ChristianaCare Recognized With 2021 Joy in Medicine Distinction

ChristianaCare has been named a recipient of the American Medical Association’s Joy in Medicine™ Health System Recognition Program.

The distinction recognizes health systems that demonstrate a commitment to preserving the well-being of health care team members by engaging in proven efforts to combat work-related stress and burnout.

ChristianaCare is providing many supports to caregivers during the pandemic. Here, the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing’s wagon rolls through a hospital unit. Stocked with essentials such as snacks, lotions and socks, the Wellbeing Wagon has been an opportunity for ChristianaCare’s health care professionals to pause for support.

The American Medical Association awarded ChristianaCare a “Gold Recognition” – the highest level within the program. Only 44 health systems nationwide received the Joy in Medicine distinction, with only four other health systems along with ChristianaCare achieving the Gold Recognition.

Heather Farley, M.D., MHCDS, FACEP

“When caregivers feel supported and fulfilled in their work, the quality of both their experience and their patient’s experience improves,” said Heather Farley, M.D., MHCDS, chief wellness officer and head of ChristianaCare’s Center for WorkLife Wellbeing.

“That’s why, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, we deepened our investment of resources to support our caregivers. While there’s still a long way to go, we are grateful to receive this recognition as it affirms our commitment to helping our caregivers foster meaning, connection and joy in work and in life.”

ChristianaCare received the “Gold Recognition” for achieving six criteria:

  • An organization-wide commitment to improving physician well-being.
  • An assessment of the costs of physician burnout.
  • Evidence-based interventions to reduce and eliminate burnout.
  • Leadership commitment to address areas for improvement.
  • Interventions to improve teamwork.
  • Structured programs that actively engage doctors to cultivate community at work.

These criteria align with ChristianaCare’s commitment to support its caregivers in alignment with the organization’s core values of love and excellence. ChristianaCare has implemented structured ways of working that encourages leaders to create environments where their workers feel safe asking questions and feel empowered to identify and solve problems. ChristianaCare also uses numerous surveys and assessments to track progress in improving the well-being and experience of caregivers.

ChristianaCare’s Unique Center for WorkLife Wellbeing

ChristianaCare established the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing in 2016 to develop support systems to enable clinicians to reconnect with the joy and meaning in medicine.

Launched before the COVID-19 pandemic, OASIS rooms offers caregiver a range of comforts, from simple lounge chair to a miniature zen garden, to a massage from a high-tech recliner. (Photo from 2017.)

“We recognized the growing problem of stress and burnout in health care, and we made a decision to tackle it head-on,” said Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, ChristianaCare president and CEO.

Janice Nevin, M.D., MPH

“The work of our psychologists, researchers, clinicians and peer supporters in the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing is built on the understanding that when we care for ourselves, we are better able to care for others, resulting in decreased medical errors and a better experience of care for everyone involved.”

The Center soon expanded its mission to support all of ChristianaCare’s caregivers, including those who don’t work in clinical roles. The Center also has received national recognition for its expertise and leadership in the field of workplace well-being.

Throughout the pandemic, the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing has proactively shared a variety of resources to support caregivers as they work to provide safe, effective care and reduce the spread of COVID-19. This includes:

  • The Care for the Caregiver program, which provides confidential individual peer support and group support to caregivers when they experience stress related to patient care or the workplace. Peer supporters and organizational leaders receive training so they can provide psychological first aid to caregivers whom they recognize are struggling as well as connect them to helpful resources if needed.
  • Emotional support through mindfulness resources and regular rounds where the Center’s experts can check on staff well-being.
  • OASIS Rooms, which are quiet sanctuaries inside the hospital where caregivers can go to take a break, de-stress, meditate or enjoy a chair massage.
  • 24/7 mental health services and programs to help caregivers maintain healthy habits including proper exercise, sleep and nutrition.
  • Fitness centers that are free for all caregivers to use and provide easy access to exercise and fitness programs.

“I always use the analogy, you can’t take the canary out of the coal mine and teach it to be more resilient and then put it back in the same coal mine and expect it to survive,” Dr. Farley said. “You actually have to change the coal mine – the environment surrounding our caregivers and clinicians. That’s what we’re doing in the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing.”

Solutions to a National Problem

A national study examining the experiences of physicians and other health care workers who worked in health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 38% self-reported experiencing anxiety or depression, while 43% suffered from work overload and 49% had burnout.

Free caregiver fitness centers are among the ways ChristianaCare supports its employees as they work to provide safe, effective care and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary stress on physicians and other health care professionals,” said American Medical Association President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D.

“While it is always important for health systems to focus on the well-being of care teams, the imperative is greater than ever as acute stress from combatting the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to higher rates of work overload, anxiety and depression. The health systems we recognize today are true leaders in promoting an organizational response that makes a difference in the lives of the health care workforce.”

Launched in 2019, the Joy in Medicine Health System Recognition Program is a component of the American Medical Association’s practice transformation efforts, an ambitious initiative to advance evidence-based solutions to address the physician burnout crisis.

Candidates for the program were evaluated according to their documented efforts to reduce work-related burnout through system-level drivers. Scoring criteria were based on demonstrated competencies in commitment, assessment, leadership, efficiency of practice environment, teamwork and support.