Leadership 2016
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Immunized Against Burnout: On Finding Pride in Work (02:21)

“Professional burnout [is] a dreadful, international crisis,” says Stephen Swensen, [former] Medical Director for Leadership and Organization Development at Mayo Clinic. “But I like to frame it as the greatest opportunity that we have to create value for the care of our patients.”

Swensen describes the story of Iris, a custodian working in environmental services at Mayo Clinic eight years ago when the Discovery Channel visited to film a documentary about patient safety. When the producer asked Iris what her job was, she said, “My job is to save lives.”

One of the teams at Mayo Clinic had found that out of all surfaces in patient rooms, the surface with the most bacteria growing on it was the TV remote control. At the time Iris was interviewed, she was holding a TV remote. She explained to the documentary producer that nurses, surgeons, and intensivists all had checklists, so the environmental services team decided to make their own — and placed “sanitize TV remote” at the top. “No one asked them to do that,” notes Swensen. “They said, ‘We’re part of the patient care team, and we’re saving lives.’”

“She has joy in work,” says Swensen. “She is immunized against burnout. She’s made the connection between what she does every day and saving lives.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016.

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