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Inside the Lab Profession

Bouncing Back: Workplace Resilience for the Laboratory

Have you ever wondered why some people thrive in the face of hardship at work while others live in fear of an insurmountable challenge? I’ve often wondered what keeps people going despite difficulties and upheavals. My conclusion? Resilience – the capacity to respond to pressure and “bounce back” – varies from one person to the next, but I believe it is a learned skill.

The ability to manage pressure, adversity, and uncertainty relies on developing certain behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Although stress is an inescapable aspect of life – and workplaces present a multitude of stressors – it’s possible to learn to manage its effects.

Many workplaces, especially in healthcare, are typified by staff cutbacks, deadlines, competition, and organizational change – so, to succeed, people need the skills to flourish under stress. As a healthcare professional, I have found that resilient workers are viewed as more able to manage unavoidable changes and better at dealing with setbacks. And now, as the world faces a pandemic, I believe there is no more valuable skill than resilience.

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has permanently changed our lives. It has impacted how we work, how we learn, and how we socialize. It has made us more cautious, both personally and professionally. There has been a surge in mental health issues – not just because of COVID-19 itself, but also because of the uncertainty surrounding how and when normalcy will return. For many, the inability to plan ahead is overwhelming. So how do we as healthcare workers remain resilient when our work demands that we be flexible and adaptive?

Over a decade of experience as a specialist biomedical scientist, I have found certain protective factors that have helped improve my adaptability and coping skills. They include:

  • Realistic planning: Making and carrying out realistic plans by playing to my strengths and focusing on achievable goals.
  • Self-esteem: A positive sense of self and confidence in my strengths helps prevent feelings of helplessness when confronted with adversity.
  • Coping skills: My problem-solving skills have empowered me to work through adversity and overcome hardship.
  • Communication skills: Being able to communicate clearly and effectively has helped me to seek support, organize resources, and take action when needed.
  • Emotional regulation: The capacity to manage potentially overwhelming emotions (or seek assistance to work through them) has helped me maintain focus when overcoming a challenge.

I believe such skills can carry people through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond – and only through self-awareness, tenacity, and support at every level, from individual to systemic, can we hone our resilience against the challenges of the future.

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About the Author

Bamidele Farinre

Senior Biomedical Scientist and STEM Ambassador, London, UK.

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