Northwell Health Uses It's Culture to Support It's Team & Patients

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It has been just over three years since the COVID-19 virus emerged in the US. While days, months, and years have passed, we are all still haunted by the images of exhausted faces, sad eyes, and hazmat gear as healthcare professionals tirelessly fought against an unfamiliar and deadly opponent.


The top two professions prone to burnout in the US are physicians and nurses. It should come as no surprise that The American Medical Association reported nearly 50% of physicians experience symptoms of severe job burnout. And 95% of nurses surveyed by Nursing CE Central reported feeling burnt out within the last three years,


Burnout negatively impacts our mental, physical, and emotional health. According to the Mayo Clinic, "job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity." Burnout can manifest into depression, anxiety, lower productivity, and engagement. It can cost the U.S. economy an estimated $500 billion dollars, and, each year, 550 million workdays are lost due to job stress. Additionally, burnout often results in higher turnover rates, especially in the healthcare industry, with 47% of healthcare workers planning to quit their jobs within the next two years. 


It's not uncommon to hear of high turnover, burnout, and decreased employee engagement in the healthcare industry. This has only continued to increase as a result of the pandemic. However, companies with a strong workplace culture foundation going into the pandemic have successfully maintained higher employee engagement, reduced turnover, and addressed burnout. 


We partnered with Northwell Health in 2015 to improve the patient experience and employee engagement through the roll-out of their new culture of C.A.R.E initiative. Culture of C.A.R.E is Northwell's framework for upholding its mission, values, and behavioral expectations. The acronym C.A.R.E stands for Connectedness, Awareness, Respect, Empathy.


Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer at Northwell Health, Sven Gierlinger's goal in working with DH was to become the most customer-centric org they could possibly be. He wanted the entire team of 78,000 employees throughout their 22 hospitals and other facilities to be reminded and engaged in their purpose, in why they chose to be healthcare professionals in the first place. 


One way they accomplished this was through storytelling. Every executive meeting with CEOs, and VPs, begins with a patient story, video, or a letter so that they can be reminded of who they are serving being reminded of the human aspect of the work they do. This allows them to tap into emotions of why they are in healthcare and demonstrate how the world-class care they deliver impacts people's lives. 




By 2017, Northwell Health scored its highest HCAHPS scores ever, and employee engagement rates jumped from 45% to 85%.


In 2020, Fortune Magazine ranked Northwell Health number 93 on its Best Companies to Work For list! This was the first time the health system landed on the annual list. They were praised for their job satisfaction, innovation, community health initiatives, and outreach initiatives. Northwell Health has again named Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list for the third consecutive year, placing 75th in 2022.


Additionally, five Northwell Health hospitals received top-50 national ratings in adult medical specialties in US News & World Report's 2019-20 Best Hospital rankings.


The Double ROI | The Ripple of Impact


When the global pandemic hit Northwell Health, they were able to be grounded in the values, behaviors, and purpose already in place because they had previously laid a solid foundation for its culture. This allowed Northwell not only to survive but thrive and create a more significant impact on their patients, people, and the world. 


Northwell prioritized well-being by implementing several programs to support its staff, including: 

  • Team Lavender is a group that creates an open dialogue about the daily life-and-death situations staff face and provides emotional and peer support to caregivers who experience extraordinary events to help reduce fatigue and burnout.

  • Introducing health and nutrition webinars, apps, and workshops to promote wellness, reduce anxiety and encourage self-care. 

  • Northwell Celebrates includes events and experiences celebrating and thanking health care heroes and their families while investing in established child care centers and well-being facilities.

In the beginning stages of the virus, the Northwell Health Nurse Choir was formed when the talented frontline nurses gathered virtually for their first appearance on Nurse Heroes Live. In June 2021, the Nurse Choir auditioned for America's Got Talent and received the Golden Buzzer. They advanced to the season 16 finale and placed just out of the top five finishers. 


Their uplifting voices went on to perform at the White House, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and Broadway, with appearances including Time's Person of the Year awards, the Today show, ANA/ANCC Magnet Pathway Conference, Live with Kelly and Ryan, and multiple professional sporting events. The Northwell Health Nurse Choir is a shining example of the healing, human, connecting power of music. 


In 2021 Northwell Health was the subject of the highly acclaimed documentary The First Wavewhich chronicles the first four months of the pandemic in New York's hardest-hit hospital systems. It is an intense, heartbreaking look into the true toll of the virus. It displays the intimate and touching relationship between the frontline workers, patients, and family members as they ride the waves of tragedy and hope together. 


Northwell Health truly embodies the DH's ME, WE, COMMUNITY model by aligning individual purposes [ME] with the organization [WE] for a greater impact on the entire world [COMMUNITY]. 


"Without culture, you can't succeed. People are the most important assets of most organizations-certainly for us." - Sven Gierlinger, Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer at Northwell Health 


Read the Northwell Health Culture Case Study

Download the Northwell Health Case Study

About the Author

Amanda Marksmeier

Amanda is the Growth Content Driver at DH. She has been writing and creating engaging content for nearly five years. She loves to use words to inspire and connect with people. Amanda thrives on helping and serving others through the power of the written word. She is always on the search for new and inventive ways to reach and educate others.


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