Suzanna Fitzpatrick, DNP, ACNP-BC, FNP-BC, is a nurse practitioner at the University of Maryland Medical Center In Baltimore, Maryland, where she has worked since 2008. She is a senior nurse practitioner with expertise in surgical patients, transplant, oncology, and emergency medicine.
Dr. Fitzpatrick began her healthcare journey as a Paramedic, which she has continued doing as a volunteer for the past 20 years. Her educational background includes a B.S. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2004) in Emergency Health Services, a B.S.N from Villa Julie College (2008), Masters in Nursing in Acute Care (2010), Post-Masters certificate from George Washington University in Family Practice (2013) and her Doctorate in Nursing Practice (2020). Her doctoral work focused on teamwork and collaboration with emergency nurses.
She has a passion for mentoring novice Nurse Practitioners in their transition into practice and professional development. She has written articles on teamwork, nursing leadership, and transition shock for novice practitioners. In addition, she is an adjunct professor teaching Doctoral nursing students system and complex leadership theories and practical strategies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Suzanna is a co-founder of the Healthcare Leadership Community of the International Leadership Association.
A Quote From This Episode
Resources/Authors Mentioned in This Episode
The International Studying Leadership Conference
About The International Leadership Association (ILA)
About Scott J. Allen
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Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate, and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.
Scott Allen 0:00
Okay everybody, welcome to the Phronesis podcast: Practical Wisdom for Leaders. Thank you for checking in wherever you are in the world. I have Dr. Suzanna Fitzpatrick with me. Suzanna Fitzpatrick, DNP, ACNP-BC, FNP-BC, is a nurse practitioner at the University of Maryland Medical Center In Baltimore, Maryland where she has worked since 2008. She is a senior nurse practitioner with expertise in surgical patients, transplant, oncology, and emergency medicine.
She began her healthcare journey as a Paramedic which she has continued doing as a volunteer for the past 20 years. Her educational background includes a B.S. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2004) in Emergency Health Services, a B.S.N from Villa Julie College (2008), Masters in Nursing in Acute Care (2010), Post-Masters certificate from George Washington University in Family Practice (2013) and her Doctorate in Nursing Practice (2020). Her doctoral work focused on teamwork and collaboration with emergency nurses.
She has a passion for mentoring novice Nurse Practitioners in their transition into practice and in their professional development. She has written articles on teamwork. nursing leadership, and transition shock for novice practitioners. In addition, she is an adjunct professor teaching Doctoral nursing students system and complex leadership theories and practical strategies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
She is co-founder of the Healthcare Leadership Community of the International Leadership Association.
Suzanna, welcome. Thank you for being here. What else do they need to know about you before we jump into our conversation today?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 1:40
Oh, yeah, that's such a mouthful. I really actually love people sending my bio. I don't let my students call me Dr, I make them all call me Suzanna. When they email me, I say, “Oh, gosh, please don’t call me that.” I have my own imposter syndrome on that, I think. I would not describe any of those things as who I am as a person. I'm an avid runner, I'm a huge reader, I have a stack of books that I'm always reading, usually something that is… Make me smarter professionally, and something that will make me… (Laughs) I'm a mom and a wife, and an extremely loyal friend. And that's who I am. I would describe that's who I am, not the bio.
Scott Allen 2:21
Awesome, awesome. For listeners, you grew up around leadership, and you grew up around leadership studies. With your mom being Giorgio Sorensen, it probably can't be too far from any conversation, I would imagine. (Laughs)
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 2:38
You know, my mom was my person, and I was hers, which was great. Even with all of her jobs and adventures she took, even at the end when she was still a full-time faculty at Cambridge University, she never moved out of Maryland. I'm her only child, and I have her only grandchildren. And my son Hunter was her person when I created him. She adored my daughter, but Hunter was her soulmate. So, she never moved. But jokingly, because I'm 42, my mom’s students were her kids. They would never replace me, and I don't take it as a jealousy factor, but those were her people. And so, I see them sometimes now and they go, “Oh, I remember when you were five years old under her desk and she was teaching us about something.” And I'm like, “Oh, guys, that means you're real old because I'm 42.” And then, they don't like that as much. But it was great. My mom was really fun to grow up with.
Scott Allen 3:31
Well, she was a giant in literature, a giant in the field. And, of course, just incredible work. And in many ways, with you starting the healthcare group in the ILA, that's in a lot of ways continuing her legacy. It just is. And so, we're going to spend a little bit of our time talking about leadership and healthcare. I've written a little bit in that space, and I've worked in some of my consulting work in some large healthcare systems in Northeast Ohio. And I just have incredible respect because I can't think -- Suzanna, maybe you can -- I can't think of a more difficult context in which to lead. I just can't. A normal day-to-day, I'm going to my job. And of course, there's war-time and things like this, but in normal day-to-day, is there a more difficult context in which to lead? I started my career in healthcare, and I was just in awe of the 24/7 nature of the work. People often aren't at their best, and their families of the people aren't at their best. We've got the complexity of the regulations, we've got the pace of change, and we've got technology 24/7, 365. It's just a complex environment and an environment in dire need of really great leadership. So, as you look at the current landscape, I'm really excited based on your history and your knowledge of leadership, and based on your experience in your area of expertise, what are some things you see as kind of intersections of those two spaces? What are the good, bad, and ugly of healthcare as you kind of analyze it right now?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 5:18
You know, what's interesting is that nobody in my family is in healthcare, I was the sort of anomaly. Everybody's sort of like, “Oh, my mom was a nurse,” or, “My brother's a nurse,” or, “My dad's a doctor,” or, “My brother's a physical therapist,” or somebody's a social worker, not me, nobody. My mom was incredibly fearful of blood. My dad did other things. My stepfather was in the newspaper business. And I just sort of knew that, I was 17 years old, I was at college and I'm like, “I'm going to go volunteer in the ER, I'm going to go do that. I'm going to go do something different.” My parents separated when I was 15 months old, though they remained close friends. Basically, my mom mostly raised me solo. Though I had a lot of wonderful interactions with my father and stepmother, a lot of the beginning was just her and me. And so, I saw how hard she worked. And it was a testament to who she was, and the dedication she put out there in the university as a professor because if my mom had described herself, she actually would have said a mother first and a grandmother, probably, even before that, but she would have always called herself a teacher. Maybe not even a writer, she would have said, “I'm a teacher,” and I just didn't… Wanted to do something different. I was very close with my mother, but when you're 17 years old, you want to go be your own person. And so, my offer was to go volunteer in the ER in North Carolina. And so, I show up there, I’m like, “I want to be a volunteer.” And so, there I was bringing families back to their family members in the ER, and that was sort of fun. I’m like, “Oh, that seems kind of cool. I'm going to do that.” And so, I joined the rescue squad, and they paid for me to go to EMT school. And I sort of realized I wanted to go into healthcare, but I had a great fear because nobody I knew was in healthcare that… What if I wanted to do pre-med, or pre-PA, or pre-PT, or whatever. And I didn't like blood, or I didn't like patients, or I didn't like that work, or I was afraid of something. It seemed like such a wreck to have to go through that whole process, and then have a hard stop of whatever that is. So, when you're an EMT, you can get that in four months, and then, you start seeing people in the back of the ambulance, which, if you've never called 911, it's its own set of treats to know that you could be seeing a 16-year-old person in the back taking care of you. And if you don't realize that, well, you should. But it's a wonderful thing because lots of those people really, really, really want to be there, and it's a wonderful experience. And so, I did that. And then, I became an ER nurse. And I knew I wanted to get my nurse practitioner and sort of kept going. And my mom would be like, “Oh, read this school book,” or, “Do this,” and I'm like, “Well, I'm fine.” And then, I would occasionally go to ILA conferences, or, when I was in high school, we would… Jim Burns was my mom's best friend, we would go to Massachusetts a bunch and go hang out with him. And they would have their existential, creative, life-changing conversations. Very type A concrete person. And I'm like, “Wait in the plane, what are you talking about?” So, it was just fun, in retrospect, to sort of experience. I'm like, “Oh, man, it was really interesting to hear them, just talk about something really important, or talk about Jim's dogs, or my mom's dogs,” or something that was important to them but was less foundational for other people. And so, then I get my nursing, which was fun. I'm still in the fire department, which was fun. I get my NP, which was really fun. And then, I sort of recognize that in my first year of being an NP, I cried almost every single day walking into the garage. I'm like, “I'm not smart enough. I don't know about this. People are asking me questions. They're asking me to make leadership decisions, I'm that thing. I don't know how to do that. I did not sign up for this.” And then, I'm like, “Oh, man, sounds like my mom's pretty smart about this, I'm going to circle back with her about this,” who, my mom lived 20 minutes for me, I talked to her no less than six times a day, and saw each other three, four times a week. I’d started reading more about it, and learning more about it, and paying more attention to ILA, and things like that. And sort of recognized that we ask these people to show up in the hospital, in the physician's office, or the NP office, or the PT office, or whatever that is, and say, “Take care of me, and take care of my family, and take care of me at my most vulnerable,” but we have not given them any tools to how to lead a patient, lead a team, and things like that.” And I just think that we need to do better. So, my mom was always very passionate about me and my healthcare journey but recognized that there was a great need for leadership and followership in the healthcare space. And was my big proponent of sort of thinking about how to add that into ILA. So, that's how I sort of began that journey, and still thinking about it.
Scott Allen 9:39
Well, as I mentioned, I couldn't agree with you more. As I mentioned, part of my career was started in healthcare doing leader development in a medical center in Kentucky. It was fascinating because you have this incredible phlebotomist who is a good person, shows up on time, is technically proficient, and is emotionally intelligent. And, of course, then he or she is tapped to be the nurse manager, and given a P&L, their Press Ganey scores, and their quality scores. And basically said, “Okay, go for it. Oh, by the way, this faction of people hates this faction of people. So, if you could fix the culture, that'd be great.”
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 10:18
Do a little magic.
Scott Allen 10:20
“Sprinkle a little dust on that and see if you can…” And really, until I showed up, there was really nothing that was given to these nurse managers. Again, they may have been a wonderful charge nurse at the time. And then, they move into nurse managers. And so, part of my role was to help prepare them to be more successful, but imagine if the reverse were true. We take someone who's really great at leadership or management and says, “Hey, go on the floor and do some health care.” They'd literally kill people. And they would learn, but there'd be a lot of carnage in their wake. And I think, sometimes, in healthcare, we're doing that a little bit. Culturally, there's some carnage at times because we aren't providing people with the tools to be successful. Now, maybe your experiences of that have changed. And I hope it has. But it's pretty fascinating to watch play out, right?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 11:14
Yeah, you become a nurse and you get this four months of orientation. And then, in a year after that, you get to be a charge nurse. And then, a year after that, you get to be a preceptor. And a year after that, maybe you're like a senior nurse and things like that. But nobody has told you at all how to do performance evaluations, how to give and receive feedback, how to work in a team, how to sit and listen, all of these things. And it's just I think we do such a poor job of setting everybody up for failure. But I think it's not just nurses, right? Notoriously, everybody knows July 1st, you don't want to go to the hospital because that's when the doctors are done with school. And it's true. They show up, and they get three buddy days, three days before they start to learn the system. And if they didn't come as a student in that hospital, they don't know the computer system, they don't know where to go to the bathroom, they don't know where to get coffee. And they could be on nights when everybody is gone and taking care of 40 people. Ready; go. What a disaster. And then, in the morning, when they look frazzled and awful, and in tears, or angry, or they yelled at somebody, we demand an apology for them. What a disservice. So, I just think we can do better. And I hope that I can make a very small change of what that better is. But back to your original point when you were talking about people that are not always their best. I think the patients and the people who are working there, that might be their best that day. And it might not be their normal best, it might not be their 100% in the universe. But I had this sort of existential thought one day, I listened to a lot of podcasts, including Brene Brown who I think is the bee's knees, and she was saying that you should really consider what’s each person's best and give them the tasks that they can be their best at. And so, my mom, my soulmate, in so many ways, was notoriously a late person. She spent a whole year of not using her alarm clock, she's like, “I'm going to let the creativity flow.” And I'm like, “This is a nightmare” [Inaudible 13:05] I was in my 20s, I didn't live with her, that's fine. She was late to take care of my kids, helped me with my children so I could, I don't know what I was doing, something. And then I… She’s my mom, she's letting me get it out. I, of course, apologized, but I was angry. And then I was like, “Man, that was her best. I'm sure she stopped to help a duck that was stuck in the street or help some kids who needed something, or somebody stopped to chit-chat with her, or she got distracted reading somebody's paper, or doing a recommendation. Or maybe she just was laying in bed watching Netflix, and good for her.” I think that for her. But it didn't really change my lens that my best is not everybody else's best. And that has to be okay, too. And that when I show up in a team, and lead a team, or work in a team, I have to reframe my mind. And certainly in healthcare too, when people are their most vulnerable, or not set up for success, like, “This is the best they have to offer for the day.”
Scott Allen 14:01
Yeah. And how are we? What are the opportunities you see when it comes to how to better prepare some of these individuals to take on these really challenging leadership roles? It's really, really admirable. These folks raise their hand. The work is challenging, the environment is challenging, and the pace is challenging. What do you think we can have on our radar to ensure that people are set up for success? What are some things that come to mind for you?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 14:33
I think all the governing bodies in healthcare are recognizing how important leadership is, leadership development, and leader curriculum, but there's no white paper, curriculum standards, or deliverables that says, “If you do this, this will happen.” And I think that's sort of across the board in leadership. If you do this, you will be a good leader. But, in healthcare, there's nothing. There are no exercises, there's no mentorship, and there's no professional development that is standard. And there are places that are encouraging those things. There's a lot of literature focused on nursing that, if they are in a Nurse Residency Program where they have a support system and a senior person that's not for their on-the-job training, but for this other things as they're working out of their novice transition, that they have higher retention, less burnout, satisfaction, which in turn then increases your Press Ganey satisfaction. You're not familiar with that, right? It's your Medicare reimbursement, which is a federal mandate that says “Your patients are going to be satisfied with the following things. And if your scores are low, you don't get as much money.” So, I think that having those sorts of tools. I'm a clinical nurse practitioner, I take care of patients 40 hours a week. But my extra time, my free time, I spend a lot of time mentoring other people to do these things because I want them to be successful. I'm very committed to helping the patients of West Baltimore, it's an extremely underserved, high vulnerability, low health literacy group, and I feel it is my privilege to take care of them. And I will, I think, be there forever. But it's a hard patient population. We're all overworked and underpaid, and I think that is a national standard of health care. I don't think I'm better or worse than anybody else, and I do think that. But I have a little list of people that I check in with, like, “Hey, what are you writing about? What's your school plan? How are you thinking about the professional advancement model? How can I help you?” And I get a lot of personal satisfaction about that, but I'm one person, I can't do that for every person, nor should I. I think we should all have the responsibility to do that. But I think sort of the burnout and the low satisfaction has sort of given us all sort of the [Inaudible 16:30] of putting our head in the sand and hoping that one day it will pass, which I don't think it well.
Scott Allen 16:35
Yeah. So, there's some acknowledgment from the health care organizations, the governing bodies, that this is a critical topic. And even in your context, you're prioritizing that mentorship and taking the time to really ensure that people feel like they are up to speed. What other opportunities exist, what do you think? What could healthcare do differently? One of my favorite quotes is, “Every system is perfectly designed for the results that it achieves.” So here we are. What else could we experiment with to see if we better prepare folks to be successful?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 17:11
I think that we certainly don't have a structured leadership development class. And, to my knowledge, that's a standard for nurses, PT, social work, and physicians. I think lots of us are interested in it and sort of prioritize it, but it's not a standard of curriculum. So, wouldn't it be wonderful to know what working in a team looks like? Read IRS work on followership, understanding what ethical, moral, and invisible leadership looks like as you are transitioning into your team role. What does it look like in your five-year development when you're becoming an official leader in your group? What does that look like? What resources can you go to? Everybody talks about all these medical conferences you can go to, I'm the only medical person for my organization that goes to ILA, and I'm like, “You guys should go, it's so great.” Because I can read more medical knowledge. I don't need to…I love learning, I do go to a number of medical conferences, but I want to be around people who are totally different than me, that makes me really think. And I just think that we're just bad at that. We're bad at giving some curriculum, we're bad at the formalized mentorship, we're bad at the formalized professional development, we're bad at making a roadmap of what it looks like in your six-month, one-year, five-year plan that has only shown that it will help other people. But I think that we're just so engrossed in the work that it's hard to sort of step back and say, “Hey, I know you're working 50 hours of clinical work that you're only getting paid for 40, but now, can you also take on this other project and start thinking about it?” It’s a hard ask.
Scott Allen 18:38
Yeah, it really is. It really is. What comes to mind for me is, to your point, it's probably not going to be what most of us think. It's probably not going to be, “Hey, would you spend another five hours a month, five hours a week…” And I know some health care workers that are. I worked with some anesthesiologists in Northeast Ohio, this group of women who have created a leadership program within their institute, and they're going above and beyond and just doing that work. And then, recruiting people to come and learn about how to be better leaders. But again, to your point, that's above and beyond, and it's not anything within the flow of their workday. How do you make that growth and development align with the flow? That's a fun puzzle for me. That's a fun question to just explore. How can the development align with the flow of the work? Because of the technical component of the job, that learning flows with the work in some ways. There's some classroom, but there's also a lot of on-the-job, on-the-fly learning that's going on, that's happening. How do we do that with leader development? Interesting question.
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 19:47
Yeah. It’s an existential question, I think that, where I work, all of the clinical advanced practice providing leads, there are 32 of us. All of us work full-time clinically. 40 hours. We have zero time to do any of the professional development, teamwork, and stuff like that. And we all sort of acknowledge, and our boss acknowledged that wouldn't it be great if we had 10% of our time that's just for that, and you can use it however you want? And I think, at some point, organizations need to sort of look at their financial structure and say, “How can we get people to stay?” If we're gonna pay you less than other places because you work in a big city, or there are no resources, or everybody's budget got killed from COVID, we just have to sort of, organizationally, think about what is our 10-year look like to say, “We're going to pull this 10% of the budget to, at least, allow them that space, or something.” I don't know what’s the answer, I think that there has to be some sort of fiscal responsibility from the organization to say, “We want these people to stay.” And maybe it's, “We'll give you 10% professional time, however, you want, and you have to agree to stay five years,” which I think almost all of us would stay because training us is such a huge pain and financial burden. Is there an opportunity to do that? But they're just not ready. It's just a bummer, but I don't know any organizations in our area that are. Everybody who does it is just doing it for free because we care about it.
Scott Allen 21:07
Yeah. It's interesting. I wonder how, and if technology could be leveraged where… You have your Apple Watch, and your Apple Watch is telling you to stand up because you haven't stood up enough yet today? Probably not in your case, but in most…
Suzanne Fitzpatrick 21:22
I’m good, I already did my hour…
Scott Allen 21:27
(Laughs) I believe that. But it's just, how could we leverage technology to almost provide these microlearning experiences or micro reminders to individuals, again, kind of in the flow of their day so that they're pinged? Because you're probably not going to get much further than a ping in many cases, “Hey, remember this, this was a goal of yours that you were going to maintain emotional intelligence,” or whatever the topic is. I don't know, it's fascinating because it's needed. It's a necessity. But how do we do that in the flow of the work so that it's not another five hours or another 10 hours? It would have to be these little micro, little deposits. At least, that's one idea, right?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 22:13
Yeah. I tell my students and the people I mentor at work… I'm shocking. I make myself a to-do list every day of things I have to get done. My mom would throw up thinking about that. When she passed away -- and I know this about her -- anyway, when she passed away, I found all these little sticky notes and little things, I'm like, “What are you talking about? You can't get anything done?” Clearly, it worked for her. But I tell my students, people I mentor, I said, “Put yourself in your own to-do list, what's on your to-do list for the day?” So like, today, my to-do list is I'm an exercise person, so I made sure I did 30 minutes on the treadmill, and then, I did some lifting, and then, I take piano lessons, which I was like, “Man, I need to cancel.” I have the last week of my classes this week, I need to hammer down, I'm like, “Nope, it’s on my list. It's for myself. Get it together, Suzaanna, you’ll feel better doing it. But it's really hard, right? Because, especially, I'm sure everywhere, but healthcare is my lens, we go into healthcare because we want to help people. So, people are like, “Can you help me?” I’m like, “Yes. Of course, I'll help you. Of course, I'll push myself to the bottom of the list to help with this project, which I have no interest in at all. Of course.” So, I think just we need to do better about doing that. And so, I'm reading. My mom told me to read ‘Essentialism.’ Have you read this book?
Scott Allen 23:26
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 23:27
Oh, my gosh, you should Google it. Okay, so it's about the power of saying no, and about how 20% of what your work you should focus on because you get an 80% output from that 20%. Because we think in our heads, “If I do 80% more, you really only get 20% of it.” So, my mom, my mom was a reader and a writer. She's like, “Suzanna, you really got to read this book, it's about saying no.” And I'm like, “No.”
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 23:53
And she bought me this book like five years ago, and it was sort of our running joke because my list is just a nightmare of things that I have to do. And both of it, though, it's extremely fulfilling. So, I am trying to be cognizant of saying yes to the things that are meaningful, but saying no to stuff, I really got to do better about that. And then, say yes to the things that are meaningful, and if I sort of get the most 80% from 20% of the work I think that would be good. You should look at the book. And I think, as human beings, we all need to do better about that too, of saying no to the things that provide us nothing. Not just helping people, if that brings you joy you have the bandwidth. Of course, you should say yes. I don't mean that's not providing you anything. But the person who offers you nothing, they're asking you just because they're being lazy, they're asking you because they're not prioritizing themselves and they know that you will get it done, is not the thing you should say yes to. That's the thing you should say, “I'm happy to be your support staff,” or, “I can circle back with you in a month,” o, “I'm in the middle of something.” This is what I’m reading right now, that's educationally stimulating, not the Hunger Games which makes me feel funny inside, or rereading Harry Potter which equally is good. So this one, he put an away reminder, away signature when he was writing his book, like, “So sorry, I can't prioritize email, I'm writing this.” He was like, “You could consider putting an away message when you're actually in town to do other things.” And I'm like, “What? I shouldn't check my email every five minutes and respond to every person with no work-life balance?” Anyway, it did get me thinking.
Scott Allen 25:21
Well, I love the fact that you said no to the book about saying no. (Laughs)
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 25:28
That was funny. I was like, “No, I’m not reading that.” (Laughs)
Scott Allen 25:31
But I really enjoy the phrasing that you had there, ‘put yourself on the to-do list.’ Stephen Covey had this famous time management matrix. And I think quadrant-one was urgent but not important, and quadrant… No, quadrant-one was urgent and important, that stuff that's urgent and important. Quadrant-two was important, but not urgent. And that's that hardest quadrant for all of us, I think, to just protect. To protect that block of time, prioritize the piano lessons, the run, or the workout. Right now, in our lives, as we were talking before we got on air, quote-unquote, we have three children, and so, the only hour that my wife and I can work out is 5 to 6:00 A.M. That's the only hour we have during the day that isn't consumed by something else that is just a consistent block of time that we can both always do. And it is what it is. But if we're going to prioritize ourselves, we have to protect that block of time. And that's not going to be a forever thing, but it's our ‘right now’ thing, and it’s a commitment.
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 26:43
Give yourself grace too that it's okay that you're prioritizing your three kids, and you recognize that you're not willing to sacrifice their time for you. And I'm the same. I'm never going to put myself above my children. This is not a thing, I know that about myself, not ever, and they know that. So, I also get up at five, I usually do schoolwork or something from 5:00 to 6:00, and I usually work out from like 6:00 to 6: 30. Or, if I know I have other time throughout the day. My workout time today was 8:45 to 9:15. And then, I had another one later if I didn't get it all done which is on my list. Because I know that I'm always going to put them first. For me, they're such a blip, like, then they're going to be gone. And I have no siblings, my parents are gone. They're my thing, so I don't want to miss a moment. I just don't want to miss it. And I miss lots of moments, but I try not to miss as many as I can.
Scott Allen 27:31
Yes. Well, let's go for one more. What else could we do in healthcare to better prepare people to be successful? What do you think? I love your phrasing, again, ‘Put yourself on your to-do list.’ And maybe we design some interventions that work with the flow of the work. Maybe we are tapping people to mentor others, not necessarily just on the clinical side, but in the other domains of the work, quote-unquote. Does anything else come to mind for you?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 28:04
I think we do a really bad job of giving each other grace. Things are hard, but I'm aware that it's hard for everybody. Every person right now is having a moment of hard. And, certainly, during COVID, every person had a moment of hard whether they were working full time from home and trying to manage their kids, whether they were working full time at home and they didn't have the internet, whether they had a small business that went under, whether they were… Very, very few of us were in the top point 1% who were totally fine, and rich, and things were wonderful. Every single one of us had our own set of struggles. And I think that we, as human beings, quickly can go down the negative Nancy because it's really fun to talk S with each other about stuff without sort of going into the work of like, “Okay, not productive.” I'm happy to be a negative Nancy and go from 0 to 1 million to be pissed about something with you. You need me to, I'm your gal. It doesn't do anything. Sometimes you need to get it out, I sort of had this running joke with my friends, like, “You just needed to get out, get it out, man. Just like… Let it out.” But then, you got to move on because nobody cares. The only person who cares about you is you. And I don't mean that in a selfish way, but the only person who's going to flip your own story and be the star of your own movie, to quote my mother, is yourself. So, when I'm at work, and I see people in the struggle bus, I could spend $10 and go get coffee, everybody with their Starbucks and I walk out. Not a big deal. The chargers like, “Oh my gosh, I really want to go to this thing, but I can't do it.” “I’ll watch your phone.” I've been a bedside nurse and 15 years, so I do say that, I'm like, “I can't guarantee what will happen if somebody calls me on the phone, but I definitely could take care of the patients. But if anything gets slow and staffing, it's going to be a crapshoot.” I’ll watch your phone, I don't care. Or do you need me to sit at the desk? For me, those things cost me nothing but we sort of forget that we are so good to accept or to give help from other people, like, “You need something, how can I help you?” Whatever. But you feel so shameful and vulnerable to say, “I need help. I'm dying. Can somebody please help me?” You just feel like throwing up saying it. I do. So, recognizing the nonverbals, and the sort of drying away, and the things that are putting out there that this person is like on the major struggle bus, which sometimes it's me. I'm really good to say like, “Hey, today's the day that I suck, and I'm really sorry. So, for the best of the rest of you, please just bring me coffee and don’t talk to me.” So, I had this student who was like, she did that turn in five assignments, she has not turned in five. So, I'm like, “Hey, we need to meet, we need to meet,” and she doesn't want to meet with me. She’s doing the avoidance. I know that thing. And I was like, “You have to meet.” So then, we're done with the class and I said, “You need to stay.” And so, all I said to her was, “How's it going? What's going on with you? How can I help you?” And she started crying, she was like, “I thought you're going to yell at me.” I was like, “How could I yell at you?” People don't go to graduate school to feel bad, you go to graduate school because you think you're going to get an A. We’re nurses because we think we're going to be great nurses. And so, saying to each other, “How can I help you? It's a true offer, I can do anything. I can’t guarantee it might be up to your standard, but I will give my 150%.” And I think that we need to do a better job of that. I think that what can we do to help other people, not just our patients, but to ourselves, to our co-workers, and not get in the sauce about talking smack about all the things that suck. I can't make your schedule better, I can't make you make more money, and I can't make your patients less angry. I can't do those things, so chase things that you can. I say to a nurse, “Hey, this conference is going to be awesome, do you want to go? I'll help you, felt like we can do an abstract together. It'll be super awesome pre-professional.”. She might say yes, she might say no, but at least she knows that somebody has my eyes on her. Somebody else, “Do you need me to switch for you? When is your school schedule because I can be a little bit flexible with my schedule so that you could attend?” Just to be kinder to each other. We just are bad at that, myself included. It’s a skill that I'm working on.
Scott Allen 32:00
Well, there's a mindset there. We are so focused on others, are we focused on one another, and ourselves, and taking care of, number one, and our colleagues who are going to be there with us for the long haul? Is that a priority? And I think it can, again, quite easily kind of get put to the side as we focus on the actual ‘work,’ quote-unquote. But is that the actual work as well? Fascinating. Well, as we wind down today, so I heard that you're an avid reader. What I always close these conversations with is, what have you been streaming? What have you been listening to? What have you been reading that's caught your attention recently? And it could have nothing to do with what we've just discussed. It could be Harry Potter, or it could be essentialism. Whatever it is, what's caught your attention in recent times? What have you been streaming? What have you been listening to or reading?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 32:56
I listen to a ton of ‘How I built this’ on NPR, which, yeah, small business people who really… I'm not a business owner, I'm not an entrepreneur, that's not how I identify, but I can identify to putting my whole entire self and life into something to make it be successful. And so, that, for me, sometimes it's my kids, sometimes that's my friend, sometimes that's my job, whatever that thing is, and the devotion to that work, I can really appreciate. So, I love those. Book-wise, I sort of rotate through. I'm re-reading my mom's Gail Hickman book about invisible leadership, which will make you think because I actually don't want to be an out loud leader. I'm not an invisible person, I'm very extroverted and outgoing. But I would love to be the quiet in the room, and you feel inside that like, “Man, Suzanna made me better.” That's what I love. I read kind of all cut. I read a lot of dog books. My mom and I read a lot of dog books. She and I jokingly would get each other People magazine for Christmas because we didn't need to think to read trash, which always will make you feel better about yourself, I can assure you. I don't ever want to be rich or famous, but man, sometimes the hot messiness makes you go, “I think I’m okay.”
Scott Allen 34:08
Suzanna, last night, my wife and I were going to bed, and she had the iPad on and I said, “What are you reading?’ And she's like, “Buzzfeed.”
Scott Allen 34:20
She said, “Helps me go to sleep.” I said, “Whatever works.”
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 34:25
Scott Allen 34:27
Oh, that's awesome. Well, now what is the dog book, real quick?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 34:32
Oh, yeah. So, ‘Merle's Door’ is really good. If you don't know this book, it's about this guy who lives in the mountains and he finds a dog while on a hike. And my mom was a major dog person. My mom was a Buddhist and a lifelong vegetarian and really into animals and things like that. She was like, “You should read this book.” And so, it's about him trying to tame the dog, and recognizing that the dog lives in the world. And we're not here to tame anybody, we're here to be and figure out how we be together. So, exciting book about that or [Inaudible 35:05] I’m looking at that.
Scott Allen 35:08
That's really cool. I hadn't come across that genre. Now that you're explaining it, I know exactly what you mean. ‘Old Yeller’ could have been one, right?
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 35:18
Oh, yeah. I don't want to read about dog dying. Major tears. No, thank you.
Scott Allen 35:25
(Laughs) Well, Suzanna, I really, really appreciate your time today. It's been such a pleasure to meet you. And I appreciate you saying yes. I pulled you aside at the ILA conference and said, “Hey, would you be on a podcast?” You were like “Sure.” I really, really appreciate your time. I'm glad you didn't say no to this.
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 35:43
I hadn't read the book yet.
Scott Allen 35:45
I hadn't read the book yet. Yeah, that's awesome. Well, thank you so much, and I look forward to our paths crossing again. Be well. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for all you do.
Suzanna Fitzpatrick 35:56
Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me. This was really fun.
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