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The Power of Stories

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

As we all know, stories are powerful and encompass much of what makes us human. Language, social connection, purpose, spirituality, and more are infused throughout the stories we tell one another. For me, hearing of others’ experiences, whether a patient or a colleague, acutely reminds me of being human, of having grace and compassion for all that we must endure. While these stories often include successes and triumphs, beautifully, they also include pain, suffering, and, inherently, resilience. Stories of PCBH speaks to these as being a BHC in a fast-pace primary care environment prompts many wins and successes, both with patients and colleagues, and, at the same time, prompts much self-doubt, frustration, and, at times, a sense of being overwhelmed. Sharing these stories not only brings attention and awareness to the work we are doing, we know how quickly we habituate as humans, but also prompts kindness and compassion for ourselves and each other as we go through the challenging sides of the PCBH experience. Sharing stories, allows us to hold our human experience with kindness and grace; it, in and of itself, is an act of love.

This past week at CHCW was an exciting one. We were on the verge of a major milestone, as the first time ever we were approaching 1,200 individual visits completed in a single month. What makes this feat even more impressive is that we are short staffed with BHCs, resulting in individual BHCs setting numerous records for individual visits completed. The visits, as you would expect within a true PCBH context, included numerous handoffs, same-day visits, new patients, follow-ups, traditional mental health concerns, chronic health conditions, newborns to aging adults. On the last day of the month, I sent an email to the team and leadership updating them on our approaching accomplishment. We had already set a record for individual visits in a month and were only 45 visits short of the 1,200 visit mark. As we always do in these moments, we are intentional to ensure the number does not become the goal, because that is finite. Instead, the number reflects an infinite value of serving the Four C’s of Primary Care by embracing GATHER (side note, great book, The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek). After sending the email, I was humbled by the team’s response. One after one the BHCs stated, “We GOT THIS!,” “I definitely am seeing X number of patients today,” “WE CAN DO IT!” Our C-Suite also chimed in with words of encouragement, “here you go being amazing again,” “its an honor to work with you all.” Even through email, the energy was palpable, and it was clear the BHCs were gearing up to make sure we served our community and patients, as they had the entire month.

And, in an incredibly brave moment of vulnerability, one of our BHCs acknowledged the downside of doing 1,200 visits in a month and setting an individual record for number of patients they had seen that month, they were tired and feeling, my mind predicted, guilt about admitting that to the team. Beautifully embracing their humanness, they admitted the tug of war we all feel, we want to serve our community, we want to be in primary care, and, at times, that is draining. The BHC ended the email with great willingness and acceptance, stating, “I’m tired and I’ll keep giving it my best, GO TEAM!... Going to take a WHO now!”

If I was humbled by the team’s response to the first email, the team’s response to this vulnerability was exponentially more palpable. BHC after BHC acknowledged their own vulnerability, that they too were feeling the impact of a busy month paired with a tiring year. Validating the honestly and genuineness and ending their emails with three words that prompt engagement and compassion, a willingness to hold these difficulties and uncomfortableness with grace and compassion, “Here with you.”

Through email and later in person, the team not only rallied to see patients but as a group embraced each other, holding the experience of chasing a value, that often drains us, with love and compassion. We did eventually reach 1,200 visits and met the milestone and, more importantly, we embraced our vulnerability and entire team. It is not an individual BHC that is struggling alone, it is an entire team that embraces each other’s vulnerability and shares a common mission. It is a team that is “here with each other.”

That, essentially, is the power of stories; sharing the wins, the success, the defeats, the drain. Together, embracing the vulnerability of our humanness and work that we do. We don’t do this alone and stories, sharing our experiences, allows us to be with each other. CFHA, and particularly the PCBH SIG, allows the sharing of stories to transcend from our individual teams to an entire community. My continuous gratitude for being able to share these stories and, please, share yours so we can be “here with you.” Be kind, be compassionate, and, above all, be love.

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