No Teams or Zooms? Inova Health nurse leaders embrace 'meeting-free zone'

When describing the housing market, real estate agents often talk about "location, location, location." In hospitals, according to many executives, the mantra seems to be more like "meetings, meetings, meetings."

At the same time, longtime leaders are quick to say that getting out of the office and connecting with team members and colleagues is the best way to build culture and commitment to the organization.

At Inova Health System in Falls Church, Va., nursing leaders designed Empower 180, a program that blocks out three hours every Wednesday and creates a "meeting-free zone."

"Our nursing leadership team was requesting a set time to be able to connect with their teams without the potential worry that their input on very important system initiatives might be missed," Maureen Sintich, DNP, RN, chief nurse executive at Inova, told Becker's. 

When other department leaders said they wanted to be able to schedule meeting-free time as well, Dr. Sintich got C-suite approval for Empower 180. 

"Our team members may utilize this time in a manner most conducive to the needs of their workday," she said. "In addition to patient care, this could include taking a training course to continue professional development, ideating with a colleague or focusing on a near-term deliverable without being pulled away for a meeting."

Empower 180, which has gotten rave reviews from executives throughout the healthcare system since it was launched in January, also affords leaders time to round on direct reports to strengthen relationships and talk with patients to identify ways to improve experience and satisfaction.

Alquietta Brown, PhD, BSN, RN, chief nursing officer at Inova's Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Va., told Becker's that Empower 180 has given her the time to interact with her team in ways she has not been able to in recent memory. 

"One day, we went outside and sat in the gazebo out on a big, beautiful lawn. We had a chat between all the nurse leaders and everyone truly enjoyed the change of venue," she said. "We were able to connect and be open with our creative ideas."

In addition to rounding on units, Dr. Brown said she has enjoyed barbecues with her leaders and has led her team on mini-trips during the three-hour meeting-free time to places such as a local farmers market, where they offered health screenings to community members.

"Every week we have an opportunity to get out from behind our desks, away from email and meetings and think a little bit outside of the box," she said. 

"The Empower 180 initiative has been wildly popular and appreciated by our nursing leaders as well as our team members. It allows everyone to focus on what matters most," Dr. Sintich said. "I realize that this is a common phrase that we use when referring to how we engage with our patients, but 'what matters most' also applies to our people."

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