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What’s Joy Got to Do With Work?

By Diana J. Mason

July 26, 2010

“So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing” 


Founders of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream
Founders of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream

Can you imagine a group of busy health care professionals coming together for a week to discuss joy in and at work and its relationship to the quality of that work?  

For the past five or six years, I’ve attended an annual conference that the participants call “Summer Camp.”  Its real title is “Building Knowledge for the Leadership of Improvement of Health Care” and was started 17 years ago by Paul Batalden, a professor and pediatrician at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Each year, the group of about 70 health care administrators, physicians, and nurses (about one-third each and most of whom hold academic appointments) explores a different theme related to the quality and safety of health care. It’s a fairly consistent group and it has become a supportive and generative community. The group uses various modes of teaching and learning: theory ‘bursts’, individual and group exercises and discussion, poetry, film, food, physical activity, and simply rich conversation.

This year, it felt a bit frivolous to tackle joy in work when so many people feel overwhelmed with long work hours, multiple demands and roles, and connectivity that never ends—except in the learning sessions at camp where blackberries and pagers are off limits. But joy should not be confused with frivolity. The literature attests to the connection between joy at work and creativity and excellence  in an organization. Wouldn’t we all want to work for organizations that care as much about the engagement and joy of its employees as they do about the bottom line? Joy in work by employees may be essential to that bottom line. TCAB, or Transforming Care At the Bedside, is an initiative that includes team vitaility as an aim and has been able to reduce the turnover of nurses.

By the last day, I saw new ways to actualize what I’ve long believed—that we’re each responsible for creating and maintaining a supportive, joyous work environment and that joy at work can lead to better work.

How long will this feeling of certainty and commitment last? We’ll see, but I’m already working on the ways I can up the joy quotient in my work and at my work. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has even formalized the importance of joy in the mission and organization—this company has a different CEO, a chief euphoria officer. Go Ben and Jerry’s!

(*Thanks to Leslie Kelton Walker at the Dartmouth Institute for her daily poems, including the one by Abba from “Thank You for the Music.”)

Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN

Co-director, CHMP; Rudin Professor of Nursing

Diana J. Mason
Diana is a founder of the Center for Health, Media & Policy, and HealthCetera Radio. She is the President of the American Academy of Nursing, the Rudin Professor of Nursing at Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, and a health policy expert and leader. Diana tweets @djmasonrn.

CHMP Welcomes Jessie Daniels, Ph.D. as Senior Fellow

By Editorial Staff

July 20, 2010

The Center for Health, Media and Policy welcomes Jessie Daniels as a Senior Fellow. Dr. Daniels is Associate Professor of Urban Public Health at Hunter College.  She holds an MA and PhD in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.  Following that, she was a Charles Phelps Taft Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Cincinnati.

She is the author of two books White Lies (Routledge, 1997) and Cyber Racism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), both dealing with race and various forms of media.  She is also the author of numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and dozens of conference presentations dealing with race, gender, sexuality and new media.

Along with writing about new media, Daniels has also worked in the Internet industry.   She was a Senior Producer with Talk City where she produced live online events for Fortune 500 clients.   Today, Daniels maintains Racism Review, a blog she co-founded with Joe Feagin, which provides up-to-the-minute scholarly analysis of current events having to do with race and racism.   A form of public sociology, Racism Review averages over 200,000 visitors per month.  Daniels was recently named on Forbes’ list of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter.”

Currently, she is at work on a number of research projects about digital media, social inequality and health.  In one project, Daniels is examining the way the reproductive health and gender justice movement has shifted to the Internet; and, in another project, she is exploring how LGBT youth of color use the Internet, especially mobile phones.  Among this population are homeless LGBT youth who use mobile digital devices to survive on the streets of New York City.

Editorial Staff

News ticker: Addiction to pills, abortion coverage and ecstasy for PTSD

By Editorial Staff

July 19, 2010

Some new health buzz this morning:

Americans are hugely addicted to prescription pain medication, so much that it’s now the second most-common form of illegal drug abuse, according to new information from a 10-year study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In 2008, compared with 1998, about 400 percent more people were admitted for treatment for abusing prescription medication.

  • The Obama administration has decided to ban medical coverage of abortion for people in federally subsidized insurance pools who could not afford health care independently, in effect by 2014. The pools will cover abortions only if people pay for coverage separately and the money is segregated from government funds.
  • Scientists have found that athletes can improve their performance in short spurts with a swig of real carbohydrates derived from malodraxin and water, reports the New York Times, even if they don’t swallow it. The swig alone triggers brain sensors and pushes a response in the body that a boost of energy is on the way and to keep going. Endurance athletes, however, are better off eating real carbohydrates.
  • War veterans and others with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome may find release from an unusual outlet: ecstasty, according to a new study published today in the Journal of Psychopharmacology sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) . In a small study, 80 percent of participants suffering from chronic PRSD said their symptoms disappeared and they were able to work after being treated with the drug and psychotherapy. If further research finds the same common link, the drug may be developed and approved by the FDA as treatment for the disorder.
  • The top factor of whether one will be infected with HIV isn’t race, gender or geography, but poverty, confirms a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Many researchers long suspected that HIV is more of an epidemic in very poor urban neighborhoods, and the study found about 1 in 42 people living below the poverty line suffered from HIV compared with 1 in 83 for people who lived above it. Communities most likely to be living in poverty, including those of people of color, may have higher rates, leading people to confuse trend factors.

Read more:

Editorial Staff