Bellevue Medical Center: A Case Study in Resiliency

In the face of a series of crises, the leadership at Planetree Gold Certified Bellevue Medical Center on the outskirts of Beirut is vigorously pursuing the goal of restoring their staff to a state of well-being and wholeness.


Meet Tsoline. Tsoline is a nurse manager at Bellevue Medical Center in Lebanon. She was one of the first caregivers at the hospital to care for a patient with COVID-19. Tsoline’s exposure to the patient was brief and she took all the necessary safety precautions. Nonetheless, because of the exposure, she was quarantined for 14 days. Those 14 days were spent missing her family, thinking about her co-workers and worrying about her own health. When her negative test came back after two weeks, she was overjoyed to be able to hug her children again. She had desperately missed feeling them in her arms. She has continued to appreciate those joyful moments despite some very trying times. Shortly after Tsoline’s quarantine, her husband lost his job at the local university and their home was damaged during the massive explosion in Beirut later in the summer. Though she has suffered many losses this year, Tsoline continues to adjust to a new normal where she appreciates, now more than ever, having a job that enables her to help others and, of course, her children’s hugs.

 

Though you may live on the other side of the world and your day-to-day life may look quite different from Tsoline’s, there is probably something in her story you can relate to.

Your community may be contending with rising COVID numbers. You may be preparing for the threat of a natural disaster or recovering from one. You could be living amidst an increasingly hostile and divisive political climate. The experience of isolation may be taking a physical and/or emotional toll. Money may be tight, your job security may feel fragile and your relationships may be faltering.

In fact, for Tsoline and the people of Beirut, these crises have all compounded each other over this past year. Since October 2019, the Lebanese people have been besieged by a political revolution, the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, the COVID-19 pandemic and the August 4, 2020 explosion that caused mass casualties and destroyed crucial infrastructure. More than 30,000 people were left homeless.

Crisis Mode

Though it can be reassuring to find silver linings and uplifting to practice gratitude during challenging times, it is also vital to acknowledge the upheaval and suffering these last several months have created.

So many of us have been in the middle of crises – globally, locally and personally. We must confront this reality head on. Because if people emerge from this crisis burnt out, if they are in debt, unable to meet their basic needs, if they are struggling with depression or ensnared by addictions, feeling disconnected from others and not taking care of themselves physically, emotionally or spiritually, the future crisis that looms may far outstrip the one(s) we are currently living through.

Making People Whole

That’s why now is the time to focus on what it will take to make ourselves – and our loved ones and our teammates – whole. In other words, to restore ourselves and others to a “sound, healthy” state.

The leadership at Planetree Gold Certified Bellevue Medical Center on the outskirts of Beirut has vigorously pursued this goal of making all their staff whole. Leaders recognized that it was unfair to expect staff to “show up fully” when they are burdened by fear, anxiety, grief and uncertainty. Despite many of them having suffered their own personal losses, BMC’s leaders have proactively sought ways to lessen others’ burdens.

Making people whole means restoring them to a sound, healthy state.

Executive rounds have been transformed into opportunities for leaders to explore with each staff member what may be standing in the way of them “showing up fully.” In the aftermath of the explosion, many staff shared the damages incurred to their homes. The hospital deployed its maintenance crews to make their homes whole. With the value of the Lebanese currency rapidly declining and inflation on the rise, today nearly half of the country’s population now live below the poverty line. Many BMC staff are struggling to make ends meet. The hospital’s management team has tailored staff wellness sessions to address these economic challenges, providing practical tips on managing finances and stretching their income. Meanwhile, salaries were maintained at their rates before the economic collapse. To address the emotional toll, the hospital invested in support programs for staff, including 24/7 access to psychologists. They have also launched a fundraising campaign, strictly geared to supporting Bellevue Medical Center’s healthcare workers.

The Impact

By tending to staff’s human needs, BMC’s leaders have created a workplace environment where, even during tumultuous times, people feel safe, secure, cared for and cared about. Perhaps that is why when it mattered most – even when they were beset by their own personal challenges – Bellevue Medical Center’s staff showed up fully and in force to provide care in the aftermath of the August 4th explosion.

“Humanity and empathy were our foremost reasons to reach those numbers.” — Rémie Malouf, Executive Manager, Bellevue Medical Center

In the hours following the blast, more than 600 patients were treated in the Bellevue Emergency Department and more than 60 surgeries were performed within less than 48 hours. This reality far exceeded any disaster drill they had ever run, and in fact, the amount of care provided tripled the hospital’s capacity. Because of the workload and urgency of the event, almost a third of the patients cared for were not captured in the hospital’s billing system, so the care was not reimbursed. These experiences were captured in a short video you can watch here.

According to Rémie Malouf, the hospital’s Executive Manager, “Humanity and empathy were our foremost reasons to reach those numbers.” When it mattered most, fueled by the support of a leadership team that was fully invested in tending to staff’s physical, financial, emotional and spiritual needs, these caregivers showed up fully.

Looking Ahead. What You Can Do.

Recovering from a natural disaster, global pandemic or another catastrophic event could take months, if not years. There will invariably be urgent – and very practical – needs to address. Undoubtedly these needs have been consuming you and your teams for months now. In the wake of these crises, though, there is other vital work to do. This is the work of “making people whole” by restoring a sense of safety, security and reliability. This work includes:

  • Taking the time to understand the voids created and the losses experienced – much like the leadership team at Bellevue Medical Center did during their executive rounds. In addition, surveys and focus groups were conducted to gather additional data on what staff needed.
  • Creating space for connection, acknowledgement of loss, closure and healing. Bringing these difficult thoughts and issues to the surface is a critical step for dealing with them. It helps people feel less alone in their experiences and can set the groundwork for meaningful healing. This can be achieved through group listening sessions, counseling hotlines, and intentional time built into meetings to check-in on how people are feeling.
  • Providing tools and practical skills for mindfulness, building resiliency and self-compassion, regulating negative self-talk and fostering self-discovery about strengths and opportunities. Apps like Calm and Headspace (and many others!) are useful digital tools that give users access to calming, curative content.
  • Understanding that “being whole” doesn’t look the same for everyone and creating avenues to accommodate different needs. For instance, consider the impact of school closures on working parents or the void created when one is not permitted to visit their aging parent in a nursing home. Or the financial impact caused by furloughs or reduced hours, and the anxiety that may persist even after positions are fully restored.

Making Yourself Whole By Giving Back

As it turns out, another means for making yourself whole is to give of yourself. Volunteering for a local organization or finding a way to support a friend in need can help to build self-worth, resilience and connection. And it just feels good to help others.

In that spirit, consider how you may give back during this season – either with your time, your talent, or financially. After all, in many parts of the world, ‘tis the season of giving!

As mentioned above, the leadership team at Bellevue Medical Center in Beirut has launched a fundraising campaign to support its extremely hard-working, dedicated staff to meet their basic needs during Lebanon’s economic crisis. As you have read, these are dark times in Lebanon. But it is said that in the darkness, stars shine even brighter. Such is the case of Bellevue Medical Center. This Gold-Certified Planetree Hospital continues to be a source of light and hope. If you have felt moved by their story, we invite you to make a donation and to share their story (and this link) with others: https://payments.bmc.com.lb/

Your support will have a far-reaching impact. Not only will it help to make these healthcare workers whole, but in so doing, it will enable them to continue to deliver best in class, person-centered care to the people of Lebanon.