tour of duty header
Marcie Hopkins, U of U Health.
leadership
When Duty Calls: Strategies for Managing Redeployment
Redeployment may be a new health care reality, but in the U.S. military, rapid redeployment and tours of duty have always been part of the job. We turned to local veteran and nursing director Trell Inzunza, and the Resiliency Center's Megan Call, to learn practical strategies for supporting our teams as we transition.
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rell Inzunza is now a nursing director for nursing quality and clinical staff education but she also served as a non-commissioned officer in the United States Navy for 23 years. She often prepared junior sailors for deployment.

The Resiliency Center's Megan Call has become a familar face during Employee Forums providing resilience support as we cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

We asked Trell to share practical strategies and Megan to bring the evidence-base for managers having hard conversations about redeployment.

1. Start with whyfocus on purpose

Trell: Instead of talking about changing roles in terms of pay or job preservation, try talking about the employee’s purpose. Everyone who comes to health care intrinsically wants to help. Each employee has special skills that they bring to the job. Talk about a reassignment in terms of their skills, and how much their skills matter right now to our entire team.

Emphasizing both the employee’s and team’s purpose could potentially help with mitigating stress and burnout during and after the Covid-19 response.

Megan: Providing a purpose at the beginning of redeployment also assists an employee with forming a more logical, positive narrative about their experience. Having this type of narrative, especially during times of stressful change and trauma, is associated with lower levels of hyperarousal, avoidance, anxiety, depression and anger.

2. Acknowledge the fear and other accompanying emotions

Trell: Try to talk about what they may encounter in the new role. We’ve spent years training employees to complete essential tasks: turning a patient every two hours to prevent pressure injuries, including the patient during bedside shift report, etc. It's possible that we won’t be able to complete those tasks when we have many more patients. 

Every time we can’t do something, it may cause a mini trauma for an employee. Help an employee prepare for that feeling by asking open ended questions like—What do you think this redeployment will be like for you? What do you think will be the best thing and worst thing about this experience?

Megan: Continuing to check-in throughout the redeployment helps. Try using these check-in questions. And be aware, it might feel weird. We tend to compartmentalize and not talk about emotions. Leaders can help normalize this process by talking about their own feelings and acknowledging that checking-in feels different now.

3. Talk about home life

Trell: Before junior sailors would deploy, I would have a conversation with them about their home life. It is really challenging to be fully present at work if you’re worried about what’s happening at home. Ask exploratory questions—Do you have a support system? Are your children cared for? How are you going to keep your family safe? Have you talked with your family about how you’re going to change clothes and clean items before you get home? Have you talked about how much you’ll be able to contribute at home? What is the plan for your pets?

Megan: If an employee has a difficult time answering these questions, leaders can refer the employee to U of U Health well-being resources to ensure they have a plan in place.

4. Address stress

Trell: Life isn’t normal at work, and unlike during deployments overseas, life isn’t normal at home either. How do you deal with stress during pre-pandemic life? How did you cope during an uncertain time in the past? Do you have a network of friends and support system? If you need a support system, who is that? Who can you rely on, emotionally? 

Megan: If an employee has a difficult time answering these questions, you may consider referring them to the Resiliency Center for a consult. 

5. Reinforce the support

Trell: Each employee that gets reassigned won’t be alone. They will have a new team and new people to work with. There will be educational support, and support on the job itself.

Megan: Some of the critical components for post-traumatic growth, a form of positive transformation after experiencing trauma, are 1) social support, 2) spirituality/ meaning, and 3) adaptive coping strategies. Leaders who emphasize these components creatively and continuously throughout redeployment will facilitate the chance that employees will feel personally stronger, more connected with others and more appreciative of life in general after all of this is over.

Contributors

Trell Inzunza

Nursing Director, Nursing Support Services, University of Utah Health

Megan Call

Licensed psychologist, Associate Director of the Resiliency Center, University of Utah Health