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Maintaining Peer Connections In Times of Transition

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Rev. Lillian Hallstrand, VUMC Chaplain, discusses the importance of maintaining peer connections during times of stress and transition.

Begin Transcription

Janet McCutchen:     Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I am Janet McCutchen with Work/Life Connections.  I am here today with Reverend Lillian Hallstrand who is a chaplain here at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and I am so glad that you are here to speak with us today regarding our topic maintaining connections in times of transition, and we know that Vanderbilt like a lot of organizations has been through a lot of transition recently.  We know the change is part of life and that more changes are coming just in our everyday life as well as here at Vanderbilt.  Speak to that if you would a little bit and talk about the importance of maintaining connection.  How does Vanderbilt approach that?

Lillian Hallstrand:       Vanderbilt is a really big place and amidst it is really big place we are having some really big changes right now and as the roll out of the E2E continues we have lost some of our peers, and one of the ways that we make this big place smaller is that we form communities and whether that is the staff that you work with on a particular unit of the hospital or whether it is the department that you work in within the medical center or the people that you ride with from the shuttle to the hospital in the morning.  Those are the ways that we make this place feel tighter and form a sense of family, a sense of community, and in light of the changes that have happened recently, some of the members of our communities are no longer here and that has been distressing, that has been difficult.  There has been a lot of grieving.  There has been a lot of confusion and any other number of emotions, and one of the biggest things that I think people are experiencing is that sense of am I allowed to stay in touch with that person is how do I get over this feeling of awkwardness, this is somebody that is essentially part of my daily life here, and now, I feel as though I have been cut off from that person.  I think it is important for us to remember and to grant ourselves permission to maintain those relationships that it would probably be more harmful and more detrimental to not try to find a way to maintain those connections in light of what has happened.  So, whether that is continuing to reach out over an email or to send a phone call because we know what kind of talented people we have here in Vanderbilt and so there is no doubt that the people that unfortunately are no longer with us are going to find positions elsewhere either within this town or within their fields in another place, and having those peer connections intact and maintain is only going to strengthen those relationships, and I personally have been few times when I have lost colleagues and it has been important to maintain those connections.

Janet McCutchen:     I think that is important to put that on the table, but it is awkward and we may not really know how to respond.  We want to be sensitive to how best to do that and how do you maintain connections when the transitions occur.  Talk a little bit about some constructive ways to do that.  You mentioned peer relationships.  Those really do not change. Even though someone might be leaving Vanderbilt, we still can maintain those peer relationships.

Lillian Hallstrand:       And we should.  I think it is important for us all to weather this time of transition if we do maintain those relationships that are important to us.  So, whether that is continuing to reach out to that person and engage with that person, personally I have been at an institution before where I have lost one of my very near and dear colleagues, and after the dust sort of settled 2 weeks later, I was having lunch with her and she later got a similar position in the same town and then we were able to share ideas from our two different institutions because we still did similar work, but there are friendship weather at that difficult time of transition.  It was really important to both of us, and I think that we need to know that that is okay and that we can and should continue to maintain those relationships.

Janet McCutchen:     And, you mentioned the different kinds of ways that we can connect now which is so true, I mean text, email, we have all the social media, and if you are a peer in a particular profession, then there are professional organizations where you can connect as well.  That said I think it is important that we not minimize the impact that this type of change in transition creates.  Can you address a little bit the ways that we can care for ourselves when we are in the midst of these transitions so in fact how do we still connect with ourselves and meeting our own self-care?

Lillian Hallstrand:       And self-care always seems to be that first thing to go during times of chaos.

Janet McCutchen:     So true.

Lillian Hallstrand:       Times of stress, times of dizziness, and so I think it is important for us to take a moment to recall those practices that help us to feel centered, that help us to manage whatever it is that comes our way, whether that is our nutrition, whether that is our exercise routine, whether that is our faith practices, whether it is spending time with your family in a certain way, but being able to recall these things that help you to feel balanced and centered and continuing to do those, and I think it is important too that we have some grace with ourselves during this time of transition because…

Janet McCutchen:     Talk about what you mean by this, please.

Lillian Hallstrand:       I think that particularly people that have been at this institution for any amount of time and have been in a certain role for an amount of time get really good doing the responsibilities of their job and almost can run on autopilot on days when they have to do, and as things are changing and work is reengineered that maybe there will be different responsibilities that come with a position, and we need to have grace with ourselves that we are not going to feel things as smoothly initially, and there is a period of learning, there is a period of transition, and that is okay.  So, to continue to be kind to ourselves during the time of learning a new way to be.

Janet McCutchen:     And if we feel a little bit overwhelmed or uncertain about what our next step should be, then we can approach our supervisor, and we can reach out.  Obviously, you provide extraordinary support and for any of our listeners who may after hearing this conversation need some confidential support just a listening ear.  Of course, Work/Life connections is always available too.  Thank you so much for Lillian for speaking with our team today.  I appreciate your time.

Lillian Hallstrand:       Thank you for having me.

Janet McCutchen:     Thanks for listening.  Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the “Add new comment” link at the bottom of this page.  If you have a story or suggestion, please email to us at or you can use the “Contact Us” link on our website at  Thanks for listening.

— end of recording  —

Posted on Friday, November 1, 2013 in Wellcasts, Work/Life Connections and tagged ,


2 Comments on “Maintaining Peer Connections In Times of Transition”

I really enjoyed this wellcast. The speaker provided some ‘real-world’ suggestions to help maintain important connections in our lives during times of change. The discussion was well organized, and I learned some good tips. I appreciate this timely topic and look forward to learning more from other wellcasts.

Veida Elliott on November 11th, 2013 at 1:40 pm

A thoughtful, balanced and achievable approach to handling transitions. Great presentation.

terrell smith on November 22nd, 2013 at 9:12 am

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