Take the PTO, says Mercy's new exec

When Catherine Codispoti takes the reins as Mercy's new chief people officer, she plans to focus inward, on the people already there. 

Of course, recruitment is important in the era of clinician shortages, from nursing to respiratory therapy. But Ms. Codispoti — an experienced leader hailing from the same role at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. — says hiring isn't the only way to develop a strong workforce. 

"There's a joke amongst a lot of the CHROs," Ms. Codispoti told Becker's. "Our new sound bite is that retention is your best recruitment tool, especially in this market." 

Although Ms. Codispoti doesn't start at the St. Louis-based system until December, she already has plenty of ideas that center retention as a key strategy: starting with a long, hard look at the care model. 

"We're at this inflection point," Ms. Codispoti said. "The pandemic really turned things upside down for us. So I think that there is a real opportunity to think and do things differently."

For one, AI could help eliminate "transactional-type work," giving workers more time to do meaningful, fulfilling tasks. The times might call for entirely new healthcare roles, and for some employees to find novel ways to use their talents. Ms. Codispoti calls this the "career lattice"; workers can grow with the organization through internal training programs that develop a broad range of skill sets, rather than remaining in a fixed, ladder-like promotion model. 

Ms. Codispoti plans to encourage flexibility outside of the workplace, too, cultivating a culture that allows people to recharge guilt-free. 

"[I plan on] role-modeling as far as taking time off — really taking time off and recharging, and supporting folks in doing that — so they come back feeling refreshed. They're able to have that time with their family that helps fill their cups," Ms. Codispoti said. "I think that's really important because many organizations have those benefits, but people don't use them. That's actually something we want them to do, because it makes them more productive and joyful when they're at work." 

Her focus on well-being extends to the benefits package. She's in touch with what modern workers need — especially Gen Z hires, who prioritize mental healthcare and student loan/tuition assistance. 

"There's a lot of folks that come out into our [healthcare] industry with tremendous debt," Ms. Codispoti said. "So we want to do things to support them so they feel good from a financial wellness standpoint." 

Ms. Codispoti originally dedicated her career to pediatrics; her twin sisters have achondroplasia, and her childhood memories of hospitals are fond. She felt safe knowing her loved ones were taken care of, so spent her adulthood working in the children's sector: first at Houston-based Texas Children's, then at Children's National. 

But she's ready for the transition to adult healthcare, she said. 

"The beauty of the people role is that at the end of the day, the people all need the same things, right? It's the ability to feel fulfilled at work, to make meaningful connections, to have the resources they need so when they show up, they can do their best work and make those magic moments happen," Ms. Codispoti said. "And so that's what I'm super excited about, and the ability to do that across such a large system is very meaningful and impactful." 

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