Executives in hospitals and health systems work hard to create an environment that supports the healing process. That said, many believe that the best way for an executive to do this is to make sure that they themselves are in a healthy place, not just physically, but spiritually.
Three health leaders: Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association based in Washington, DC; Ed Fry, president of executive search firm FaithSearch Partners; and Anthony R. Tersigni, EdD, president and CEO of St. Louis-based Ascension, agree that spiritual health often goes beyond religion alone.
For many healthcare executives, nurturing their sense of spirituality may include creating time each day for reflection, meditation, community service, or a variety of other activities. While it can be easy to take these tasks off as low on the priority list, spiritual health is actually an important business strategy that administrators and leaders can use to become well-rounded individuals and better leaders.
“We describe the compassionate and personalized care we provide in Ascension as ‘holistic’, which means we treat the whole person – body, mind and spirit,” said Dr Tersigni. “We encourage our caregivers. to think about their own health and well-being in an equally holistic way and to meet the needs of their own body, mind and spirit. “
Mr. Fry, along with the philosophy of FaithSearch Partners, supports this ideology of holistic care.
“I’ve always been a believer in the idea that a well-rounded person is healthy,” says Fry. “To be whole and healthy, there is a spiritual component that needs to be proactively and intentionally nurtured.”
Feed the soul
Health officials who seek to nurture their spiritual health should start by thinking about their values, philosophies, and priorities in life – whether that is putting the dignity of others first, and attracting attention. attention to one’s own family or focus on caring for the less fortunate – according to Sister Keehan.
“Personally, I nourish my spirit with my Catholic faith, but for some people, it is with their Jewish, Muslim or non-denominational faith,” says Sister Keehan. “Others still find food through a more humanistic perspective that is based on the dignity of the human being. In the end, what is important is to have a sense of what is worthwhile. ‘to be experienced and what is worth dying. “
The next step is to incorporate the daily changes that support those values, according to Fry. He suggests that health officials integrate spiritual discipline into their daily routine.
“Spiritual disciplines can include daily prayer, worship time, meditation, scripture study, or other activities,” says Fry. “A lot of people practice these disciplines every day until it becomes part of their DNA and, if they miss it, they can feel the difference.”
As an Ascension leader, Dr. Tersigni sets an example for his fellow leaders and caregivers in the organization by eating healthy and being physically active, as well as taking time for prayer, reflection and community service. These activities help him feel recharged.
Some hospitals and health systems, whether religious or secular, offer executives the option of taking sabbaticals every few years. Mr. Fry encourages executives to take advantage of this benefit if it is available.
“Sabbaticals allow executives to take time to do something totally different, allowing them to return to work with greater clarity,” he says. “This benefit can also help prevent burnout, so that leaders function much more efficiently than if they are feeling spiritually drained.”
The place where spirituality and health leadership meet
Spirituality is frequently associated with religion or worship. That said, the topic often arises when it comes to working with – or leading – a religiously affiliated or secular healthcare organization. How does personal spirituality affect the management of a hospital linked to a particular faith?
According to Fry, some faith-affiliated organizations look for leaders who adhere to their specific belief system, while others are more flexible and only require leaders to support the overall goals of the organization. Even though Ascension is one of the largest nonprofit and religious healthcare systems in the country, Dr Tersigni describes it as flexible when it comes to spirituality and leadership.
“We pose an important question to those who wish to serve in Ascension Health Ministry: ‘Can you support our mission, vision and values? “Just as you don’t have to be a Catholic to receive care at an Ascension facility, you don’t have to be a Catholic to serve with us,” says Dr. Tersigni. “We have leaders from a number of religious traditions who appreciate our unique and special calling. Their diverse perspectives are welcome in leadership roles, [but] we must be united in our mutual commitment to the mission, vision and values of Ascension. ”
In addition to helping leaders guide a hospital or healthcare system, spirituality serves as a way to cope with stress or burnout. Executives in any industry will say they experience a unique level and type of stress, Fry says, including in healthcare.
“The difference in health care is that executives have to make decisions that can affect life or death or, at the very least, the quality of life of people. Of course, this stress may be felt a bit more on the physician or clinician side, but the hospital and health system leaders create environments in which providers can do their jobs, ”he notes.
Sister Keehan shared examples of how the stress of healthcare can take a toll on industry leaders.
“Executives are frequently asked to tighten a hospital’s financial belt and cut jobs without compromising safety. They oversee the organization’s instrument sterilization rules to prevent infection and are held accountable if a hired worker turns out to be addicted to drugs or sells drugs to patients at the facility, ”says Sister Keehan. “These are the types of things that can keep a CEO awake at night.”
Taking care of the mind can help leaders deal with difficult situations like these and focus on the good of healthcare. Ultimately, spiritual well-being in any form can help leaders better inspire others.
“People want to see leaders who feel good about themselves, who have a sense of mission and values in life, and who, quite frankly, have a sense of joy and humor,” says Sister Keehan. . “Ultimately, these factors and elements of spiritual health can go a long way in helping people cope with the very real stress of leadership in health care.”