Dignity Health is one of the nation’s largest health systems with more than 400 care centers, including 41 hospitals, urgent and occupational care, imaging and surgery centers, home health, and primary care clinics in 22 states. Founded in 1986 by the Sisters of Mercy under the name Catholic Healthcare West, Dignity Health has more than 60,000 employees and 10,000 active physicians – all united by a mission to provide compassionate, high-quality, and affordable patient-centered care to all populations. We strive to keep our patients and staff members healthy and fulfilled through teamwork, innovation, strategic partnerships, faith, and compassion.
Delivering care to patients can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. For some, it is a higher calling to serve. But building healing connections with patients can also take an emotional toll on health caregivers. Practitioners can suffer from ongoing stress that comes with the responsibility of caring for other people’s lives. At worst, this can have an impact for providers, resulting in industry-wide issues related to burnout. Research has shown that there are many factors that contribute to both physician and nurse fatigue. That is why Dignity Health works toward the overall well-being of our employees by promoting a culture of resilience and providing physical, mental and spiritual resources they need to feel safe, productive and valued. Over the years, Dignity Health has developed evidence-based interventions and engaged in partnerships that increase resilience and improve the overall well-being and satisfaction of employees.
Dignity Health understands that tackling burnout can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution and must instead encompass a combination of interventions to address the unique needs of our individual care facilities and teams.
Most recently, in 2017, Dignity Health established an interdisciplinary resilience steering committee to help employees across the network acquire skills that can be applied – at work or at home – to improve resilience and their individual well-being. Based on research conducted in partnership with academic and social innovation organizations to explore the impact of compassion and kindness in health care, the committee developed a toolkit of evidence-based interventions. Programs in that toolkit include reflective pauses, peer support, and compassion skills training. We also leverage technology such as apps and online programs to scale these offerings across our broader employee network.
Dignity Health partners with Stanford Medicine’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) program aims to cultivate compassion and promote altruism through science and research. An extensive scientific literature review sponsored by Dignity Health and conducted by CCARE found growing evidence that kindness holds the power to heal, and that when patients are treated with kindness, they experience better outcomes.
Providers benefit from compassionate care, too, as evidenced by Dignity Health’s mindfulness-based cognitive program for nurses. Our research and analytics team, along with experts from CCARE, worked with the staff to develop “mindfulness shift huddles,” in which nurses perform a series of mindfulness exercises at the beginning of their shifts and agree on a phrase they can use throughout the day to reset when needed. Participating nurses reported improved communication and better handling of complicated situations with patients. The program is now being scaled and offered online for nurses at several of our facilities.
There is nothing more important than the well-being of those who are called to be caregivers. As the needs of our employees evolve, Dignity Health will continue to promote a culture of resilience and offer evidence-based strategies and resources to our employees and physicians. These individuals give so much of themselves and it is important that we address and are open about the strain they experience on a daily basis. After all, they are the key to delivering the highest standard of care to patients throughout our system.