“As part of my postdoctoral work in psychology at Dartmouth, I started to learn techniques that helped people to be more flexible with themselves and more resilient—which is really about finding opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone and be the person you want to be, even in the face of a challenge or heartbreak.
Resiliency research has been around since the 1970s. Researchers were going into schools and identifying students who were successful despite coming from underprivileged and rough environments. They began looking at protective factors that helped these children thrive. Researchers also looked at Vietnam veterans to see what internal and external factors helped them do well despite their war experiences.
The research showed that creating opportunities for positive emotion, engagement, meaning and supportive relationships helped and that these strategies for approaching life could be taught.
My postdoctoral supervisor asked me to develop a program to bring these concepts to health professionals. I started doing psychotherapy with physicians and nurses and I realized this was a population that was trained to take good care of other people, but that training didn’t extend to how to take care of themselves.
I was hired two years ago at the university’s Resiliency Center to focus on boosting individual and group resilience among our health professionals. Within health care, this is a national conversation because many health care professionals are struggling. Physicians have the highest suicide rate in the nation. There is both a business case and a moral imperative for us to make the health care system ‘healthy’ for all employees who work here.
What I like about research on resilience is that it shows there are simple, practical strategies that put fuel in your tank, get you back on track—whether that is getting through the workday or shaping a positive lifestyle.
I also like that resilience strategies can be easily shared. Do a random act of kindness, express your gratitude or tell someone about a moment of awe and I’ll guarantee that person will do the same for someone else. These strategies can create meaningful ripple effects that will help us move forward as a society.”
— Megan Call is the associate director of the Resiliency Center, University of Utah Health