Tampa General Hospital CEO John Couris: Show your team you care

I'm very fortunate. I work in a field and have a job that I love. I have the privilege of spending a majority of my time focused on the health and well-being of my community. While healthcare is an incredibly rewarding field, it's also one that comes with a great deal of pressure, leading to practitioner exhaustion — both physical and emotional.

It's no wonder that our industry has started to recognize and measure job burnout, particularly among physicians and nurses. In fact, a 2017 Mayo Clinic Study found 43.9 percent of physicians reported experiencing at least one symptom of burnout. Results from a 2017 study from Kronos Incorporated revealed that 63% of nurses felt burned out by their work.

But burnout doesn’t only affect doctors and nurses. A 2018 poll from the Medical Group Management Association found 73 percent of healthcare leaders feel at least some degree of job-related stress and fatigue. Of the 1,750 healthcare leaders surveyed, 45 percent said they felt "burned out," while 28 percent reported they were "somewhat" burned out.

And while I am not one of the 73 percent, I can certainly relate to how my colleagues feel. Dedicating all of your time to providing the highest quality of care to patients requires a laser focus combined with a tremendous amount of attention. As a result, we often fail to prioritize self-care or focus on the care of colleagues and team members. But to be effective in providing leading-edge patient care, we need to ensure everyone on the team has the proper support system in place to thrive.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about my health and well-being, and that of my team. As an industry, we need to measure work-related fatigue, but more importantly, we need to help provide an environment where team members feel supported and cared for in order to alleviate some of that stress and burnout. This level of team-focused care results in a higher quality of care for our patients and their families.  

At Tampa General Hospital, where I'm president and CEO, we have developed a video campaign to communicate to our team members that we are dedicated to providing a culture of caring — where we are not only dedicated to caring for patients, we are dedicated to caring for each other. I view my team not "like a family," but as members of my family. I strive to develop that feeling in all team members across the hospital.

To help build this culture of caring at TGH, I have integrated some highly effective strategies into my leadership practice. These tactics allow me to focus directly on my team members and demonstrate my desire to support them inside and outside of our work environment.

Develop an understanding of what's on their plate: We all have a great deal going on in our lives, and balancing it all can often prove incredibly stressful. As team members, we often worry that things outside of work will get in the way of getting the job done. There is a relief when our supervisor has an understanding of our challenges and provides support. As a manager, I find it helpful to spend time getting to really know my team members so I can understand the load they carry in life. Without being too intrusive, I seek to provide support and alleviate stress where I can.

Take an interest in their lives outside of work: We all have passions that we pursue when the work day is done. It is these hobbies or activities in which we find pleasure, that provide us with a creative outlet, or burn off some steam. I try, when I can, to support my team members off of the hospital campus. Whether it is attending an event in which they are participating or supporting a charity for which they volunteer, showing up and cheering is a great way to support my team.

Ask them what they need: Something as simple as offering help can make the day feel a little lighter. I like to start conversations with my team by checking in on what they need – resources, time, advice. These check-ins allow them to feel supported and able to do their job to the best of their ability.

Lead by example: Because coping with stress is a thing that we all must deal with and taking time for one's self is mission critical, I try and be transparent with my team about my strategies for self-care.

  • I take time for myself and my family, just as I would like them to do.
  • I have hobbies outside of work that I enjoy, and I share those with my team.
  • I try and prioritize exercise, and consider taking care of my mind and body as part of my job.
  • I carve out a bit of alone time each day to reflect, prepare for the day and de-stress. This time usually involves a walk with my German Shepard.
  • I continue to seek learning opportunities for intellectual stimulation and growth. Right now, I am pursuing my Doctorate in Business Administration. I am always encouraging my team to take advantage of learning opportunities and am sharing my current journey as a student with them.
  • I say no (sometimes). It has taken a long time, but I have come to realize that I cannot be everywhere and do everything that is asked of me — just as I don't expect my team members to be able to do everything all the time. There are times when we all must pass on opportunities, and that's ok.
  • Finally, I try to remain present so I can enjoy it all.

Focusing on the care of your team (as well as yourself) is not only the right and most compassionate thing to do, it also makes strong business sense. Team members who feel cared for and valued are inspired to go above and beyond for the organization and their patients. They understand and execute on the mission every day, performing at the highest level.

John Couris is the president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. You can read more from John at changewithcouris.com.

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