Reflection, Resilience and Renewal

  • Published
  • By Col. Rachelle Hartze
  • 88th Inpatient Operations Squadron

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- As we approach the end of another year, I am reflecting on the many personal and professional challenges within my own family and squadron.

The Air Force Medical Service’s theme for December is “Commitment to resilience,” with the Ready Reliable Care principle that focuses on the ability to anticipate the unexpected, quickly respond to setbacks, cope with adverse events and continue stronger. AFMS prioritizes “fostering physical, mental, and social resilience among staff and patients,” particularly considering the many challenges of the COVID-19 health care crisis.

I have been a nurse for more than 25 years; I come from a family of nurses that includes my grandmother, mother and sister.

We have had many conversations about the COVID-19 crisis and impact to each of our communities. We know infections and acuity are climbing in our own 88th Medical Group and local civilian hospitals, with increasing stressors on our staff and patients.

My sister is a former Army nurse and has worked in critical care for almost 30 years. Her perspective in caring for patients during this crisis has been traumatizing for her and fellow nurses in intensive care units.

A young Airman presented “Commitment to resilience” during a recent 88 MDG meeting. He was asked about his perspective on “resilience” and what he does to promote that for himself.

For those of us who have more life experiences and faced challenging adversity, we have probably developed some skills that help us cope better and respond more adeptly. I was struck by the realization that if I struggle with “fostering” my own resilience, how will I support “resilience” for my family and staff, many of whom are new to the military and young, novice nursing team members?

My own children are also new to the military, serving as second lieutenants in the Army. In many of our conversations, they relate the stressors their Soldiers are experiencing and the difficulty they face as platoon leaders working to support their own team, promote “resilience” and cope with adverse events.

Research and literature are full of resources that identify skills to promote “resilience” practices. One of my favorites is “Developing resilience: Overcoming and growing from setbacks” on

In the article, Susan Kobasa, a leading psychologist, recognizes three main elements resilient people possess: challenge, commitment and control. She goes on to list 10 key things you can practice to develop your resilience:

  • Learn to relax.
  • Practice thought awareness.
  • Edit your outlook.
  • Learn from your mistakes and failures.
  • Choose your response.
  • Maintain perspective.
  • Set yourself some goals.
  • Build your self-confidence.
  • Develop strong relationships.
  • Be flexible.

As I intentionally focus on “resilience” practices for myself, and work to support my family and team with these tools, I have discovered a renewal of self with a renewed sense of purpose.

We will continue facing personal and professional challenges — that is the nature of life. But we can choose to work on “resilience” skills, improving how we respond to those challenges and cope with adverse events.