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The rumble of renovation - from houses to residency training and beyond.

Brene’ Brown defines a rumble as “a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”


The setting and background:

Time: During the 24th year of marriage, the 12th year of living in renovation, on the third home renovation.

Background: Year 3 of cooking with only a single camping butane burner, microwave, and toaster oven in a makeshift kitchen.

Setting: Somewhere in Alaska in a soon-to-be completed kitchen. Cabinets in place, counter and tile waiting to be installed. Appliances ordered. 


The impasse:

Me: I want the stainless-steel backsplash that comes as an option with the stove and has a cute little shelf. 

Him: As the main hands-on renovator with a full-time day job, he is tired of hassles and obstacles. He wants the tile to come down to the stove top so he can be done.

Both of us: We want a pot-filler.

My objection: Tile installed down to the stove is not the look I want aesthetically. Plus, the grout will get so dirty and be hard to clean.

His objection: The material of the stainless steel appears flimsy. The shelf would block the pot filler’s perfect height. Moving it up would be too high and moving it down would mean drilling through the flimsy stainless steel and it would take heroic measures to pull the stove out from the wall if ever needed.


Brene’ teaches that the thing that gets in the way of really getting through an issue is when we armor up as a perfectionist, angry, knowing it all, controlling, emotionally rigid, or critical (3 of those may be go-to armor for me). The good news is that all the renovations over the years taught us a bit about taking off the armor to improve our rumble skills. We listened to each other with curiosity and realized we both had valid concerns but there didn’t appear to be any easy solution. We recognized that each of us brought something important to the discussion. The rumbling, breaks, and circling back continued for several days. We were at an impasse.


Enter - innovation and ingenuity:

Full credit goes to my husband on solving the issue with a bit of outside-the-box thinking. He hired a local sheet metal company to make a stainless-steel backsplash with a shelf that was taller and could mount to the wall rather than the stove.  The pot-filler still had to go through it, but it was sturdier, and it resolved the issue of being able to access behind the stove. The creation ended up looking and functioning better than either of us alone would have created or even imagined. I think it was Albert Einstein who said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” 


That’s where we are with medical training programs and healthcare systems in general. Over 60% of residents and 50% of attending physicians meet criteria for burnout. Approximately 300 physicians commit suicide each year – much higher than the average rate in the US. Whatever we are doing currently is not working and is not sustainable. We need a wide array of people at the discussion table without trying to control, be right, or get defensive. We need curiosity and mutual respect – each brings a unique perspective.  


Impasses can lead to innovation and ingenuity. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention (or is it adversity?). Either way – we need people with cleaned up thinking and growth mindsets to set to the task of healthcare training and delivery reconstruction. There will be rumbling in the renovation, but having all the voices at the table and respecting that each brings an important perspective, I’m hopeful that the outcome will be more amazing than we can imagine.   For some of you, it's your time to rise and be at the table. 


Thank you to those stepping up, entering the arena, and dropping the armor.


Have a joy filled day!  Tonya

One-on-one packages are available for residents, faculty  and early career physicians as well. Contact us to learn more. 


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