Clinical Center News
Fall 2022

Clinical Center launches new wellness initiative

Program will gauge staff well-being in the future

A women in lab coat meditates in a serene environment
The Clinical Center Wellness Committee seeks to elevate awareness of existing wellbeing opportunities and programs and to leverage these more effectively.

The NIH Clinical Center Leadership wants you to be okay. That's not just a sweet idea – it's backed by a new wellness initiative.

The new program, called the Clinical Center Wellness Committee, seeks to elevate awareness of existing wellbeing opportunities and to leverage those programs more effectively. Hospital leadership also wants to find better ways to serve staff who work outside of the standard work day (9 am - 5 pm) and to address long-term wellness opportunities.

"Addressing stress and burnout increases compassion and empathy, improves physical and mental health, and helps care providers reconnect with the joy and meaning of practice" said Dr. Ann Berger, Chief of the Pain & Palliative Care Department, Wellness Committee co-chair.

The benefits of improving employee wellness are plentiful. On a personal level, care providers can focus on the fulfillment of providing treatment to those in need. On an organizational level, there can be less staff turnover, an improved work environment, reduced medical errors, increased patient satisfaction and less energy spent on corrective actions.

The Clinical Center already has some resources for employee well-being in place. Among them is an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Wellness Committee and Code Lavender - a rapid response program to help caregivers after a stressful situation, such as the loss of a patient. The Clinical Center also has mindfulness and meditation programs, yoga and debriefing sessions for staff with morally distressing situations.

"The committee will help foster an overall workplace culture of wellness, which is beneficial in variety of ways. Thanks to some great initiatives that were already underway and the goodwill of so many individuals dedicated to making wellness a priority, I believe this new committee is well-positioned to take staff wellness to an even greater level," said Dr. James Gilman, Clinical Center CEO.

In the immediate future, there will be an informational and planning session where the current wellness programs will be inventoried, and the leaders of these programs will be invited to join the hospital's new Wellness Committee. This committee will expand and include representatives from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Occupational Medical Service, the NIH Recreation & Welfare Association, Clinical Center Communications, as well as other stakeholders broadly across the hospital.

"Burnout is multifactorial. It's not limited to an individual or individual work groups. It affects an entire organization, and therefore, needs an organizational response. And, ultimately, in taking better care of ourselves and our colleagues we are more prepared to meet the day-to-day challenges we encounter." said John Pollack, MDiv, Chief of the Spiritual Care Department and Wellness Committee co-chair.

Within the next year, the Wellness Committee will develop metrics to document program use, measure the progress of improvements and implement at least one educational opportunity for the staff of the hospital. Informational materials to promote the programs are also under development.

In addition, the hospital will conduct a wellness needs assessment of all Clinical Center staff, most likely using the Maslach Burnout Inventory and/or the Areas of Worklife Scale inventory questionnaires.

The Wellness committee will expand to reflect stakeholders throughout the hospital. Perhaps you or someone you know could offer a unique perspective into mental health of the Clinical Center staff.

- Dan Silber

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