Julie Thorson

As leaders, we are often faced with the notion of selflessness and selfishness. It may be hard to recognize, but it happens to all of us. 

Recently, yet another line was blurred for us as leaders in long-term care. I’m sure many leaders in other fields struggle with this fuzzy line. However, I believe it can be like walking a tightrope for us. 

For two years we were asked to be completely selfless without question and to do so quietly without complaint. Many of us operated this way without giving it a second thought. Giving up time with our families, time with our friends, and completely connected to our work. It became so much more than the work we do, it’s who we are. The leaders I know and love in long-term care get it. We wear our selflessness like a badge of honor. 

As we heal from the pandemic, there is a certain kind of guilt creeping in for wanting to be a bit more selfish. Finally taking vacations, maybe even an extended vacation. Stepping away and reconnecting with family and friends. Our work is here and won’t go away, but the last two-plus years shifted things for those of us who still remain and it’s fascinating. 

For years to come, this time in our lives as leaders in long-term care will shape us in ways we cannot even begin to understand. We need to pause and take notice of what has happened. Think of all the team members committed to those we serve who sacrificed so much. There was and is a cost to this. During this time when the world has moved on in many ways, as leaders, we are left with the challenge of guiding team members to a place of emotional health. 

If you aren’t talking about healing, I’d invite you to start a conversation. Bouncing back to a place where it is ok to be selfish with your time and emotional energy is going to take a minute. For me, the word selfish feels negative. Instincts guided us to put others before ourselves, but at what cost?

 Of course, there is a balance. As leaders, striking that balance is a never-ending question. I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I’m learning and growing every day. This field gives us the space and opportunity to do just that, not only for ourselves but for our teams. What a gift. 

We can’t change who we are at the core, but as leaders, we can recognize when there is a need to be selfish with our time and energy so we can rebuild our strength and resiliency in order to continue being the selfless leaders we are. 

Julie Thorson is a recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. She is currently a coach for the LeadingAge’s Larry Minnix Leadership Academy. Her “Living Leadership” blog was previously named “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, she is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and completed Leading Age’s Leadership Educator Program last summer.  

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.