Adaptive Work in the Center for Bioethics and Health Law

Over the first few weeks of my internship with the Center for Bioethics and Health Law at the University of Pittsburgh, I have witnessed adaptive work being done during every interaction that I have had. Due to the nature of the Coronavirus and quarantine measures, there is a plethora of unresolved problems such as how to carry on working, what the future academic landscape will look like, and the inability to carry out normal plans. For example, one of the original plans my supervisor and I had for my work was to assist in the development of a conference in the Fall. However, that has been cancelled due to expectations that they will not be able to gather that many people safely. Many of the problems that the Center is currently experiencing fall into Type II of adaptive work, or a clearly visible problem with no definite solution. One way that the Center is addressing these Type II problems is by including the members of their community in the search for a solution. One example of this is in the institution of a series of lectures surrounding health ethics issues of the pandemic, for which I am preparing cover sheets for the speakers. Guest lecturers spend some time speaking on virtual platforms about problems like the ethical allocation of ventilators or telemedicine and those in attendance are able to ask questions or propose ideas in response to the lecturer. In this way, the Center is engaging in adaptive work. There is no doubt that we are in uncertain times with unclear solutions for both the leaders within the Center and their followers in the form of employees and community members. However, those within the Center are working hard to use the adaptive strategy of anxiety containment for their followers. The main way that they are achieving this anxiety containment is by providing expert voices about the pandemic. Through both lecture series like the one I am working on and through directing their members to other resources like a Princeton conference on how pandemics have been historically managed, the Center for Bioethics and Health Law is reassuring their community that things will eventually get back to normal. And most importantly, throughout the entire process are engaging in adaptive work by giving responsibility back to their followers and engaging them in the work that the Center is carrying out so that their followers feel empowered during this stressful period of time.