August 31, 2020

Senior leader employs Well-Being Index to create large-scale change

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cbThis summer, the UAB Medicine Office of Wellness has shared stories of change and resilience. In our first story, we discussed how one individual radicalized his wellness through a simple 7-9 question survey called the Well-Being Index (WBI). In a second article, we discussed how that very same survey has increased overall well-being for a School of Medicine department.

Today, we want to share the story of how one senior leader, Catherine Brown, DNP, CRNP, FNP-BC associate vice president of Advanced Practice Providers at UAB Medicine, has used the tool to amplify wellness for advance practice providers, physicians, and other hospital staff.

Brown’s initial reaction to the Well-Being Index was enthusiastic. She recalls the day David Rogers, M.D., chief wellness officer, introduced the digital tool to her: “I remember the first time that Dr. Roger's reached out to me, very early in his role as chief wellness officer, and I remember thinking how different and fascinating it was that a physician, cared about advanced practice wellness. I was pretty impressed.”

Brown explains that the dynamic of advanced practice is complex and that wellness often seeps through the cracks. “We have our own stresses in advanced practice because we practice in a unique space that is not the physician realm, but also is not nursing in the traditional sense. There are unique stressors that impact advanced practice providers, different than the way stress impacts other members of the care team. For example, the dynamics and the relationship between an advanced practice provider and the physician team that they work for is distinctive from the physician’s team working with the RNs on the same unit. Dr. Rogers truly understood the intricacies that exist throughout the hospital and so I was really impressed by that.”

As a leader, Brown was beyond excited to have an opportunity to assess her colleagues and employees. She wanted to explore what they each went through on a daily basis, and wanted to understand the reality of their wellness. She says she felt a bit anxious awaiting the results because she was not sure how the data would present. “I did not expect the data to show that overall people we're just doing great. As a senior leader, I make it a priority to talk with people frequently and the feedback I was hearing from my leads and in one-on-one appointments was not always great. Plus, we were experiencing some turnover at that time.”

Brown says when she finally did get the anonymous data from the WBI, she was astonished. “I guess I wasn't shocked per say, but more so mortified. On one hand the results were expected, since we had never done a full assessment of wellness, but on the other hand I looked at us compared to the national data and immediately knew something had to change.”

A great feature of the Well-Being Index is its ability to keep individual data anonymous, while also categorizing whole sets of data based on position and role, then compare that data to cohorts across the county. Brown was able to export the data from the WBI and see each anonymously submitted comment. This feature especially helped Brown in her analysis of how her people were doing.

Her response to the struggle people were facing was to take action—and quickly. Brown wanted to be able to use the data she received as leverage to increase employee well-being throughout the hospital. She shared the data with Tony Jones, M.D., president of Health Services Foundation and chief physician executive of the UAB Health System.

Together, they began using the anonymous data to discuss the reality of APP wellness with physician leaders. Jones and Brown wanted to understand the “why” behind the WBI results, so they began small focus groups to pinpoint exactly where the pain points were originating. While they found several pain points in the focus groups, they were also able to come up with a few simple but high-impact solutions. For example, majority of constituents wanted more one-on-one time with senior leaders. Although Brown had always had an open door policy in her office, she began to schedule out one-on-one meetings to make sure APPs felt heard, and she also began monthly meetings—“Coffee with Catherine.” These meetings facilitated necessary wellness conversations that may not have happened otherwise. Brown believes dialogue is vital for long-term change. Moreover, Brown worked with Dr. Rogers and Nisha Patel, MBA, MSHA, executive director of Operations, Wellness, and Administration, to add process improvement questions to the WBI tool. The process improvement questions have been incredibly valuable to learning immediate action items requested by those with low wellness.

For this large-scale team, data from the WBI was an excellent starting point to investigate employee wellness. Likewise, the process improvement questions add a dynamic to the digital tool that helps leaders and managers understand what they can do, specifically, to help improve burnout, turnover, and daily stress.

“The WBI data and the process improvement questions really helped me as a leader. I'm not focusing on numbers on a spreadsheet; I'm really focusing on the fact that my people have a human experience and that experience is that they're pretty distressed. It makes it more personal for me. As a leader, I value my people—how they feel and where they are in their own personal journey.”

“While I can't look at the WBI data on an individual level, I can step back at a higher level and appreciate their honesty. It's important for leaders to be connected to how their employees are doing and what their wellness levels are currently. In patient care, provider wellness impacts their patient outcomes. There’s a direct correlation.”

Brown believes that a blend of human interaction, accurate data, and ongoing communication can truly make a difference in people’s wellness. “Knowing your employees on a more personal level is important because there is always an emotional component involved.”

If you are an employee who wants get started with the WBI, click here. You will be prompted to enter an access code based on your profession. Please find your access code by group/role below:
Trainee (Resident/Fellow/Other Trainee): UAB TRAINEE
Employee/Staff: UAB MEDICINE

If you have already taken the Well-Being Index, you may do a re-assessment quarterly or monthly.