, and when we use a term like resiliency, it says, ‘just suck it up and deal with it,’” said Michael Ackerman, professor of clinical nursing and director of the Master of Healthcare Innovation program at The Ohio State University in Columbus. “It somewhat avoids the bigger issue of fixing the system, and it’s been a challenge in healthcare to fix the system.”

On Wednesday, Ackerman presented “Emotional Intelligence and Resiliency: Lessons Learned From Gumby.”

“Just like Gumby, you need to be flexible,” he said. “In your job, you will be bent in many different ways and in many different directions, but Gumby always came back to his true form, and that’s what we need to do. Developing this resiliency is not allowing the system to bend us in a way that we can’t get back.”

Nurses, he said, can invest in their own development and emotional intelligence to help them navigate the challenges of the healthcare work environment.

“When you look at the skill set for emotional intelligence, it mimics the skill set for resiliency,” Ackerman said. “Being able to manage your emotions, being able to recognize when your emotions are out of sorts, understanding what’s going on, and having social awareness and empathy are all characteristics of people who are highly emotionally intelligent but also highly resilient.”

Ackerman also noted the need to develop highly effective healthcare leaders and to create a culture in healthcare in which nurses feel safe to speak up, safe to challenge and safe to take risks.

“You have to find your voice, and you can’t be afraid to take risks and be disruptive,” he said. “If we can all live by those things, then we’ll have a better workplace, patients will get better care, and you’re going to feel better about what you do. Ultimately, it’s better for everybody.”