When the stress of life causes you to settle, deciding to take small steps forward can lead to meaningful change.

By Jeffrey Ruiz, CHTM

In November 2019, I participated in the final trail race of the year. I had completed about 75% of the race and started running out of energy. It was night, I was getting cold and tired. I was uncomfortable and reasoned I had put in enough effort for the race so I decided to quit and call it a day. I thought I put in enough effort and justified my DNF—aka: “did not finish.”

Flash forward to 2020 and we had the COVID-19 pandemic that would impact our world and our industry like nothing ever had. It would be almost two years before I could run an organized trail race again. In 2021, I lost my son to his battle with mental illness. If I had any idea of what was to come, I would have stayed on that course and found a way to finish. Instead, I settled.

When the pandemic hit, we embraced the challenge and looked at ways our team could positively impact patient care and the environment, not only for our patients but for our caregivers. Our teams were creative and rose to the challenge. As the pandemic lingered, I could feel it wearing on our teams. Personally, I could feel the daily stress wear on me. Compounded with the recent loss of my son, I settled in my career level. I couldn’t think of going beyond what was the norm. My HTM fire was still lit within me, but it was not burning as bright as it once was.

For many, the demands of the industry can wear on you. The HTM and healthcare industry can provide challenges and barriers for us to overcome. Instead of looking for ways to grow, both for our self and our teams, we settle. We just don’t have the bandwidth for anything more, anything new.

I know after my son’s passing, I was in survivor mode. I was treading water. Doing what I could to make it through the day. I only had the bandwidth to do what was needed. We all can have times in our lives where we dwell in these mindsets. But we should not stay too long in these moments. We need to start looking at ways to move forward.

Improving Your Mindset

Maybe it is time to look at ways to enhance your team. This is much harder than just changing a mindset. It can start there. Then begin to take small steps to action. Find small victories in your day-to-day operation. Soon, you may find that as these days come back-to-back, momentum builds, and we start to see what is possible. This process is not easy. The hardest part of an ultra-trail run is getting up after taking a break. In our career, if we settle, the hardest part is taking that first step into the new world.

What would that first step look like? Maybe it’s going back to school and finishing that degree you have been wanting to complete. Or maybe it’s developing some new technical or leadership skillsets. Maybe it is looking to get certified through one of AAMI’s ACI certifications or developing some IT or cybersecurity skills. It may be taking on a more advanced role or improving your own program or identifying a process that can be improved on.

It could be volunteering for AAMI or your local HTM/biomedical society or attending an industry trade show. It could be mentoring a new professional entering our industry or possibly contributing to an article for one of our industry periodicals.

What helped me was an opportunity for a new leadership role in my organization. I could have easily stayed in my settled mindset, but I made the small step to move forward. I said yes. That helped start a cascading effect of onboarding a new role and developing a succession plan that enabled my former team to advance and grow.

It gave me a new opportunity to help develop and positively impact a new team and new customer. If I didn’t take that step, I would have been stuck in my old mindset and inadvertently prevented others from growing and advancing. That first step can be the hardest, but the movement and momentum will take you places you would never imagine.

This past fall I again lined up to run that race I DNF’d four years ago. The lessons I learned in the past few years on not settling, I applied to the race. I made sure that no matter what, I was going to finish. It started with the first step, and kept going until I crossed that finished line.

Sometimes in our lives and in our careers, we can run out of steam. Understand that is ok. We are not machines. We need to take breaks and recover. Take the time to regroup, circle the wagons, take stock on what is important to you. And when you are ready, take that small first step no matter how small it is and start moving forward. You never know what tomorrow brings, take the time to not settle. You might be amazed at where it takes you.

Jeffrey Ruiz, CHTM, is senior site manager for West Michigan. Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected].