The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are far-reaching and at times mind-boggling.
Aside from the obvious health and economic impacts, few would have predicted long-term supply chain interruptions, bitter politicization around masks and vaccines, or “the great resignation” phenomenon. As an ex-advertising/marketing consultant, I suppose I should not be surprised at another outcome — the proliferation of “healthcare heroes” campaigns. Drive by a hospital and chances are you’ll see a “Heroes work here” banner out front. Turn on the television and you’ll undoubtedly see several commercials extolling the virtues of doctors, nurses and others on the front lines of the COVID battle.
Our client community is made up entirely of those responsible for managing the health of their employee populations, and we are all too familiar with their heroic efforts over the last twenty plus months. In fact, heroic does not begin to describe the work our clients have done. We have deep empathy for our clients, lasting respect for the resilience they demonstrate every day, and pride in our ability to support the work they are called to do.
As I worked with our marketing team to develop messaging to recognize this, I was reminded of a COVID conversation with a niece who is an emergency room physician’s assistant. She and I talk regularly about what she has experienced as the pandemic has unfolded, and she shared her exasperation with patients labeling her a hero. As she put it, “Instead of calling me a hero, how about getting your $&*@! vaccine.”
My niece, like so many in our client community, is worn out and fed up. I heard an ER leader recently describe his staff as “emotionally pulverized” — a very brief, incredibly apt characterization.
Early on, we saw images of New Yorkers on their stoops and balconies banging pots and pans to recognize healthcare workers on their way to treat patients with COVID. That clanging recognition was quickly replaced with noise of another kind. Misinformation, conspiracy theories, partisan nonsense and junk science began to compete with clinical data, and peer-reviewed journals were shouted down by algorithmically overshared social media posts of dubious origins.
Healthcare heroes suddenly have targets on their backs
My niece recently described her futile attempt to reason with a family of unvaccinated COVID patients asking her for a radio-host recommended Ivermectin regimen rather than a clinically proven monoclonal antibody treatment. To her immense credit, she did not turf them to the nearest large animal veterinarian.
Our clients are the occupational health physicians, nurses, technicians and administrators who keep their factories running, their offices open and their government agencies operating. Our health system clients are the folks responsible for taking care of the people who take care of COVID patients. Our clients are the ones that help ensure employees are present, productive, safe and healthy.
Our clients are heroes. They know it, end of story. But our clients don’t want to see another condescending advertisement with an oversimplified “some heroes don’t wear capes” headline. Those responsible for employee health have endured the seemingly unendurable for going on two years. The twists, turns, starts, stops, conflicting guidance, propaganda, directives, and unadulterated nonsense is part of a never-ending onslaught. Despite all of it, our clients do the unbelievably important job of making sure everyone else can stay on the job — providing occupational and employee health services to their colleagues and co-workers.
The Enterprise Health message to occupational health professionals, stated in simple, gritty language to match the situation, is this — we recognize this situation sucks, and we admire your ability to suck it up and do what the world needs you to do. Thank you.