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Addressing burnout through the Novant Health Leadership Development Program

Physician burnout has been a matter of concern for decades, but as the healthcare industry becomes even more complex, the rate of physician burnout is rapidly increasing.

“Novant Health is not waiting for someone else to take the lead,” said Carl Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health. “We’re going to try new things to improve healthcare and our leadership development program is the perfect example of how we are doing that.”

At Novant Health, our physicians are in every area of leadership across the organization. This gives our physicians a voice and accountability in the strategy of the organization, which means every strategic discussion has physicians at the table, and every market partners a physician leader with an administrator.

As a result of this partnership, our physicians felt comfortable asking for Novant Health to create a solution around the growing trend of burnout. 

The Novant Health Leadership Development program, which initially began in 2013 to address physician burnout, has been completed by thousands of Novant Health physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses and leaders. The comprehensive program focuses on wellness, resiliency and leadership and involves deep self-reflective work to better understand patterns of behaviors, thinking and even feelings. It allows the participant to pause long enough to reflect on what is most important in their life and even why they chose health care. Participants examine the external factors that drain their energy and explore intentional ways to recharge. This intensive group work is followed by periodic check-ins with a core support team, and is supplemented with a mentoring program and teams to address systemic obstacles to experiencing joy and fulfillment in practice. All of this is in service to help participants navigate and sustain careers in medicine, while also providing the best possible care.

“We recognized that in order to care for our patients, we first needed to care for our providers and address the ever growing trend of burnout,” said Dr. Tom Jenike, senior vice president and chief well-being officer at Novant Health. “Our leadership development program is a commitment to help our team members honor their professional oath of providing remarkable patient care. We’ve found it has helped participants effectively lead their teams, and we’re thrilled to showcase and share our program with other health care organizations.”

Novant Health received the Innovation Award by athenahealth, Inc. for the Novant Health Leadership Development program. The program has had a significant impact on physician engagement and alignment since it began in 2013 and has been recognized by the North Carolina Medical Board. The program’s success has also prompted the creation of the AHA Physician Leadership Experience. 

An organizational culture of well-being

At Novant Health, we want to be world-class at taking care of our team members so that we can be world-class at taking care of our patients and the communities we serve. That’s why we focused on building a culture that supports the well-being of our team members. We have taken steps to alleviate stress and burnout, including but not limited to:

  • Giving physician leaders a seat at the table by partnering with them on every business decision, including financial statement reviews, how and where to deploy capital, and how and where to deploy Novant Health Medical Group clinics.
  • Establishing a peer-led EPIC optimization team to help providers use the electronic health record at the highest level and decrease unnecessary administrative duties.
  • Creating a mentor program that pairs new team members with established providers, allowing hands-on training for a smoother onboarding process.

Thriving Together

Building on the success of the Novant Health Leadership Development program, Novant Health has launched “Thriving Together,” a new initiative that supports team members’ collective, holistic well-being to help them flourish in the face of challenge and in times of crisis. The initiative is designed to help team members in five areas:

  • Emotional wellness
  • Human connection
  • Financial and community resources
  • Physical health
  • Leadership

“Novant Health started Thriving Together to prevent burnout among our team members while they were on the frontlines fighting coronavirus,” Dr. Jenike said. “We knew this was going to be an ongoing challenge and we wanted to help our team members while they helped their patients and the community. Thriving Together offers a portal of wellness materials, from podcasts to exercises, to help team members navigate through difficult times.”