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Healthy Leadership Strategies: Take a Time Out to Walk

By Barbara Schmidtman, PhD

March 29, 2023
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In her monthly leadership series, Dr. Barbara Schmidtman—vice president of cancer health operations at Corewell Health West—offers her perspective on addressing workforce-related issues through effective leadership practices. Find all her posts in this blog series on the ACCC website.

With my blog this month, I hope to remind you (and your teams) that simple things like a time out, quick walk, and more can help us with self-care during the workday. 

Why Self-Care Is Important

Recently, when attending the ACCC 49th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit (#AMBCCS) in D.C., I heard a lot from our community of oncology professionals about how we continue to promote well-being and self-care, among ourselves, in a world that is full of exhaustion and burnout. There are mitigation techniques you can use to help promote well-being for the individual and team.

I try to help encourage self-care practices among those I work with to ensure they are taking care of themselves through simple things like checking in to ask, “Are you are taking care of you?” or “I recognize you have been carrying a heavy load. Do you have time off soon?” Or if we have had a particularly tough meeting or project that we have been working on, I’ll suggest to my teammates: “Feel free to take a few minutes to re-center yourself.” It is my hope that this lets my teams know that I care about them—as individuals—and want to promote a healthy workplace where they are allowed (and even encouraged) to prioritize their self-care when needed.

In a previous post, I shared ACCC’s findings from its 2022 Mini Z burnout survey, where burnout trends among the cancer care team largely remained the same or worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While our programs and practices likely understand the detrimental impact that burnout has on our care teams, it seems that relatively few of us know where to begin to tackle this complex problem. One potential solution: promoting self-care among our teams, so staff know they can take time out for themselves.

The Benefits of Walking

After having these conversations at #AMCCBS, one thing that kept coming to my mind was taking a walk. 

Over the last six months, I have experienced a great deal of change in my life. And one thing that has kept me focused during this change is making time to go for a walk, even if it is only 10 minutes, a couple times a day. In a simple online search on the benefits of walking outside, there is a ton of evidence that supports this simple concept. Did you know that taking a walk outside for 20 minutes can boost your stress-relieving hormones and that the fresh air you get from even a short walk can help boost your creativity? 

Going for a Walk at Work

When you go for walk at work, it doesn’t necessarily need to be outside. Perhaps, you can go for a quick stroll to the cafeteria, around the halls of your office, or, if you are working off-site, around your block. Most importantly, while walking, take the time to breathe in the fresh air, look around, and count your blessings. 

I’m reminded every time I take a simple stroll through our cancer center how incredibly blessed I am to be able to work in and promote an environment where we can make a patient’s journey better, meaningful, and exceptional every time they receive our care. When I’m home and take a walk in my neighborhood, I always practice mindfulness by remembering that my feet and body are grounded to the earth and that I am gifted another day in life. I think that by taking time for these simple types of moments, we can begin to heal from the stress and anxiety that we have all been through and from any of the stressors in our life that are getting us down. 

Barbara Schmidtman, PhD, has worked in healthcare for more than 20 years in a variety of professional and clinical roles. Currently, she is the vice president of cancer health operations at Corewell Health West in Grand Rapids, Mich. Dr. Schmidtman is the Chair of the ACCC Governmental Affairs Committee and the Workforce Subcommittee Chair, a subgroup of the association's Governmental Affairs Committee. Dr. Schmidtman earned her PhD in business administration from Northcentral University, where she specialized in industrial organizational psychology. Her doctoral studies focused on physician behaviors and how demonstrated physician leadership affects individuals and teams—either positively or negatively. Dr. Schmidtman has a passion for speaking locally and nationally on leadership styles and approaches.

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