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Event Recap | Resiliency: Cultivating Trauma-Informed Workplaces | 5.3.2023

On Wednesday, May 3, HC3 hosted the third session of the Future of Work SeriesResiliency: Cultivating Trauma-Informed Workplaces – presented in collaboration with the Chicago Resiliency Network (CRN), an initiative of the Corporate Coalition of Chicago. This conversation explored the implications of trauma and how employers can address employees' emotional health and well-being, enhancing productivity and performance for a thriving health care workforce.


Marcos Gonzales, Program Manager, Chicago Resiliency Network

Meghan Phillipp, Executive Director, HC3


Deirdre Guthrie, PhD, Director of Wellbeing and Joy, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Karen Frost, MBA, Vice President, Health Solutions & Strategy, Alight Solutions

Eve Escalante, MSW, LCSW, Manager of Program Innovation with Social Work and Community Health and Instructor, College of Health Sciences, RUSH University Medical Center

Kristin M. Hamblock, MBA, SHRM-SCP, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Rosecrance

Watch the Webinar

Event Recap

C-Moderator’s Remarks

Marcos Gonzales (MG): The Chicago Resiliency Network (CRN) is an initiative of the Corporate Coalition of Chicago, which is an alliance of companies that bring together assets and resources to address racial and economic inequities in the city.

As we consider what it means to be a trauma-informed workplace, it is helpful to understand SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) framework for being trauma-informed, which includes the four R’s:

· Realize – creating greater awareness

· Recognize – what is being manifested and where

· Respond – ways we respond to trauma

· Resist re-traumatizing – creating structures to help people to move forward

Other guiding principles from SAMHSA that the CRN has tried to incorporate are safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowered voice and choice, as well as cultural, historical, and gender sensitivity.

Resiliency is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from a difficult situation. To cultivate more resilient environments, the CRN focuses on four main objectives:

1. Increase awareness of stress, burnout, mental health needs, and workplace trauma.

2. Identify both small and larger business challenges and opportunities.

3. Learn and apply resilience-building strategies for both small and larger challenges.

4. Demonstrate, capture, and measure the impact of resilience-building strategies on the individual, workplace, and business.

The CRN partners with Kintla, founded by Dr. Bruce Perry. The CRN has endeavored to infuse principles from Dr. Perry’s neuro-sequential model centered around these core concepts:

· Regulating self and others

· Resilient teams

· Reflection

· Power of positive connections

· Paths to resilience

The CRN has developed a timeline to incorporate these opportunities into its daily operation and invites its participating companies to implement a resiliency pilot project that draws on these practices. Panelists will share how implementing these practices has impacted their organizations.

Panelist Introductions

Dierdre Guthrie (DG): I recently completed a year in this newly created role - Director of Wellbeing and Joy - at Lurie Children’s. After some of the challenges of the past few years, nursing leadership recognized that a more specialized role was needed in order to protect, broaden, and build well-being in the hospital. Even prior to the pandemic, there was recognition that a culture shift was needed. So, it has been a trying time, but it is also very exciting to be doing this work because we are planting the seeds for a new future.

Eve Escalante (EE): I am a clinical social worker and have been at Rush for 11 years. My primary role is to lead evidence-based care management efforts into the community. I am also involved in advancing trauma-informed efforts throughout the hospital system and community. Since approximately 2018, I have been working through joint efforts to mitigate compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma at Rush.

Karen Frost (KF): Alight Solutions is one of the largest administrators of HR and benefits programs nationwide. In my role, I lead strategies for health in businesses. My role has shifted from just traditional benefits administration to helping employers focus on overall well-being. There are a lot of great programs out there, and Alight supports decision-making strategies to optimize the utilization of possible programs and solutions for different businesses.

Kristin Hamblock (KH): I am a member of the executive team at Rosecrance Health Network, leading workforce-related operations. Rosecrance is a nonprofit provider focused on behavioral health services across Midwest states – Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Through our participation in collective efforts with the state, I also serve as the chair of the workforce committee for the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health (IABH) state association.

Moderated Q&A

Q: In what ways have you approached incorporating trauma-informed practices into the workplace?

EE: We have been working hard on debunking the myth that people leave their trauma or personal things at the door. Acknowledging that this is not the case, that people are people when they come to work each day, is essential to this work. While we want to be attuned to people’s job descriptions, ensuring they are fulfilling their responsibilities, it goes a long way to understanding everyone’s personal and professional challenges.

I had the opportunity to participate in a program called Joy in Work through the Institute for Health Care Improvement (IHI). The joy in the work framework explores all the elements that bring purpose and meaning to someone’s job. One of the primary tenets is cultivating conversations around questions for “What Matters?” These questions include “What matters to you about the work, do you?” or “What are the pebbles in your shoes or the boulders?” For example, pebbles in your shoes could be something like a printer not working, while a more significant issue or a boulder could be something like a health issue or becoming a caregiver for a family member. The questions are never a mandate to disclose what is happening in someone’s life but an invitation. We have found that it goes a long way for employees to feel more at home and recognize that what our colleagues bring impacts their performance. Performance numbers don’t always give the whole picture, but marrying these two approaches has been a good solution.

To address antiracism, we have also added, “Has there been a time when you have not felt seen or heard”? Asking this question is important in advancing antiracism in the workplace and other DEI principles.

DG: At Lurie, we just completed a level one healing circle part of the healing circle method. This is based on the concept of creating more space for relationships within the hospital. Additionally, we have been coaching managers and identifying which cohorts to focus on, so they can create their personal inter-development plans. We also added a regulation tool with recharge rooms with a nature-inspired design and protective space for recovery.

At this point, resiliency doesn’t necessarily mean bouncing back to the same baseline as before, but instead, we have a new baseline. What are the vulnerabilities, and how do we understand them as leaders within our circle training? Our ADI (average daily intake) employees are interested in this skill set because they know this space is important for critical conversations we need to have.

KF: We [Alight Solutions] stopped using the term “wellness” and are using “well-being” instead to allow us to focus on more than just physical health. As we think about fostering “healthy minds,” it is important to also think about a healthy wallet. We find that individuals experiencing traumatic occurrences in their lives, such as dealing with a chronic illness, also deal with financial hardship, which adds to their overall stress and well-being.

We have been working with employers to assess what processes they have in place to identify issues and support their employees. Many employers have incorporated other capabilities in their medical benefit plan options, including EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs). Layering on top of that, there has been a rise in adding supportive services like digital mental health. We often find that employees are struggling with their well-being and don’t know where to go – whereas they don’t even know these programs exist. If our team assists an individual with signing up for a medical plan, we also have built a platform to connect them to other complimentary resources available to them as part of their benefits.

KH: Meeting people with kindness and compassion is at the core of Rosecrance's HR strategy. No matter what position someone is in, we believe in ensuring they are heard and part of the solutions. A few years ago, we refocused our efforts on a cultural shift staff as our number one priority. Without our workforce, we can’t serve our clients. We created an employee experience team to support benefits management to ensure these tools are accessible and understood. Accessibility for all has been important. Also, encouraging the workforce to be proactive – for example, encouraging people to download an app to monitor their activities and have their settings in order, rather than trying to set it up in a moment of crisis.

Rosecrance has created leadership tracks regardless of someone’s experience level, giving them opportunities to advance. It is important to check in with staff and see what continued challenges or barriers they may be experiencing in advancement, so we can try to address them.

Q: What approaches have you taken to navigating different barriers to implementing these strategies?

KH: Not relying on one method of communication, for example, email is one of many modes for reaching people and ensuring that multiple touchpoints (company intranet, short videos, posting information in the physical workplace, etc.) exist.

KF: I agree that we need to reach out to employees in every direction – email, phone, etc. We are finding more and more people getting used to personalization from AI (artificial intelligence) as well. Individuals are looking for a “guide me through this, using what you know about me” solution. We are all looking into more ways to make it very personal because that’s when people engage.

DG: When we experience prolonged stress, decision, and change, fatigue sets in, and our nervous system goes to shortcut mode – what feels good can sometimes be our biases. So, it is important to ensure people on those boards understand mental health – not just the business side of things. Important to have thought leaders and consultants who can help guide people to the right resources.

EE: One of the things we have noticed is that this feels foreign for people with medical backgrounds. They might have barriers from the awkwardness, the disclosure piece, and time. To combat this, we are trying to reach people at their education level and showing that investing an hour does improve productivity. Rush is trying to infuse into education how critical trauma-informed care is. Always try to include how you are taking care of yourselves. Rush has a center for clinical wellness that provides counseling and therapy just for the Rush staff. We found that access was an issue for the center, so we implemented a 24-hour pager as another access point, which has been successful. People can page and talk through their situation at any hour of the day; sometimes, they don’t know if they are in crisis.

Another thing that has been helpful are the vicarious trauma sessions that I facilitate. We have also been facilitating these with community health workers (CHWs). Our CHWs expanded through COVID, and we have seen that their lived experience is so valuable. But they are carrying a lot more. Their job ends at 5pm but they go back into the community and are the resource there. We have set up virtual access for CHWs, and that has been key.

Q: As we think about the role of leadership in driving trauma-informed workplaces and resiliency, how are you getting leadership buy-in?

DG: We had a series of listening sessions that resulted in a solutions group. Structured feedback loops have been important. Also, connecting with systems that were always there but were underutilized – such as social workers and spiritual care.

KH: If the top leadership is not invested, then the next level won’t be. We do listening sessions, and leaders follow back up with the team – so it’s not just out there in space. And we make a promise to employees that they will have access to their direct leader through monthly check-ins. This is a time to review goals, priorities, and any barriers that need to be addressed in a personal way.

Q: How are you measuring the delivery of solutions? How do we measure well-being?

KF: We get these same questions from employers we work with. Some employer clients have 40 programs. We started connections between those programs so employees can start with one and be sent a helpful resource. We ask that platform to send data back on what happened. We learned that employer clients weren’t always getting that information. We are getting data back and making assessments based on the level of success those programs are promising.

Q: How are you thinking about burnout, and where are there well-being opportunities to address burnout?

DG: just put out a speaker for the end of the month – post-traumatic growth, well-being under pressure. In this environment, you have to have that street cred. That you understand what it's like to work in this particular environment. We are a complex org – well-being is a menu of things to meet people where they are at.

KH: We've talked about policies and programs and external vendors, but some of that programming can be done in-house with expectations of compassionate interactions, such as celebrating birthdays, recognizing work anniversaries, or policies relating to bereavement.

EE: I think one of the things that has felt really key for me is modeling humanness. As a leader, it's been important to me to show up as a human, not just as a manager and leader. Part of that has felt like a professional amount of self-disclosure, and that, I think, has led to conversations with my team and the people that report to me around them feeling like they can be a little bit more human around me. And part of that has also been acknowledging mistakes that I've made, and that doesn't happen often in health care. So, I think if that happened more with senior leaders, that would go a long way. And then I think one of the issues that we've really struggled with the pandemic and during the pandemic has been the use of technology. Even though it can be such a convenience for us, I miss the days when I would get a coffee with someone and check in about how their family is doing. So, when I onboard someone, I ensure we have in-person meetings. That's an expectation that doesn't have to continue forever, but I think slowing down the pace for me has been so important because, in health care, the pace is so fast. And that has been something that we've been focused on. How do I demonstrate slowing down that pace so that things are more long-term sustainable?

Audience Q&A

Q: Has the panel seen the use of predictive analytics and/or SDoH (Social Drivers of Health) data to design well-being programs within your employee populations or elsewhere?

A: Very much at Rush within patient populations, and many of Rush staff are part of the Rush panels. We are currently designing a virtual clinic that will target Rush staff. We hope this will advance data collection around SDoH related to staff.

Q: As an employee, what is the best way to encourage organizational leadership to embrace these programs, apps, approaches, expertise, etc., when preventing burnout is not currently part of the work culture?

A: Demonstrating data on how burnout leads to problems with clinical outcomes and turnover is impactful.

Chat Q: Has the panel seen the use of predictive analytics and/or SDoH data to design Well-Being programs within your employee populations or elsewhere?

Chat A (EE): Very much at Rush within patient populations, and many of Rush staff are part of the Rush panels. We are currently designing a virtual clinic that will target Rush staff. We hope this will advance data collection around SDoH related to staff.

Chat Q: As an employee, what is the best way to encourage organizational leadership to embrace these programs, apps, approaches, expertise, etc.? When preventing burnout is not currently part of the work culture.

Chat A (EE): You can find data online; however, demonstrating data related to how burnout ends up leading to problems with clinical outcomes and turnover is impactful. Of note, IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) has good data.


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