Connections Through Crisis
Recognizing the power of community
By Scott McAfee, PT, DPT
Everything was going according to your plan. Business was good, employees were happy, and you established some ambitious 2020 annual goals to start your year off strong.
What could possibly stop you from serving your patients, building a dream workplace, and transforming society?
Then came the moment you realized everything was about to change. Maybe it was the strange sight of empty grocery store shelves, eerie absence of rush-hour traffic, or sudden announcements from professional sports leagues suspending their seasons. As stay-at-home orders were issued, travel restricted, and businesses shut down, you wondered with uncertainty and powerlessness what this global pandemic meant for you, your family, and your business.
A resounding theme prevailed amidst all these novel challenges. You saw it on nearly every other TV commercial, but you knew they were right: We’re all in this together. The pandemic wasn’t a challenge that any single person was going to be able to solve—it transcended all levels of life all over the globe. More than ever, community was essential.
“I hope that this uncertain time brings us together—as a nation, as a community, as an association—by showing us how connected we are, and how much we depend on each other.”
APTA President Sharon Dunn
March 20, 2020
Reflecting upon my personal and professional experiences over the last two years, I’ve learned five unique reasons why the best way to grow as a business, both through the pandemic and well-beyond it, is by leaning into the power of community.
1. SHARED VALUES WILL GUIDE YOU
Community, at any level, relies upon strong connections between people with similar values. Whether it’s within your workplace, surrounding locale, professional association, volunteer organization, religious group, or sports team, shared community values can essentially serve as moral and operational compasses during a crisis. When our company’s leadership team organized emergency strategic planning as the pandemic unfolded, our company’s founding ethos guided our early decision-making. “Always take great care of people” soon served as a uniting force for our nationwide team to innovate, adapt, and problem-solve together. What united us guided us.
2. BETTER INFORMATION, BETTER DECISIONS
The best information assists in making the best decision. If we were going to take great care of people, it was important to stay abreast of the latest global, federal, state, and local guidelines and regulations. New information poured into our company’s discussion threads from all over the country. It became clear that although physical therapists played a crucial role in reducing burden on the health care system, continuing in-person care posed too high of a transmission risk. We confidently canceled all in-person care to commit to our values, uphold safety as our highest priority, and respond to the best available information. But if physical connections were no longer possible, how else would we connect during this crisis? How would we survive?
3. QUICKLY ADAPT TO CHANGE
Like so many other physical therapists and businesses, our world quickly became virtual. It was inspiring to see so many people across our community eager to problem-solve and connect online. Google Drive became a library for shared resources on telehealth best practices, our Slack communication platform teemed with mentorship and collaboration, and Zoom became just as much of a professional meeting space as it did a place to openly share feelings and personal challenges with one another. We enrolled in virtual consulting to streamline business operations and also attended virtual conferences outside of the physical therapy domain to spark new insights. Last, as we transitioned to 100% virtual visits, we were grateful to continue connecting with patients who remained committed to their movement health goals regardless of circumstance. We were truly in this together.
4. THINK BEYOND THE CLINIC
Since the pandemic posed disproportionately larger risks for older adults, how was this population going to stay healthy, active, and safe from home? Our community wanted to help. We connected physical therapists, primary care physicians, nurses, and personal trainers from around the country to launch AgeProof Your Body—a virtual eight-week exercise experience for anyone 60+ who wanted to stay active, improve strength, and optimize their physical health all from the safety of home. Thanks to the hard work from several members of our community (teaching seniors how to use Zoom was no easy feat), hundreds of people participated and 100% of proceeds were donated to two charities working on the frontlines of the pandemic. The overwhelmingly positive response inspired us to build the program into a permanent online community where older adults can come to learn about movement health, exercise at their individual capacity, and connect with one another.
5. GIVE MORE VALUE TO OTHERS
Once the evidence showed how in-person practices could safely be adopted again, we got to work. We made our COVID-19 safety manual available online so similar businesses could learn from our symptom screenings, contact tracing procedures, sanitation protocols, scheduling practices, and mobile social-distancing sessions. We supplied all of our physical therapists and patients with the personal protective equipment needed to safely carry out in-person sessions and gave extras to other businesses in need. Most important, we partnered up with other values-driven companies to connect in innovative ways, such as hosting live workshops, launching charitable fundraisers on social media, and offering specialized onsite services. As a result, our community was able to help thousands of patients, hire scores of new physical therapists, and continue working towards our vision of a world healed by movement—all with zero reported positive cases of COVID-19.
As you plan for the rest of 2022, how will you embrace community? How will shared values guide you, better information empower you, and more resources enable you? How will you creatively venture beyond the walls of the clinic and give more value to others? Through this crisis came connection—within companies, professions, and populations, as well as between them. Amidst more uncertainty in the times ahead, the same theme is bound to resound true—we’re stronger together.
1Dunn S. Letter from President Dunn on COVID-19 Impact. APTA. https://www.apta.org/patient-care/public-health-population-care/coronavirus/letter-from-president-dunn-on-covid-19-impact. Published March 20, 2020.
2Racoosin S. Keeping you safe from COVID at physical therapy. MovementX. https://movement-x.com/covid-safe-at-physical-therapy/. Published August 17, 2020.
Scott McAfee, PT, DPT, is a PPS member and Chief Marketing Officer at MovementX. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @McAfeePT.