Fysioterapeuterna President Stefan Jutterdal with Emma Stokes, Helena Pepa and Pippi Longstocking

Joy in Work - An Essential Resource

By Emma K Stokes, WCPT President

‘In Sweden we’ve set a goal. We want to develop from a professional organisation that has to chase to be listened to, into an organisation which is constantly in demand, and obvious to the authorities.’
- Stefan Jutterdal

This was one of the messages from Stefan Jutterdal, current president of Fysioterapeuterna, the Swedish Physiotherapy Association, at the WCPT Congress in Singapore 2015. In addition, Stefan proposed that as a profession, physiotherapy had to become more like Pippi Longstocking: responsible, courageous and imaginative.

Singapore was one of my first meetings with Stefan, a truly remarkable physiotherapist and leader. But how do you measure the kind of influence that Fysioterapeuterna has been gathering? One indication is the Swedish list of the most influential people working in health. This year, Stefan rose to number 16 out of 100.

How many member organisations can say that one of their leaders is that influential in health? When I congratulated Stefan, he immediately revealed that any standing he has is due to the great team that make up the association’s staff and board.

He also introduced me to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, an independent not-for-profit organisation based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which strives to bring the best care to all and to improve health care across the world.

Over the summer I read their Framework for Improving Joy in Work. (Even with his busy schedule, Stefan makes time to share reading that he thinks might help us on our journeys.)

In the introduction, Donald M Berwick notes that in healthcare, "Joy is not just humane; it’s instrumental […] The gifts of hope, confidence and safety that healthcare should offer patients and families can only come from a workforce that that feels hopeful, confident and safe. Joy in work is an essential resource for the enterprise of healing."

The paper provides evidence supporting the idea of joy, while offering four steps to improve joy in work and a series of practical suggestions that can be applied to your physiotherapy practice.

This blog marks a new direction for the 20 months between now and the WCPT Congress in Geneva, in 2019. I will be celebrating heroes from the world of physiotherapy, listening out for stories of remarkable individuals who inspire us – and from whom we can all learn.

Some of these stories will come from leaders in senior positions, but many will not. Heroes are more often than not the people who walk gently, work quietly, often behind the scenes. But their determination and commitment is the kind that changes the lives of everyone they work with.

Each leadership lesson will link to published papers in the field. So this time, I want to celebrate Stefan Jutterdal for his contribution the global physical therapy community. He showed me how important symbolism is in leadership, as described in the book Reframing Organisations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership.

But moreover it’s the very important concept of joy in work that I’ve been thinking about this week. Better engagement means better patient experiences. Joy is an important metric in healthcare - and in our lives.

Postscript: Stefan has unexpectedly become unwell, but is stable and expected to return to his role soon. WCPT sends best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

Related to this story

  • Bolman LG, Deal TE (2013) Reframing Organisations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership. 5th edition. San Francisco. Jossey Bass
  • Perlo J, Balik B, Swenson S et al (2017) IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work. IHI White Paper. Cambridge Massachusetts. Institute for Health Improvement