Note to the CEO: One Scripps employee's testament to the power of career support

Under the leadership of President and CEO Chris Van Gorder, San Diego-based Scripps Health has abided by a "no-layoffs" philosophy for more than a decade. The system eliminates employees' positions as an absolute last resort. However, mounting challenges and financial pressure recently forced the health system to restructure. In mid-March, Scripps announced it would eliminate approximately 100 positions.

"Revenues have flattened out due to healthcare reform and payer mix changes, and we are seeing an increase in government-sponsored patients," Mr. Van Gorder told Becker's Hospital Review. On top of meeting its financial obligations and controlling costs, the decision to restructure was made in the best interest of Scripps' patients. "Lower costs means more affordable access for our patients," said Mr. Van Gorder.

Of the 100 positions eliminated in the restructuring, 69 were removed in March. Most of the employees affected worked in administrative roles or management in corporate services. The balance of the eliminated positions has since taken effect or will during the next couple of weeks, as outlined in Scripps' Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letter. 

When circumstances require restructuring, laid off workers have the opportunity to utilize Scripps' Career Resource Center. In the CRC, experts in talent management, human resources, employee assistance and other departments work with staff whose positions were eliminated to update their skills, set up interviews with other departments and facilities within Scripps and ultimately help the person find a new position within the system. The impacted staff retain their salaries and full benefits while in the CRC, which can last two to three months.

More than 1,000 Scripps employees have been placed into the CRC over the last decade and 90 percent are still with the health system today. As of April 14, 26 of the recently laid off employees have found new positions in the health system through the CRC. According to Mr. Van Gorder, the CRC allows the system to make tough choices — such as eliminating worker's jobs — in a compassionate and respectful way.

"As a result of our corporate philosophy, we try to do what we can for our people during times of restructuring — which is inevitable in any business at some point," Mr. Van Gorder said. "The difference in culture is significant. I think our managers and employees expect us — me — to do the right thing for our patients, but they also know that our culture demands that be done in a supportive and compassionate way if it impacts our staff — and they know that we have systems like the CRC that will help support employees if they are individually impacted. It's truly a two-way street."

One employee, Connie Berki, is evidence of that. Ms. Berki, who served as an administrative assistant at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley in San Diego before her position was eliminated in March, wrote an email to Mr. Van Gorder to tell him just how positive her experience going through the CRC was and to reinforce the mutual appreciation and value such programs foster.

"I waited until all of the dust settled to send you this email about my experience in the CRC," Ms. Berki wrote in her email, which she shared with Becker's Hospital Review. "It was so positive that I think you should know about it."

Ms. Berki explained she had been working as an administrative assistant at the Scripps clinic since June 2015. She had previously held a position at San Diego-based Sharp Memorial Hospital in concierge services, before which she volunteered at Sharp for nearly four years.

When she received the systemwide email informing the employees of the impending layoffs, Ms. Berki expected her position would be eliminated since she was still relatively new to the system. She was right.

"I went numb," says Ms. Berki, who added she had never been fired or laid off from a job since she began working at the age of 15. "My heart sank to the ground because I knew I was bringing something special to Scripps," she wrote in her email to Mr. Van Gorder.

In the same meeting in which her boss gave her the news, Ms. Berki was introduced to the CRC. In the beginning, she was skeptical of how helpful the program would be. "I was thinking they were putting up this curtain and pretending they were going to help me but it wouldn't happen," she says.

Fortunately, Ms. Berki's doubts were remedied right away. After learning she lost her job on a Wednesday, the CRC helped her schedule interviews for other positions at Scripps facilities the following Monday and Tuesday. Soon after, she was hired as an administrative coordinator for the bone marrow transplant department at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, Calif. Ms. Berki's new position is one close to her heart, as she has been on the transplant list for a new kidney for the last eight years.

"Long story short, today I started in my new position eager to give our patients the Connie Berki experience. This is an experience like no other," she wrote, adding the CRC professionals who supported her are "truly my angels."

Ms. Berki says she is still in shock about how much support and compassion she experienced going through the CRC, but she couldn't think of a better process for health systems facing the difficult decision to eliminate people's jobs.

"I know the decision that was placed in front of you was difficult, but I want you to know from this employee's perspective, you are doing something right, because I could not be more proud of my organization of choice: Scripps," Ms. Berki wrote to Mr. Van Gorder. "I hope this helps your heart in the decision you had to make."

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