Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 140 | April 20, 2021
Speaking The Truth - Debriefing Nurse Leaders
Chief Executive Officer at Synova Associates
Hello and welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Today my special guest is Lori Gunther, Chief Executive Officer at Synova Associates and a Board Member of the Patient Experience Institute. Lori became a partner at Synova in 2019, bringing twenty years of NICU and perinatal industry experience to the company. Lori is a trained professional counselor, and a nationally recognized expert in the field of patient experience, crisis intervention, PTSD, communication skills, and maternal-fetal health. She is recently published in Advances in Neonatal Care on how to improve and implement parent education in NICUs.
We start out by learning Lori’s counseling background, her years as a therapist, her journey through the March of Dimes, and how she got to Synova. Lori tells us how she got more involved in Synova, what they do, and how she thrives in chaos. She shares a story about what happened to her infant son after having surgery, which led to her wonder how can we have better conversations, listen more and think about our words. Dr. Orsini and Lori agree that the communication skills necessary for physicians and nurses to speak with patients are the same communication skills that are required for good leaders. Lori shares stories about her dad, and the mantra that she still lives by, “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution.” She tells us how she ended up owning Synova right before the pandemic hit. Lori tells us about the Synova debriefing calls for nursing leadership and how they really help during the pandemic. Since there’s a whole area of nursing leadership that has no support, as well as for a nurse or physician who’s really not getting any support, Lori shares with us some “Drop the mic” advice. We end with Lori telling us the most difficult conversation she has had in her lifetime and some advice on how she was able to navigate through this. Also, find out what’s on the horizon for Synova, the free webinars they offer, and their 25th Anniversary event in November that Dr. Orsini will be speaking at. If you enjoyed this podcast, please follow, and download all the previous episodes to find out more about what we do and how we teach communication.
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Lori Gunther (2s):
I would say leadership exhaustion is real. I often will say I had a call with a C-suite leader last week, and I said, so let me ask you something. What do you do? Who takes care of you, who talks to you about your leader fatigue and what is your experience? And she said, nobody, nobody. And so that’s what I love is that we can say, well, regardless of your position, if you were in a leadership position, we can help you. We have a community for you.
Welcome to Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr. Orsini is a practicing physician and President and CEO of The Orsini Way. As a frequent keynote speaker and author, Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders, how to navigate through the most difficult dialogues. Each week you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate. Whether you are a doctor faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better this is the podcast for you.
Announcer (1m 23s):
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 24s):
Welcome to another episode of difficult conversations lessons I learned as an ICU physician. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini, and I’ll be your host again this week. Well, continuing on our quest to inspire each and every week and learn valuable communication techniques. I am delighted this week to have Lori Gunther as our guest, Lori Gunther is chief executive officer at Synova associates and a board member of the patient experience Institute. She became a partner at Synova in 2019, bringing 20 years of NICU and perinatal industry experience to the company. She was previously the senior director of NICU innovation at the March of dimes, where she directed their professional education portfolio, spearheaded the development of the March of dimes training Institute and provided the strategic vision for the NICU family support program.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 15s):
A trained professional counselor. Lori is also nationally recognized expert in the fields of patient experience, crisis intervention, PT as the communication skills and maternal fetal health. She has recently published in advances in neonatal care on how to improve, implement parent education in NICUs. Well welcome, Lori, thanks so much for taking the time to be here today.
Lori Gunther (2m 39s):
Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 42s):
You and I, our paths have crossed a few times over the past few years, I’ve done some stuff for you. One of the best things about doing this podcast, to be honest with you is that I get to meet people, but this is our 40 something episode that we’ve done. Although I already knew you we’ve become really much closer and become friends in the last few weeks. So that’s just a total perk on my part. So it’s great to get to know you as a friend. I like to start off every podcast with the audience getting to know who you are, because I think it’s really important as I always say in my workshops, you have to build trust and be a genuine person first. So if you don’t mind, let’s just start out with telling me who Lori Gunther is, your journey to through the March of dimes and how you got to Synova and then we’ll just see where this takes us.
Lori Gunther (3m 32s):
Okay, great. Well, I think given what we’re going to discuss or what I know we were going to discuss, it makes sense for me to talk a little bit about my counseling background and my years as a therapist. So I went and got my undergrad in both politics and psychology at Ithaca College. And then I went on to grad school and got my master’s in community counseling. And I picked community counseling cause I really wanted to focus on victim services and crisis response. And I wanted to work within a community where I felt like my services and my support that I could give to victims mattered. I also was very interested in finding my own voice.
Lori Gunther (4m 12s):
I was a believe it or not a very quiet child. And I had been really impacted as a senior in high school by a session around finding your own voice and a young girl who had been exposed to domestic violence and then shared her story. And I just thought there was such power in that process that I couldn’t tell you her name. I could tell you what she looks like, but she really changed my life. And I thought I want to do that. I want to have that kind of impact. And so that really began my sort of love and passion for speaking, what was my own truth, but also being compelled to speak for those that couldn’t find their voice.
Lori Gunther (4m 56s):
And so that is how I ended up. I wanted to learn how to debate. That’s how I ended up in politics. That’s a major, but I also really wanted to be sort of in a counseling and helping people heal. So right out of school, I worked in two different victim service centers and I was part of the Nova crisis response team, which is the national office of victim assistance. And believe it or not, that was right around 9/11. And that was my very first crisis response that I was called to at a national level. And I wasn’t allowed to respond because I’m from long Island. And I knew people who were in the city, family members, you know, I grew up on the South shore, everybody on the South shore, you know, FDNY.
Lori Gunther (5m 42s):
So I wasn’t allowed to go and feeling like I had this skillset, but I couldn’t go because I was too close to the trauma. What I ended up doing was debriefing the people who had gone onsite as the crisis counselors. So I started to learn the impact of the debrief as a way to ward off post traumatic stress for people who are in critical response situations. And I felt that it was as important as being there was being able to be for the people would have been exposed and re-exposed to trauma over and over again, who are my colleagues.
Lori Gunther (6m 23s):
And so that sort of began a love for the idea of how do we debrief people who are constantly seeing traumatic events happen and they’re being subjected to that. How do we ward off post-traumatic stress? And so that’s kind of where I started. I thought I would do that for the rest of my life. And in 2002, I had my first child, he’s now 18 and in college, yeah, he was born with birth defects and I was a young mom. I didn’t know that before I had him that he would have birth defects. We actually didn’t know everybody was so surprised to go. You didn’t know? I said, no, we really didn’t know until he came out, we looked at him and I said, what’s wrong with him?
Lori Gunther (7m 9s):
And I couldn’t believe given the type of work that I did, that there were no services in place for me as a parent, nothing crisis related was offered to us or done. And I thought there has to be a different way to do this. And so I ended up going and working for the March of dimes actually moved. I gave up a really successful practice that I was in at that time. I was also traveling and speaking all across the country and big universities doing trainings on sexual assault and dating violence. So I was set and then I thought there is this need for young parents.
Lori Gunther (7m 49s):
And then also for the healthcare workers to understand and communicate better about the experience and how can we support them. And so I went and worked at Albany medical center’s NICU in 2004. And that started my journey with the March of dimes, all the, you know, working my way up all the way to the national office as a senior director.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (8m 9s):
It’s really interesting how life as they say, the universe pushes you in certain directions. I’ve heard this before, when you can’t make a decision, don’t worry. The universe will push you. My journey’s similar. I always wanted to be a doctor, always wanted to be neonatologist. And then as I talk about it in my book, this really profound incident that happened when a doctor really struggled with giving bad news. And so this was something that really impacted me. I was thinking about doing this and I really wanted to research and teach how to break bad news. But one day in my church, I’m Catholic and there’s a little retreat that I did. And they played a video from Dr.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (8m 51s):
Rabbi Kushner, the famous man who wrote when bad things happen to good people. And I had kind of read the book or knew about the book, but when I saw his speech that day changed me because that was a lot about the things we say, communication, what people feel and how it impacts them the way they hear the news. And at that point, I said, I’m going to dedicate my entire career to teaching doctors and nurses, how to have these difficult conversations. You are mentioning this person. I think you were a senior in high school that just change it. You went from this shy person to this amazing speaker and then 9/11 comes and you want to help.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (9m 32s):
And it pushes you into this whole debriefing, which we’ll talk about later. But as you’re speaking, I’m going the universe is really amazing, you know, with your son. And I do believe now there’s so many people that are benefiting from what you do. The other comment I’ll make is we talk about PTSD and we’ll talk about that later on. But I think nine out of 10 people, if you said PTSD, the first image that comes to mind is military. And that’s what they think. And they think, well, this only happens to military, but we had on a few episodes ago, we had Dr. Susan Wilson and she deals with second victim syndrome. But it’s a topic that I really want to get into later on.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (10m 13s):
But before we do that, so you’re through the March of dimes. You told me Nova, tell us about how you got more involved in, Synova what they do. And I think the last time we spoke, you don’t have the best timing in the world. Do you?
Lori Gunther (10m 29s):
Sometimes I just wonder about things, but if there’s one quality that I know for certain about myself is that I am an absolute survivor. So I thrive in chaos. My dad used to call me captain chaos. So I do really well in a crisis situation, being thoughtful about how am I going to get myself out of this situation? What is my path? And then I can fall apart later. So I excel in that crisis situation, but I think, you know, I’ve always loved this concept of educating.
Lori Gunther (11m 8s):
And when Ethan was born, he had multiple things wrong with him. But really the thing that I heard the most from healthcare workers was it’s just cosmetic or he’s going to be fine or be so thankful he doesn’t have a syndrome. And what I knew was that my baby was going to have 18 years of surgery. What I knew to be certain was that I felt I had done something wrong and I guess he was about nine months and he had a major surgery and he coded on me at home. And I remember I could tell you everything that I was doing, the movie, I was watching everything.
Lori Gunther (11m 50s):
And I thankfully was trained in CPR at the time. And something me go check on the baby. Now he was in like a full where he couldn’t touch or do anything. You know, he was restrained because of his face. And I remember going up and he was blue and picking him up and his whole body went limp, I don’t remember this but my father-in-law will tell me that I started screaming that the baby was gone. And it was in that moment where I thought may no mother ever hear what I’ve heard since he’s been born, which is our experience Isn’t valid the way that we see it, or the perception of what has happened to us when I had to do CPR and, you know, bring Ethan back.
Lori Gunther (12m 34s):
I was a changed mother. I will always treat my first differently because of that situation and be, as it may, I thought something has to be different. How do we educate the hospital staff to not tell me that? It’s, it’s just cosmetic. If I heard that one more time, I was going to scream. So I think when I got to March of dimes, I really felt very strongly like use my voice. I know I have one I’ve been training for many years. How do I do this? Anything you asked me to do? I would always say, yes, it didn’t matter that I had. Now I had another baby. I didn’t care if I could be out there training and talking to doctors and nurses about at first, it was my experience.
Lori Gunther (13m 16s):
But after a while I found, I didn’t even need to share my experience. I had enough things that I had been sort of privy to and working in the NICU or things that I had seen happen that I thought could have been handled better. So I kind of went on a quest like you did, which was, how do we have better conversations? How do we engage our own empathy? How do we listen more? And think about our words. We never really know what people’s stories before we launch into that, that sort of prerecorded speech that we have. And so being thoughtful about that, it was very important to me. And so when I was at a level at March of dimes, where I was the senior director of strategy and innovation, I was invited to go to a Synova conference.
Lori Gunther (14m 0s):
I think that was probably around 2011. And I had just taken a promotion. I had just had my third baby and they said, you know, this might be good for her. She’s now taking on all new staff. Let’s send her to the leadership conference. And I remember sitting in the background and Peggy Gordon, who was a CNO in Children’s in Missouri, she spoke about her leadership style and it changed me forever as a leader. And I remember walking away, my boss and my boss’s boss were with me, and I said, it’s all different now.
Lori Gunther (14m 41s):
I know what I need to do to engage my team. And I was very proud of the fact that during my time there, I never lost an employee. I never had anybody resigned. That was something I’m very proud of. And it was really every year I wanted to go back, I would fight to go back because to me the energy, the engagement was so important to me. I got to know the people at the conference. And then I was asked to speak and do general sessions. And then I was invited onto the planning committee. I said yes to anything. Yep. Whatever you want. I’m here.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (15m 14s):
That’s fantastic. You said a couple of things. I think you use the term, engage our empathy. And I firmly believe that as physicians and nurses and not everyone in this podcast audience is in healthcare, but physicians and nurses have just natural empathy, natural compassion, it’s within us all, but it doesn’t always manifest that. And we don’t always show it. And I think a part of that is becoming task-oriented, but a big part is also, we’re never taught how to convey that empathy. And so I think that’s what you do is so important because it brings us all to light. Synova brings us to light. And you also said how excited people get in the energy at these Synova conferences because people really want to learn, right?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (16m 1s):
We are just doctors and nurses. Sometimes people say, you know, it sounds like when you give these lectures about poor communication, that you’re being negative. No doctors and nurses are incredible people and therapists and leaders. And it shows when they get so excited at these conferences. The last thing I’ll comment on also is that nursing leadership. And we keep talking about that. That’s what Synova does. One thing that I learned before this podcast and has been solidified with all my guests is that the same communication skills that are required for a physician or nurse to speak with a patient are the same communication skills that are required for good leaders. And if you can learn to master those communication, you can be good at both.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (16m 47s):
Lori Gunther (16m 48s):
Absolutely. My mom was a nurse leader. She was a manager of an ER. So it was a little girl and she kind of stepped away from that when I was in my early teens, but I was raised by a nurse and my dad was a CEO and he was a CEO of a small company that he grew from two employees up to 400 employees. And he just loved taking care of, he was an excellent leader. And when I was, gosh, a teenager, I didn’t have a choice. I went to work for my dad and he put me in HR. So you learn how to talk. You learn what’s good. I still say things that he told me, which is his mantra was don’t come to me with a problem.
Lori Gunther (17m 29s):
Come to me with a solution. I can’t well, everything, even though my title says president and CEO, I surround myself with the smartest people and we brainstorm together, but don’t come to me with just a problem. And all of my staff know that I’m going to say that. So before you walk in the door, come to me and say, what’s potential solutions. And let’s think about it together because teams together are so much better. And what I love about my job, because I do feel as though I have the most incredible job in the world is that I’m here to make teams stronger. Most of the time, what you just said about doctors, the nurses, the empathy and compassion is there, but what’s also, there is exhaustion and sort of, I would say leadership exhaustion is real.
Lori Gunther (18m 19s):
I often will say I had a call with a C-suite leader last week. And I said, let me ask you something. What do you do? Who takes care of you? Who talks to you about your leader fatigue and what your experience? And she said, nobody, nobody. And so that’s what I love is that we can say, well, regardless of your position, if you were in a leadership position, we can help you. We have a community for you and that’s been fantastic. But you asked me, how did I end up owning Synova? I was, it was a fun process.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (18m 55s):
Yeah. I was talking about your timing. You bought it right before COVID correct?
Lori Gunther (19m 0s):
Yeah, I was, I had a great team, but I knew I was ready to move on from the March of dimes. I kind of had done what I felt I was ready to do. And the Synova partners at the time asked me to lead a strategy session about the vision and growth potential of their company. And so I brought my, see I’m a vision person, but I brought one of my team members, one of my staff with me, and she’s an executer 100%. Like I have the vision that I handed to her and she tells me if we can do it. And if so, how? And so Melissa Gail and I went together and we, we did all the interviews and the dialogue, and we had this big strategy meeting with the partners.
Lori Gunther (19m 41s):
And I remember we were sitting in the airport after the meeting and we were kind of speechless. It was so fun. There’s so much potential for this very small company that was really run as a side business. They had two events and she said, what are you thinking? And I said, I don’t want to draw a strategic plan up and not be part of it. Yeah. So she looked at me and she said, I’m in. I said, I don’t think I could do this without you. And so we decided to leave our job. We made an offer on the company. It was accepted. And nine months later we bought the company, which was in 2019.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (20m 22s):
So right before the pandemic hits and like all of us were struggled through the pandemic. As you said, you’re a survivor. So you got through that and the universe pushed you because I think correct me if I’m wrong. This pushed you into this debriefing that we’re going to talk about. And PTSD, I think before COVID, as I mentioned before, PTSD was only military. Nobody even thought about doctors and nurses, the term healthcare heroes. I’ve never heard that term before COVID and now people were seeing visions of there’s these stock videos on the internet all the time about these, the doctors and nurses, or exhausted lying on the floor in the hallway, we’ve all seen them.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (21m 4s):
And I think the public is a little more aware now of how difficult this can be on us. And I think the secret’s out of the bag now, and maybe that’s the first step towards getting some help. The professional burnout among doctors and nurses, as you know, is an all time high physicians now have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. And maybe this COVID, if anything comes out of this, maybe this will bring this to light. So tell us about the debriefing and the PTSD. And last time we spoke, you were so excited about these sessions. So tell us about this, because I think it is so timely right now.
Lori Gunther (21m 41s):
Yeah, certainly. So, and I am super passionate about it because, you know, when we bought Synova, Melissa, my business partner is a clinical social worker. And we were very nervous about the fact that we are two non-nurses now owning and running a nurse leadership company. And so one of the very first things we did was we created a board of directors and they function as a nurse advisory board and they help us guide the vision and mission of the company, knowing that we were guided under their vision has been unbelievable, because for us, we can go and ask. And so boy was that smart right before COVID hit that.
Lori Gunther (22m 23s):
We had this incredible resource just at our fingertips. And so Covid hits. And I remember it was this week, last year, Melissa was away on a family vacation. Her husband is a physician and I was home. And I was like, our company is going to go down. There’s no way we’re going to survive this. We have to cancel our conferences. And I remember she called me the day she got back and she was in tears and she’s like, we need to meet with the accountants. We need to figure out what we’re going to do. If we go bankrupt. And it was all of those. I sold my house to buy this company. Like I moved my kids. I gave up a very strong career with a company that I was really in love with.
Lori Gunther (23m 6s):
And we’re only a year in, how did this happen? And that survivor gene kicks in for me of what is my skillset? What do I know how to do? And I kept saying, we will figure this out step by step. We’ll figure it out. And I started getting phone calls at night, where I love my nurse leaders. I’m always available to them any. They know that that they’re part of our community. I make myself available and I started getting calls at night, almost every night. They would be on their way home, driving home after a day from what they had never experienced or seen before. And they knew I was a safe person to call because I wasn’t in the hospital.
Lori Gunther (23m 47s):
They know that I’m a trained therapist and they felt as though it wasn’t a burden to me that they knew I could listen to. That had been my job. And I remember calling Melissa saying, we need to do something. This is not anything other than showing up for our nurse leaders. They’ve showed up there who are business is. We need to show up for them. And so we started running twice a week, debriefing calls, and we’re very clear. They’re not support groups. We actually engaged with therapists from all over the country who were interested. We needed to find what services could we offer them and what referrals could we give to them? And what happens if we found that somebody was feeling unstable, where do we send them?
Lori Gunther (24m 31s):
So we did a lot of homework, but then very quickly we put together twice a week calls at night and on the weekend. So we were committed to working seven days a week. It didn’t matter. And those calls were transformative. We created a closed Facebook group for our people. Instead, if you’re interested and you want to come, come into the closed group. And that’s where we post the information on them. So it’s been a year later and we still run them. They’re not as frequent. They weren’t needed once we got into like November. So now we’re, you know, monthly, maybe every three weeks. But when we do have one, they leave work early. They wrap their day around the fact that we have one and the need for them is still very clear and very real.
Lori Gunther (25m 16s):
They openly cry on these calls. They share, they’re transparent. They’re honest, they’re frustrated, they’re angry, but it is a safe place to do just that. And we co-lead those calls, Melissa and I, we start them the same and we end the same. And the feedback we’ve gotten is just unbelievable.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (25m 35s):
Because if you’re not a leader. You can go to the leader if you feel comfortable and ask for help, but who’s the leader go to and in medicine everywhere, but especially in medicine, it is still looked upon as being weak that the doctor who’s exhausted, or the nurses feeling burnt out, or the nurse who has second victim syndrome or PTSD, whatever you want to call it. I think we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a perception. That’s a weakness. We should be carrying this S on our chest. And it doesn’t matter. Give me 20,000 patients today and I’ll take care of all of them. And so it’s great that these nurse leaders have a venue to really express that with you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (26m 16s):
And the fact that they’re leaving work early, Lori, that’s amazing. I mean, that is something where they’re like, no, this is important to my own health. And it’s really great to see that. So that is fantastic. And I think the other comment I would make is you said it’s not as busy as it was before these calls aren’t as popular, but this occurred before COVID and it’s going to keep going on forever. So I think that need is going to be there forever. Don’t you think?
Lori Gunther (26m 44s):
Absolutely. And I think, you know, Melissa and I are really committed to running these on the schedule that the nurses feel is the most appropriate, which is at night where they can be home and safe to talk. We do really think through the calls and we always lead them the same way we sort of, everybody has to introduce themselves. We don’t always have the same group, although over time, it definitely, we have some of our, like, they wouldn’t miss it. They are on vacation in Maui and they’re calling in. But yeah, so I always ask them with what are they most challenged by, or what do they want to ask the group? And we were thinking of the day that in January, we happened to have a call the week of the riots on Capitol Hill.
Lori Gunther (27m 28s):
And we had some new folks in that group that day. But one of our nurses was the nurse manager of a NICU, very close to the Capitol riots. And I kind of had gone around and said, what are we challenged by? And I asked her, I said, you know, I know you’re very close to there. What was that like for you? And she, she cried. And she said, I don’t know how to lead through something like this. She said, my staff are exhausted and now they’re scared. And I don’t know the words, what can I say? What should I say? What do I say that’s appropriate and not offensive. And she’s not born in America.
Lori Gunther (28m 9s):
So she also is coming from this as a different perspective. And she goes, my family back home are calling me, saying, come home. It’s not safe there anymore. And what happened on that call was amazing because as she’s kind of bearing her soul, the rest of the troops rallied and they all kind of go like this, they put their hands in a heart. They let her know, even if they don’t say it on zoom, everybody’s camera must be on. And they show that, you know, that there’s a sense of love and support there. But then it’s, we had a new nurse who said, let me give you the words that I would say, let me tell you what I have found. That’s worked. And they all surrounded her with sort of strategies as to you, can’t say nothing you must say and be authentic to who you are, and you can phrase it like this and that nurse walked away.
Lori Gunther (29m 1s):
And she said, I always ends the calls with what are you most grateful for? And, you know, to leave with a sense of hope. And in that moment, she just said, I am so grateful for each of you because I came to this call thinking, I’m not sure I can get to need to be a nurse, much less a nurse leader. I’m not sure I can keep going on. And she’s like, I absolutely know that I must. So thank you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (29m 25s):
That is really powerful. And it makes you really feel good about what you’re doing in life. And it’s, my life is not only about making money and being successful in business, but it’s about helping people. And that must be an incredible feeling when that happens. And it’s something that I think people didn’t think before, because there’s this whole area of nursing leadership that has no support. And they’re caught between the patients, the nurses, and then there’s even higher administration on top of that, many of the times that they have. So they’re getting from all different angles. What is the best advice you can give to someone is a nurse leadership, or perhaps a nurse or a doctor who’s feeling this what’s the best advice you can give them.
Lori Gunther (30m 11s):
I would say it’s to find your community is to have somebody where, you know, you can talk. When we look at, as a therapist, when I think about post traumatic stress, like what can you do? There’s a lot of words out there, resiliency, coping mechanisms, you know, all those things. You don’t go for a run, you know, make sure that, you know, you take care of yourself and you take time off. All those things are great. But what I know to be true and helpful is that you must process the traumatic events in a way that they’re happening. Just sort of bored off that post stress. If we hold it all in it just festers and it can explode. And that’s why we see the high rates of suicide.
Lori Gunther (30m 53s):
That’s why we see the high rates of divorce. That’s why we see people leaving careers that before they had been their whole life, it’s because it’s suddenly become too much. And so if we process it in small batches, in a place where we feel safer, comfortable, the research will show that we are better able to cope with continued traumatization or traumatic events. And so that’s what we do. And so if you’re not coming to us, you need to find your person, find your tribe, find your community, who are they and trust them that doesn’t always work. If I was a therapist, I also needed a therapist I needed. So I was working in the horrors of murder and sexual assault and domestic violence.
Lori Gunther (31m 35s):
So I needed to make sure I had a place to process that as it was happening. And that is my best sort of resources. Who is your person?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 45s):
Well, that’s the drop, the mic advice right there. Lori, that’s amazing. That’s really so important. I was visiting a hospital once and their attempt to deal with this post-traumatic stress or burnout. I remember they had a chart on the wall and it had numbers on one side. And then if you feel these numbers, this is what you should do. And it was go for a massage, go for a run, kind of the things that you said. And I was looking at it and then nurse pass by two nurses passed by and they kind of chuckled at this sign. And the comment was, well, if I had time to do all that, I wouldn’t be burnt out in the first place. And so I think what you just said is just so profound.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (32m 28s):
You don’t go for a massage and then miraculously feel better and you have to speak to someone.
Lori Gunther (32m 33s):
Absolutely. And I think there’s so many different ways to do it. And I’ll give an example of that. So my best friend growing up as a kid was her name is Megan. She’s now Dr. Lochner. She is an OB GYN out in Stony Brook. And she and I talk all the time. She’s in New York, obviously. So she got hit really hard with COVID. But even before that, she was really committed to the idea of debriefing and sort of crisis response hospital-wide to traumatic events in women’s and children’s. And so she spearheaded the code lavender sort of effort in her hospital, and she’s done an amazing job.
Lori Gunther (33m 13s):
But before that had happened, she had experienced a very traumatic event. And she recently did a session for us on that. And what I noticed when that happened, you know, she works 24 hour shifts when she’s on call, was that she would get in the car after this traumatic events would happen. And she would leave me a Marco polo and a Marco polo is an app on your iPhone. And it’s where you can leave a video for somebody. So I would wake up in the morning and it would be a five or 10 minute sort of debrief of her day. And even though I wasn’t present, she knew I would watch it. And she knew I would validate her and that I was there. So even when I’m not there, I could still be there.
Lori Gunther (33m 56s):
And I’ve given that resource to multiple people and said, listen, if you just need to vent, if you just need to literally hand it off to somebody else, there’s ways to do it, where you don’t feel as though you are dumping on them or making them feel overwhelmed. We use that for a good year and a half during COVID. And I knew she was having a tough day. So I would check in on her throughout the day and just say, Hey, how’s it going? What are you doing? What’s for dinner? What’s this weekend. Do you need me?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 24s):
That’s fantastic. That is so important. Great advice. Everyone who’s listening. You can be in medicine or in business and you can be burned out and you need someone to speak to. So really great advice, Lori, usually I give my guests a warning about this, but I forgot to give you this warning. So the last question that I always ask, and then we’re going to have you tell us how to get in touch with you and Synova I ask every guest the same last question. And I have a feeling that maybe I have a guess on what you’re going to say. What is the most difficult conversation that you have had in your lifetime? And give us some advice on how you were able to navigate through that, put you on the spot. I see that this is not fair.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (35m 4s):
I’ll speak for a few minutes and let her think, because usually I send that to the guests ahead of time, but it’s been such a crazy week. It can be a type of conversation. It doesn’t have to be something so personal, but we like the audience to finish with some really good advice on how to navigate the most difficult conversations.
Lori Gunther (35m 20s):
One of the ones that really do stand out to me, I can think of two. Now that it’s coming to me. But one was when I was just getting ready to leave my position at March of dimes. And I had taken over a unit there, their professional education unit and their staff. So March of dimes had been through, you know, sort of pretty far profound layoffs. And I had kind of lived through a lot of them. And I remember when I took over this division, I remember saying to them, you know, I will advocate for you. I love professional education. Don’t worry. I know this is very traumatizing and you’re worried, don’t worry. And then a decision was made that I had to lay off one of my staff and I had to do it via zoom.
Lori Gunther (36m 4s):
And you know, when the decision is made above you and then you have to deliver and you feel as though it was so impossible, you know, we had lived through all of these layoffs. There was multiple times where I had to be part of those conversations, but it was the first time that it was a direct report to me that I had to do that. And approaching that because you knew you were about to change somebody’s life. Somebody who’d worked for the company for over 40 years and it was really tough, but what I took it for me was to not overspeak to let her speak, to ask her what she was feeling about this and what I could do to help. But I was very clear sort of about what the purpose of our meeting was.
Lori Gunther (36m 46s):
But then I also stepped back and said, I’d like to listen. And if you don’t want to talk right now, that’s fine, but I want you to come back to me and tell me what I could have done better in this process or how this went. If there was something that could have been better or something else that you need, and people are angry when something is taken away from them. And it was really hard. I tried very much to not make it at all about myself, but what I could do for that person. And that was tough. No doubt
Dr. Anthony Orsini (37m 17s):
Difficult conversation to have, but what I’m hearing from you is something that I teach all the time and that’s, you didn’t rush through it and use, you were a listener and you gave her time to speak. And in medicine and in life, no one really wants to be in an uncomfortable situation. So our human tendency is to get in and get out. And I think that makes things worse. So that’s great advice. Lori tell us about, more about just as we close up, Synova what’s coming up for Synova how people can get in touch with you. I know you have a couple of conferences coming up. I think this will probably air in mid April. So there’s a conference in April that may or may not be in before this, but tell us about what’s on the horizon.
Lori Gunther (37m 59s):
So we’ve actually come out of last year, just doing tremendously well as a small company, our industry partners, our sponsors really came through. I came at this as, I don’t want to build a community that is in any way financially benefiting from our nurse leaders. We need to be there for them. We need to be a good steward of what our mission is and who we are. And so we’re not an association. We’re just a really small sort of exclusive company and community that caters to leadership development for nurse leaders. And so we do webinars, but they’re sponsored. So they’re free with CES. So we do a different one every month and there are so well attended.
Lori Gunther (38m 42s):
We stream them live on Facebook. So I would encourage people to watch us at Synova Associates on Facebook or follow me on LinkedIn. It’s Lori G Gunther. And because we post all of these free opportunities and we’ve been able to really pivot quite well. We are now doing hospital-based leadership trainings, where the hospital saw what we did virtually and sort of came to us and said, we don’t have the time. We just don’t have the time. Can you run our leadership training in-house and we now do that. Our debriefing calls are free and they’re open if you are a nurse leader and maternal child health, they are free. And then our biggest event will be our 25th anniversary. So we are a company that has been around for 25 years, and that is in November.
Lori Gunther (39m 27s):
It will be in-person. We have our keynote is Cy Wakeman, and happy to say that Dr. Orsini is also going to be joining us on our agenda for that event and doing a pre-con. So we’re really looking at that event, very strategically about leadership in general. We’re not just making it for our nurses. We’re looking at how we can involve our sponsors. They showed up when we needed them. We want to make sure that they have access to leadership training as well. And so it’s just getting more and more exciting as time goes on.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (39m 59s):
They say, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life for those people who are listening and can’t see Lori’s face right now. She is glowing. When you ask her about Synova and what she does, there’s a pure joy in your face. And yes, I am speaking in November. I’m honored to be asked and I can’t wait. So this has been fantastic, Lori. I use that word fantastic. A lot. My wife tells me, but it has been, and I’m very honored that you took the time to do this. You certainly inspired and educated. I apologize for putting you on the spot at the end there, but you did great. And thank you so much for being on today.
Lori Gunther (40m 34s):
Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I am so enamored with what you’re doing and I think it’s just fantastic. It’s so needed your voice and your work is important on anything that we can do to sort of partner and support you in your work. We’re happy to do. And all that I know right now is that we are stronger together. When I think about things, what’s sort of helped us through this as a company. I’m so blessed. I have a partner. I could never have done this without Melissa. I’m so blessed to have people who showed up for us. No, I came to you without having spoken to you in over a year and said, would you come and do a town hall with us?
Lori Gunther (41m 14s):
It’s a free event for nurse leaders, really? For anybody to attend and without hesitation, you said yes. And so there are things that I think in industry, we all need to lift each other up and support because now is the time when people need it. Now is recovery and rebuilding. So thank you so much for having me. I am going, I am really excited, always happy to be online with somebody from New Jersey,
Dr. Anthony Orsini (41m 40s):
But yes. Down in Florida now, but yes, New Jersey is my route. So thank you, Laurie. This was great. If you enjoy this podcast, please go ahead and hit the follow button. If you want to reach me and find out more about the Orsini way, you can reach firstname.lastname@example.org and all Lori’s information will be listed in the show notes. Again, Lori, thank you. This has been inspirational. And I look forward to speaking to you soon. Take care.
Lori Gunther (42m 4s):
Announcer (42m 6s):
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Dr. Anthony Orsini
For More Information:
It’s All In The Delivery: Improving Healthcare Starting With A Single Conversation by Dr. Anthony Orsini
Advances in Neonatal Care article-“Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Parent Education in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Synova 25TH Anniversary Nurse Leadership Forum-November 14-18, 2021