As the “new normal” created by COVID-19 becomes more and more entrenched, healthcare workers across the country are finding themselves in need of continuous support. While communities have stepped up to support their local nurses and physicians, organizations like the Cleveland Clinic have taken this type of care one step further by creating a role to address that specific need.

Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, is the Cleveland Clinic’s first-ever chief caregiver officer. In that role, Dr. Hancock has responsibility for leading the development and implementation of all aspects of caregiver engagement for Cleveland Clinic’s 70,000 caregivers.

Dr. Hancock spoke about her newly created role and offered advice for aspiring nurse leaders during Tipton Health’s October 6 webinar, “Caregiver Resiliency and Nursing Challenges in COVID-19.”

Dr. Hancock made it clear that organizations won’t find a one-size-fits-all approach to taking care of their caregivers. It requires trial and error, as well as consistent feedback—but it’s worth the effort. Engaged caregivers who feel supported provide higher-quality care, which leads to better patient outcomes and a stronger organizational culture.

Here are some of the strategies Dr. Hancock tested in her new role:


Where to start? 

Revamp your onboarding. Instead of onboarding your employees based on their specialty or area of practice, onboard them all together. When taking this team approach, set clear expectations of what it means to be a caregiver at your organization, what leadership behaviors staff should be modeling, and outline your organization’s guiding values and principles.

Create shared ownership of care. Shared ownership is critical to the success of your interprofessional teams. Begin by clarifying the direction of your team, establishing priorities, and aligning those priorities with the team and your organization. This minimizes workplace politics, encourages diversity of thought and boosts your team’s capacity for innovation.

Value teamwork. Bring members of a care team together for problem-solving. Show that you value them for the skills and knowledge they bring to the table. Each caregiver will feel appreciated and respected for their individual contributions to the patient’s outcome.


Keeping momentum toward success

Create trust through empathy. Meet your caregivers’ needs inside and outside of the hospital with an empathetic perspective. Stay connected with caregivers who have contracted COVID-19 throughout their recovery; make sure they know that their colleagues and organization support them. The Cleveland Clinic also created a Caregiver Hardship Fund to support staff who were in financial need during the pandemic.

Knowledge is power. As COVID-19 continues to affect patients and caregivers across the nation, set up a hotline to answer questions and direct your staff to the right resources. Your staff will feel confident in the care they can provide if they are armed with the correct information. Effective and timely communication, especially in a crisis, is key.

Keep evaluating. Because you’re using multiple tactics to best help your caregivers, be sure to ask for their feedback. You can send out a quick pulse check survey to see how the changes are helping employees and if there’s anything else the organization can do for them.


Fostering new leaders 

Current nurse leaders: Identify the talent within your organization and give them opportunities to shine. Help them identify their goals and craft ways to develop and support their professional growth aspirations.

Aspiring leaders: Seek out leadership responsibilities. This could be presenting to your unit on topics of interest, applying for a smaller leadership role like a shared governance council chair, unit champion or charge nurse, or taking on roles and responsibilities that others may not want. These are great opportunities to see if leadership is really something that you want to do.


Learn More from Our Speakers

Click here to view our on-demand webinar video featuring Dr. Hancock’s full interview.

Tipton’s next webinar, Every Nurse is a Palliative Nurse: Alleviating Serious Health-Related Suffering Worldwide, will be held October 20, 2020, 12:30–1 p.m. EDT.