Most people can agree the first day at a new job can be both exciting and nerve-wrecking. My most memorable first day on the job so far has been the day I started with the previous Professional Ballet Company I worked with. Despite working at many jobs throughout the years, this one will forever be etched in my memory.
There was a lot of new territory to explore. I had left my permanent job with a great pension and health benefits behind to chase career goals. I was extremely unhappy in that secure job and was waiting for a new opportunity to come my way. So here I was, new to a larger city - arriving the day before starting. In hindsight, I recommend giving yourself some time to familiarize yourself to a new city with more than part of a day to find your way. But I was grateful for the support of co-workers and having some extra cash for finding parking downtown. The whole moving process was a bit of a blur as it was a rushed process from resigning from my previous job and accepting the new job offer. I had just thrown myself into this new venture.
New. This is not always a welcomed word. Most people don’t like new or anything surrounding change, especially when it comes to those who use their body as their instrument- their tool to be a professional and make a living. And here I was the new medical lead as a Physiotherapist for a Professional Ballet Company.
For those who have worked in Professional Dance or Performing Arts know the culture is unique. Don’t get me wrong - it is an amazing community, but it can also be a difficult community to navigate. The first day was an “Introduction” day - introducing to the location, the staff, the parents of the school, and the dancers. The team working alongside me were also all new to the scene and we were really all unsure of the journey ahead. We had met moments before any real formal introduction to the dancers. The medical programming had been extensively revamped from previous medical management with the hopes of improved medical service and better management of injuries. We were hopefully going to be accepted within this dance community and make a difference. The energy was palpable and the excitement of starting something new was evident.
First up - introduce yourself and the team to the training school - no script. Standing before the eager dancers of the school program and their parents who have sacrificed their hard earned money working towards their child’s dreams was no easy feat. Many of the dance students had also moved from all over Canada, the United States and other countries across the world. So there were large commitments from everyone involved. Pressure was on to make a decent first impression. I was not sure what I was going to say to instill trust and confidence in our new medical team. These dancers and parents looked onward at us with much hesitation.
Next up - introduce yourself to the company - minimal script only because moments before I had scribbled a few “cheat notes” following the school introductions. The company members looked cautiously at me with a lot of apprehension. Who is this new Physiotherapist that was before them. Can we trust her? What does she know? I liked “so and so” better... What does she know about dance? Gaining trust was going to take some time. There was also a complicated history I knew nothing about, as well as hidden dynamics and tense politics luring in the background.
Dance communities are filled with history and political dynamics that are not well understood unless you are immersed in them. I know these dynamics exist in other sports, work environments and activities, but the dance community is rooted in a lot of old traditions that threaten utilizing the current research, new methods and changed management of their health and wellness. Old methods continue to be followed despite new and growing evidence for other strategies. Realizing I had a lot of barriers to overcome and hard work to effectively assist this Professional Dance Company left me excited, anxious, and ready for the challenge. But, the dancers and management were left skeptical. Breaking down barriers became my new role - whether it was welcomed or not.
Hello, I am Sara Lawson, the NEW Medical Lead Physiotherapist. Bring on the barriers and hard work!
3:11am…why don’t I just get up and work on something on the to-do list or watch television or scroll through some social media platform or read the pile of books on the nightstand? If I fall asleep now I can still get a few hours in. Arg, it's busy tomorrow and sleep is needed. But I can’t sleep. If you are tired you should be able to sleep, ya right. I also find it ironic that the scheduled post for the day is on Sleep Hygiene where I talked about the benefits of sleep and provided tips for sleeping and here I am unable to sleep.
This dialogue is a common occurrence for me. Mulling over some business issue or problem in the middle of the night. Worrying about something that had occurred the day before. I know not all business owners have this issue, but I have been an insomniac since a child. It is on and off problematic, but I have seemed to manage over the years. And of course it has followed me into adulthood. And followed me into the world of entrepreneurship.
I am exhausted. COVID-19 is exhausting. Everyone has been experiencing the effects of the pandemic in different ways and at different levels of exhaustion. And of course I am grateful for so many things during this current state the world is in and my worries are really a lot of 1st world problems and privileges. I completely get that. But as an example of some increased COVID-craziness for my 1st world problems, I found myself researching disinfectants for two hours today. Instead of charting on the clients for the day or working on the 50 items on the to-do list, I am researching disinfectants and comparing it to our current products. Who would have thought I would be looking at concentration levels of certain cleaners and verifying them on the Health Canada COVID-19 approved site? This was not on the business plan. Just another one of many COVID tasks to add to the growing to do lists.
As I am sure most business owners can agree - this is not really a “new normal” as there is nothing “normal” about how we are operating right now, no matter what industry. There are pressing financial concerns, increased overhead and less revenue coming in. We have had to modify many things to be operational. I am sure unless you are in the disinfectant or hand sanitizer businesses, your income has been affected in some way. Of course, as a healthcare professional we have been trained in the area for infection and disease control as part of our program. Along with other health care practitioner programs, we were examined on hand washing steps and trained on personal protection equipment. So, hygiene is normal, cleaning between clients is normal, mindful of diseases and their contraction is normal, but the COVID-19 pandemic has not been “normal”. There comes so much uncertainty, unknowns, and ever-changing guidelines, which has made this very unfamiliar and ABnormal. And I am sure everyone can agree with that.
So, its 3:11am and I am mulling over disinfectants - how long they need to be on the surface before wiping, do I need to rinse afterwards, what is the WHIMS code on them, is it going to destroy any equipment, is there an odour, is it safe for those sensitive to certain products, etc, etc, etc. Last week it was the use of masks research and this week the use of disinfectants. Is this overkill or is this what is required to protect my clients, staff and business? Who really knows? Even the World Health Organization has ever-changing answers and their experts are uncertain. Go. To. Sleep, Sara.
3:34am. We have had to make appointments run like clockwork at the clinic. We have clients unsure of processes, worrying in their vehicles they have the right day and time. We are wearing masks. We have extra hand washing steps, extra cleaning, extra worry. Are we providing the same quality of service as pre-COVID? Did I treat the client how I would have pre-COVID? Can we treat the same as pre-COVID? Reputation is everything in a newer, little, local business. And we are a service industry providing care to those trusting us with their health care. With all the extra cleaning, intake forms and checklists, can we possibly treat our usual way? Maybe? I, for one, am sure trying.
4:02am. Last time I looked at the clock. So I must have slept a little? Maybe I was dreaming of killing viruses and healing injuries with my new superhero uniform accessories consisting of masks and gloves. And my new weapon of choice must be a COVID-approved disinfectant. Or maybe I was drowning in the disinfectant? Those sleep experts out there would argue you could not have possibly got into any type of REM sleep cycle with dreams when your alarm is going off in a few hours.
As like the majority of business owners, we are certainly trying our best with the information we have. One of my favourite quotes comes from Arthur Ashe - “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
My message today is to please be kind and patient, especially to your local small business owners as we are treading in unfamiliar waters, while trying to keep our heads above water. Continue to help us out by throwing in a flotation device instead of pushing our heads under water. Good thing I like swimming.
Just keep swimming…
Clinic Director and Dance Physiotherapist, Sara Lawson has a special interest in artistic athletes and dance medicine. Sara has worked as a Physiotherapist for many years with a variety of high end athletes, performing artists, and in a variety of fields of Physiotherapy. Join her in exploring behind the scenes of performance and dance Physiotherapy as a clinician and business owner. Behind the Curtain is meant to be an informative, raw, and open platform discussing the challenges and rewards of this industry where the show must always go on.