How 9 hospitals, health systems show employee appreciation during holidays

Hospitals and health systems show appreciation for employees all year, and that doesn't stop during the holidays. With parties, letters, meals and other efforts, organizations ensure workers know they are valued.

Becker's Hospital Review asked healthcare leaders to share how they thank their employees during the holiday season.

Note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Dave Fikse
President of Mercy Health – Cincinnati

Healthcare roles are very demanding, and we don't always make time to do basic things for ourselves, like sitting down and enjoying a meal. One way in which we show appreciation for employees in our hospitals and in our home office is by treating them to a festive holiday meal. Because we are a mission-based organization, we also give our employees time to take part in a holiday-themed service project. On Dec. 13, employees at our home office in Cincinnati will host 50 students from the local elementary school with which we've partnered on tutoring. We will have lunch with the children and help them to make a Christmas ornament to take home. Rumor has it that Mr. and Mrs. Claus will also make an appearance at this popular annual event!

Mary Garman
COO of Premier Health's Miami Valley Hospital North (Dayton, Ohio)

From a system perspective, we encourage healthy living every day of the year. But I think we also acknowledge that holiday times can be stressful for employees. We do send out messaging around the holidays encouraging people to really take time to acknowledge where they are personally. We give them tips for healthy eating and managing their stress and taking time to reflect on their own selves. So that self-care I think is important, more importantly around this time of the year.

We [also] send out formal communications and messages from our system leadership. For Thanksgiving, the CEO and the COO sent out a message, and it basically just [referenced] our strong culture, which values and celebrates diverse backgrounds and speaks to our continued dedication toward inclusion.

And then for Thanksgiving itself, we have a holiday meal for those who work on Thanksgiving Day. We treat everyone to a warm holiday meal, so they can celebrate with their work family.

With the Christmas season, we encourage each one of the sites to create a festive environment. Many of us have lots of festive decorations. We also have things like lighting of our Christmas tree. It gives us a time to come together and acknowledge the beginning of the season. And then we also have Nativity scenes at the various sites.

And then I would say as a way of looking at our diverse population of patients and employees, we have the displays of the menorah and the lighting of candles during the Hanukkah and Kwanzaa seasons, and our spiritual care staff make sure we acknowledge that throughout our various entities as well.

[In addition], our  shop gets very excited for the holiday season. They will decorate extensively and make sure they have [culturally diverse] items that can be purchased [by employees or patients] for friends and family. One of the benefits is employees can [purchase items] through payroll deduction.

Then we have things like ugly sweater contests, lip sync contests, and at the system level we've done some fun videos in the past that highlight our accomplishments. And then we once again have a holiday meal for our staff served by our leadership staff.

Deborah Gordon
Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Legal Officer of Memorial Hermann Health System (Houston)

We have always demonstrated appreciation for our workforce with the standard holiday fare — parties at our campuses, carolers in the cafeterias, special services in our chapels, pop-up shops that give employees a chance to do a little holiday shopping during their breaks and surprising employees with seasonal treats during their shifts. Our employees also collect toy donations for pediatric patients at our children's hospital, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. This year, we decided to do things a bit differently and extend our gratitude beyond our hospital walls into the community we have served for more than a century.

In addition to our regular festivities, we are mobilizing our workforce to give back this holiday season by hosting volunteer opportunities throughout our service region as part of a campaign we launched earlier this year called "Hometown Healing." We started this initiative on the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey to help Greater Houston continue to recover from the most devastating storm in its history. The response from our own employees was so overwhelming that we decided to host another round of volunteer opportunities during the holidays, harnessing our collective philanthropic spirit to make the season brighter for both our employees and the community.

In mid-December, scores of Memorial Hermann employees will join together to sort and pack food at local food banks, rebuild a hurricane-damaged home and craft holiday cards for Meals on Wheels to distribute to seniors and homebound adults throughout Greater Houston. Our employees are known for their compassion, both inside our organization and out, and this is our way of saying, "thank you" to them and to the people throughout Greater Houston who entrust us with their care.

David Jones
Chief Human Resources Officer of Stanford (Calif.) Health Care

Stanford Health Care strives to provide an inclusive and safe workplace that celebrates the uniqueness of our people year-round. During this festive time of the year, leaders at every level across the organization are encouraged to find creative and diverse ways to engage staff in celebrating a variety of holidays. To show their appreciation, many teams hold gift exchanges, holiday parties, banquets, caroling and other celebration events in their departments, homes or public venues. Since many staff work through the holidays, leaders often pass out holiday cheer in the form of treats and gifts to staff and patients during their rounding or huddles. Teams across the organization also participate in charitable drives to provide food, clothes and toys for those in need through various local charities. 

Shawn Kiley
Director of Mission Leadership at Providence Tarzana (Calif.) Medical Center

We show appreciation year-round for our caregivers. They work tirelessly to care for our patients and their families, living our mission of compassionate care to the poor and vulnerable.

Of course, the holidays are special. At Tarzana, we are blessed to have a workforce that represents several religions, cultures and ethnicities. We treasure and embrace those traditions, and together we've created some of our own.

This week we celebrated Hanukkah with a special party. Caregivers gathered under the newly constructed canopy at the front entrance of the hospital to light the menorah and listen to preschool children from Chabad of the Valley sing traditional Hanukkah songs. And now our Christmas tree stands at the hospital entrance with a Nativity scene.

Providence Tarzana stresses the importance of family time all year long, and during the holidays we do our best to provide time off for as many caregivers as possible. We look forward to our holiday caregiver party, a memorable way of celebrating these heartwarming days of Hanukkah and Christmas. Special meals also are provided for those who work on Christmas and New Year's Day.

The most incredible celebrations are those we hold each year with community partners. Together, all the departments at Providence Tarzana collect hundreds of gifts for underprivileged families in our community, a partnership with a local high school that identifies students' families in need, many of them homeless. In addition to this, caregivers collaborate with ONE Generation, adopting a senior in need who lives in our community. There is also a ministry toy drive to benefit our pediatric and pediatric ICU patients that supplies enough toys to distribute to patients throughout the year. These remarkable experiences are truly a gift for all of us, knowing that as one team we can bring so much holiday happiness and extend our mission beyond the walls of our hospital ministry.

Mike Metcalf
Chief Executive of PeaceHealth Medical Group (Vancouver, Wash.)

Two years ago, Kathy Pickel, a much-loved colleague at one of our clinics in Bellingham, Wash., passed away unexpectedly in early December. Kathy was fun-loving and upbeat, someone with a spirited sense of humor and a big heart. Her death was a reminder to all of us that we cannot always predict what is going to happen in our lives, and that any one of us at any time could face a trauma or hardship beyond our control. To honor Kathy's generosity and love of the holiday season, and in recognition that most of us would appreciate help to make this time of year extra special, we've organized a gift drive called "Kathy's Caregifting Tree." Employees can confidentially submit their names and be eligible to receive a gift for their families.

What moves me about this effort is that it is the brainchild of one of Kathy's former colleagues and truly demonstrates the compassion that our team shows for one another. Particularly at this time of year, I am reminded of the many blessings in my life, not the least of which is working alongside such caring individuals.     

Pam Stoyanoff
Senior Executive Vice President and COO of Methodist Health System (Dallas)

We have annual holiday parties at each of our hospital campuses. Being a faith-based institution, we also have Advent services as well as services for other faiths that have holidays around this time of year. We look at this as a time of celebration and thankfulness.

Warner Thomas
President and CEO of Ochsner Health System (New Orleans)

Working during the holidays can be challenging. Employees are taking time away from their loved ones so patients can receive great care and feel special while being away from home. We spend additional time rounding and being present, so employees can feel supported and appreciated during this time. While it is important to show appreciation during the holiday season, I think it is vital for employees to feel appreciated and recognized year-round. I personally like to send employees letters to their home, recognizing what they've done or their importance to the organization.

David Yeghiaian
Chief Culture and Strategy Officer of Holy Family Memorial (Manitowoc, Wis.)

Appreciation should be shown year-round — not just during the holidays. We have a Gratitude Week with many employee events and socials with food, midnight meal for those on third shift, and encourage departments to host community events. The holidays are another opportunity to walk around and personally thank employees for the great patient experience they do daily. Personally, I make a donation for each of my departments and also provide a gift with a personal letter expressing the symbolism of the gift and relating it to appreciation and honor to work with such amazing individuals.



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