Teamwork. Together Everyone Achieves More. It’s a trope we’ve heard since our first group project making a papier-mâché Mount Vesuvius that erupts with bicarb soda and vinegar in Year 2. Often it’s a weaponised phrase, ensuring the leaders include and delegate to the less eager participants. Sometimes it’s a satirical phrase, expressing frustration at *yet another group project*. But it’s also a phrase that underpins what is desperately needed in our workforce.
I recently read an excellent piece by Katikati GP Dr Vicky Jones, describing the landscape we are practising in. She explains how our exhaustion at the inability to provide the healthcare that we have a strong moral impetus to deliver is often posited as burnout, but it isn’t. “This is happening to us and not because we don’t have the skills to cope. This is moral injury”. Whatever it is, it is palpable and pervasive. It is affecting the entire team. We have seen that bear out in public with mass resignations, in private conversations in our workplaces, and in our frame of mind. Our teams feel unable to deliver service. They feel unappreciated. They feel undervalued. Many of them feel done.
I finally made it to my 8-year-old son’s hockey game on Saturday. They’re a delightful bunch of passionate kids, doing a solid job at emerging from the ‘buzzy bees around the ball’ phase to one that involves tactical thinking, using the whole field, and – teamwork. As with all good Saturday morning kids’ sports, the game ended with treats (lollies these days, gone are the orange wedges of my youth), and of course, the awarding of player of the day. Last week this was awarded by the club patron, a member since 1949. He explained to the children that this week’s winner wasn’t the one who scored the most goals or made the most noise but the one who listened and worked the hardest. A quieter, diligent child gleamed with pride at the recognition.
I was struck by the lesson here and how it immensely applies to our operating theatre team; the members who do the hard mahi in the shadows need recognition. That the team works better when those people feel valued. When we all feel valued.
Recognition can come in many forms. Words are a good start – acknowledging that anaesthetists are working harder with fewer resources and for sicker patients. That anaesthesia pay disparities across the motu are widening, despite having one collective employer. That our anaesthetic assistant workforce is being asked to pivot and train new people in new ways with minimal training or compensation. That our teams aren’t always functioning in a way that feels supportive, collaborative, or sometimes even safe for its members.
But more important than words is action.
Steps to make meaningful changes that properly value and recognise the whole team across the motu. That ensure work and pay conditions are fair and that we bring everyone up to the highest level rather than meeting in the middle. That appropriately value preceptor and supervisor roles, future-proofing our training pipelines. That prioritise a safe and happy workplace culture and addresses where there are issues. That give teams the recognition and tools they need to function at their best.
The NZSA has fought hard to sit at the many tables where these conversations are being held. We actively advocate for our anaesthesia teams across the motu on important topics, from pay equity to the anaesthetic assistant workforce. We constantly strive to represent our members, working alongside other representative bodies towards a common goal; the best functioning team. Because as we all know: T.E.A.M.
Photo credit: Image by jcompa on Freepik