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The Lessons of Resilience

My 17-year-old daughter Rebecca has her heart set on becoming a physician. She set this goal while still in elementary school, when she was old enough to articulate how she wanted to honor her dad’s life. He died of brain cancer when Rebecca and her twin brother Casey were two and a half years old. They were far too young to remember all the hours, days, and weeks spent in New York City hospitals with him, and certainly too young to remember how the early weeks of their own lives were spent in the neonatal unit in a still different hospital. They were born at 30 weeks and together weighed less than a roasting chicken.

I remember all of it. Like yesterday.

I remember Joyce, the neonatal nurse with the lilting, sweet voice who convinced me that Rebecca would be okay because at two and a half pounds she “screams like a diva.”  And I remember how, when all medical options for my husband Brett had been exhausted, his very kind neuro-oncologist looked him in the eye and said, “But you, Brett, are not a statistic.” To everyone’s amazement, Brett lived a few more years. Which was lucky for all of us.  

Times were different then. For one thing, we communicated by phone and in-person, not over email, text, or skype. Maybe because of this, physicians and nurses felt present. There was no such thing as digital healthcare, data sharing, or cybersecurity threats. And while mission versus cost has always factored into healthcare systems, it was easier to focus on patient-centered care without all the distractions and operational challenges tugging at physicians and administrators.

There is so much disruption in the world of healthcare today that I can’t help but wonder what the industry will look like when my daughter goes to medical school and begins her residency. Will she be able to satisfy all the technical demands on her time while still delivering quality patient care? Will she join the legions of practitioners who experience burnout? Will her future life as a physician be as rewarding as she imagines?

In order for the next generation of healthcare practitioners to succeed, today’s institutions must teach and practice more nuanced resilience across the board. Person to person. Away from systems. This kind of resilience training is sustainable since it has more to do with integrating the lessons and the losses borne from challenges as opposed to quick bounce-backs. Wherever possible, resilience ought to be more of a preventive, holistic measure even though helping others to bounce back after trauma, for instance, can be an effective treatment strategy. Both are important in different ways but in order for individuals and organizations to shift behavior over the long term, they must cultivate the following skills: self-awareness, empathy, reasoned decision making, and the willingness to grow and change.

The good news is that resilience is a learned skill. Over the next few weeks, I’ll walk you through The Resilience Rx Framework ™, a model that was inspired by my own experience and road-tested by leaders and groups facing a myriad of disruptive events. What differentiates this model from others? This is resilience rooted in a practical, hands-on approach. We’ll explore the critical questions you and your teams must be able to ask and answer, and examine resilience though the lens of emotional intelligence, post-traumatic growth, change management, and leadership. Specifically, I’ll be sharing insights about the four pillars of the program beginning with self-awareness and ending with growth and change.

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In what ways could you be more resilient?

In what ways could your organizational culture be more resilient?

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Take time to reflect on these questions and you and your organization will begin to acquire more unwavering resilience. Doing so will lead to greater engagement, productivity, and performance. Who doesn’t want that?


Nancy Sharp is a keynote speaker, trainer, and award-winning author focused on resiliency in the workplace. She brings 30 years’ experience in the communications industry, along with expertise as a CEO speechwriter and coach. Nancy holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and authored the bestselling memoir Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living, recipient of the Colorado Book Award, and a book for children and families called Because the Sky is Everywhere. Learn more about Nancy’s programs and background at www.NancySharp.net.