Helping patients feel better. Making a difference in the community. Training the next generation of health care professionals. Bringing a smile to someone on their toughest day. Our caregivers at ChristianaCare have many reasons why they feel good about working here.
For Susan DeWitt, MSN, RN, CBCN, nurse navigator at the Union Hospital Breast Health Center, it’s about “serving together to serve others” – a culture of teamwork unlike anywhere else.
That approach inspires DeWitt every day. It’s cultivated in part through benefit programs like Total Rewards that compensate caregivers for helping the organization achieve goals like improved patient experience.
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“As a caregiver, the benefits I receive from our organization are meaningful because I know that ChristianaCare values and supports all of us. And that enables us to provide our patients with excellent care.” DeWitt said. “When patients see us working together as a team, I think it instills confidence and reassurance in them.”
At ChristianaCare, all employees are referred to as caregivers, whether they provide direct patient care or support the care of patients indirectly through other roles.
In recognition of this ongoing dedication to caregiver experience, ChristianaCare was recently ranked among the best employers in Delaware by Forbes magazine in its annual list of Best Employers by State 2022. ChristianaCare ranked No. 2.
“What is most meaningful about this recognition is that it reflects the perspectives of our caregivers, who continue to serve with love and excellence despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Neil Jasani, M.D., MBA, FACEP, ChristianaCare’s chief people officer.
“We celebrate the tireless work of our caregivers, who exemplify ChristianaCare’s commitment to being exceptional today and even better tomorrow. We value an environment where caregivers can thrive as their authentic selves and reflect the community they serve.”
A supportive environment for caregivers
For the list of best employers in each state, Forbes partnered with market research company Statista, which surveyed 70,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 500 employees. Respondents were asked how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others and also to nominate organizations in industries outside their own.
The anonymous survey included questions about remote-work benefits, equitable pay and initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion — intended to highlight priorities among companies around the country.
Christopher Cowan, MEd, FABC, senior vice president, Human Resources, said that while the COVID-19 pandemic and its intermittent surges created unprecedented challenges, they also have provided ChristianaCare with an opportunity to engage with caregivers about ways to help them rebound from work stressors and recharge in their personal lives.
That has led to the expansion of programs including:
- Wellthy, which offers care coordination and peer support for caregivers who need assistance with financial, medical, legal, housing and other personal issues that can consume non-working hours.
- Care@Work through care.com, which offers backup care services when caregivers are faced with a disruption in regular child care coverage, or the responsibility of aging parents.
- Vital Worklife Employee Assistance Program, which provides discreet and confidential resources designed specifically for medical professionals and their families.
Cowan said that these and other programs that remove non-work burdens for caregivers have the added bonus of strengthening ChristianaCare’s organizational vitality.
“Attracting and retaining top talent ensures that ChristianaCare will continue to grow and positively impact the health of our neighbors.”
ChristianaCare’s tuition assistance program has made a difference for medical assistant Nilda Acosta, a caregiver who works full-time and goes to school in the evenings. The program provides reimbursement for college courses needed to complete a degree program related to a caregiver’s current job.
Benefits that go beyond to help caregivers flourish
Generous medical and prescription drug benefits with a free premium option for those making under certain income thresholds.
Desirable paid time off, with the flexibility to get paid for unused amounts.
Comprehensive financial wellness strategy, including competitive 403b matching plan and an additional non-matching employer funded defined contribution plan.
Paid parental leave (12 weeks).
Dependent care reimbursement through care.com.
Fitness reimbursement and on-site fitness centers.
Dental, vision and disability insurance, tuition assistance, and may other perks.
“Getting reimbursed for the classes I take makes a huge difference, especially being a single parent. It’s like taking the class for free or at a discounted rate,” said Acosta, who hopes to become a nurse practitioner.
Focusing on caregiver well-being
Earlier this year, as the omicron variant threatened the safety and well-being of health care workers around the nation, ChristianaCare Chief Wellness Officer Heather Farley, M.D., MHCDS, FACEP, partnered with prominent U.S. health institutions to develop the 2022 Healthcare Workforce Rescue Package.
The action steps offer health care leaders evidence-based tools to support the well-being of physicians, nurses and other caregivers experiencing unprecedented fatigue and emotional distress.
“We’ve shone a light on the importance of investing in the well-being of our caregivers,” said Farley, who directs ChristianaCare’s Center for Worklife Wellbeing, which offers resources, peer counselors, services and training to prevent burnout and foster a healthy environment throughout the organization.
In addition to Care for the Caregiver peer support and surprise visits from the Welcome Wagon full of snacks and treats, resources also include O.A.S.I.S. rooms, intended to be calm, quiet places for caregivers to escape and recharge. Located at the Cecil, Middletown, Newark and Wilmington campuses, amenities in these spaces include massage chairs and ambient lighting. O.A.S.I.S. stands for “Opportunity to Achieve Staff Inspiration & Strength.”
“If I’m having an especially exhausting day, I enjoy going to one of the O.A.S.I.S. rooms to relax and recharge for a few minutes. It makes such a big difference in my mental health,” said Megan Farraj, Pharm.D., a clinical pharmacy specialist in Critical Care Medicine.
DeWitt said even something as simple as providing reimbursements for wellness expenses helps her feel like her health matters to the organization. She has used the wellness reimbursement from ChristianaCare to cover the cost of a 5K race and part of her gym membership.
“It means a lot to me personally and professionally that ChristianaCare cares about my physical, mental and financial health so that I can provide the best care possible,” she said.
Valuing a diverse workforce
In addition to the Forbes state ranking, ChristianaCare ranked this year as the No. 2 employer for diversity and inclusion in the health care industry and the No. 40 employer in the nation overall in the Forbes list of Best Employers for Diversity.
ChristianaCare has also earned a spot on the list of best large health systems to work for in the U.S., ranking 29th among health systems on Forbes’ list of the 500 best large employers.
Pamela Ridgeway, MBA, MA, SPHR, chief diversity officer and vice president of Talent at ChristianaCare, said there’s a link between creating an inclusive environment for caregivers and helping patients – and the larger community – achieve optimal health.
First Year In
First Year In (FYI) is the newest Employee Resource Group at ChristianaCare. Its goal is to help new caregivers make connections and foster supportive relationships as they navigate the organization.
FYI’s ice cream socials are popular with caregivers as they build camaraderie and learn more the benefits of working at ChristianaCare.
“To achieve health equity, we must support a varied, diverse workforce that includes people of all origins, ages, religions, gender identities and abilities,” Ridgeway said.
For example, 11 employee resource groups (ERGs) at ChristianaCare provide support, camaraderie and a safe space for caregivers to celebrate their whole selves. The nearly 1,300 ERG members unite around a shared characteristic or experience — such as gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, disability or military service.
Another ChristianaCare professional development program, LeadershipDNA, supports underrepresented populations of caregivers and helps foster their career development.
Participation in LeadershipDNA introduced Steaphine Taggart, MSN, RN, CEN, CPHQ, to a new set of colleagues who continue to cheer on her successes and serve as a sounding board when needed. She is operations director of ChristianaCare’s Hospital Care at Home and credits the program with motivating her to complete her certification as a Professional in Healthcare Quality.
“I think even outside of expanding diversity, this is making a difference in strengthening ChristianaCare as an organization by bringing us together.”
As an organization committed to improving health, ChristianaCare has increasingly recognized the powerful link between health and environment.
The awareness has led to significant strategic planning to develop an environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) framework to guide the organization’s environmental impact. This work is hand-in-hand with ChristianaCare’s commitment to anti-racism and health equity.
“As we become more deeply rooted in equity in care and caregiving,” Ridgeway said, “we honor and cherish the individual perspectives of our caregivers even more than ever.”