Derric Thomas

May 3, 2023
A photo of Derric Thomas
Derric Thomas

Enhancing resiliency: Sharing resources to reset and recharge

In a world of constant stress, physical therapist Derric Thomas is always trying to devise ways to recharge his team.

During the height of the pandemic, Thomas knew his team was tired. He thought back to his days in the military, when he was often in war zones, and shared tips for resiliency. He fostered a culture of stress management in the workplace. He arranged frequent meetings to allow the staff to share their experiences, creating social connectedness and a very supportive environment.

He provided the team with The Stress Continuum, a visual tool developed by the Navy, that promotes understanding of the range of stress responses.

“I believe we understand how stress can impact mental health and well-being which is why it is helpful to have a tool that can describe our different responses,’’ Thomas said. “There are four different stages on the stress continuum: thriving, surviving, struggling, and crisis. What I appreciate about this tool is that we can identify where we are on this Stress Continuum and identify what to do next.’’

He encouraged staff members to take walks outside. Ultimately, UCHealth established recharge rooms with chairs, soft music and calming features so staff can take a timeout, close their eyes, rest, renew and heal.

This helps patients, who are met by passionate and energized physical therapists who aid them on their road to recovery. Thomas is also eager to hear patients from every ethnic group to make sure his team is providing personalized care.

When he’s not at work, Thomas is a Spartan athlete.

“Doing these competitions takes my mind off the day-to-day grind, and it’s something that I have control over. You control how you respond to something, but you never know what you will encounter in your day,” he said.

Before his morning runs, Thomas practices and draws strength from his faith.

“This has been such a vital piece of how I have gotten to where I am today. My faith reminds me that I can be more responsive than reactive,” he said.

Thomas’s wife is also a fitness competitor and they both understand the demands of competition equally.

“It’s a big piece of how we communicate because we understand each other in that sense. At the end of the day, I am reminded that my family is always there, and they help me reset. Throughout the demands of the day, it is a blessing knowing that I have that resource,” he said.

Thomas leads by the motto “iron sharpens iron,” and he gives his staff and his family tools to be successful so that they can support one another, and sharpen each other. His work family supports and recognizes each other, and this environment has created a culture of managing stress together and enhancing resiliency during challenging times.

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About the author

Tori Flarity is a UCHealth intern and marketing student at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She graduates in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in business and a minor in psychology. Flarity considers it an honor to work with staff and providers and admires their passion and commitment to their patients and health care.

When she’s not in school or working, Tori enjoys skydiving, scuba diving, skiing, hiking, backpacking and anything outdoors.