By Michael Warren
President of the Board of Directors, AMCHP
It's summertime. And in my backyard, the garden is just starting to yield the fruits (or vegetables, actually!) of several months of preparation, careful attention, and yes, even some laborious weeding! If you've ever had a garden or cared for someone else's, you know that the vegetables don't just suddenly appear. A good garden takes work.
It turns out that being an maternal and child health (MCH) leader is a lot like being a gardener. The ultimate harvest is a healthy and thriving MCH population. But a key ingredient in getting there is a robust MCH workforce. Here are some thoughts on how to further develop your "green thumb" and support your own MCH workforce to be the best that it can be.
- Prepare the soil — Create a culture that supports people to do their best every day. It's no secret that MCH professionals aren't drawn to the field for the vast sums of money they will make. Instead, they often cite the benefits of working on a team committed to the health of children and families. Invest the time in creating an environment that others want to join and where existing team members feel nurtured and supported. Particularly in times of change and uncertainty, attention to culture is important. Your team members will be able to weather changes in funding, new priorities, and emerging population needs if you've created a culture where they feel safe and supported.
- Fertilize and water — Once you've planted seeds, your job is far from over. You've got to nurture the seeds until they sprout, then support a fragile plant as it grows big and strong. Similarly, your job as a leader isn't done once you make a hire for your MCH team — it is just beginning. Supporting your team members through ongoing professional development is key to help them develop, maintain, and sharpen their skills to function at their best. There are lots of ways to do this: participation in AMCHP webinars or peer learning groups, technical assistance on special projects or MCH performance measures, and even attendance at the AMCHP Annual Conference.
- Check on the health of your plants regularly — Gardeners are always vigilant for signs of the health of their plants. Yellow leaves might signify overwatering, while drooping leaves might indicate the need for additional water. Tiny holes might indicate an insect infestation. Once gardeners see these signs, they have to act. Similarly, an MCH leader needs to keep her finger on the pulse of her team. Employee engagement surveys, reverse feedback sessions, or other listening efforts provide an opportunity to hear how your team members are doing and to learn how you might better support their growth.
- Attend a master gardening class yourself — Good gardeners are always learning how to be better. They might read a gardening journal or join a master gardening class offered through their local extension service. So, too, must leaders continue to build their capacity to support their MCH teams. Committing to your own ongoing professional development is key in being able to lead your team in accomplishing its mission. Fortunately, there are resources to support you in these efforts, including AMCHP's Leadership Lab and the MCH Workforce Development Center .
As your MCH professional home, AMCHP has tools and resources to support your efforts to cultivate successful MCH teams that can work toward reaping a harvest of improved health and well-being for the MCH population. Check out the items in this edition of Pulse that can help you in your own backyard "garden!"