During the Covid-19 pandemic many healthcare workers experienced feelings of isolation due to social distancing and furloughs, worsening existing burnout and emotional distress. Though many healthcare workers want to seek support from their peers, without a formal structure in place, such conversations can be difficult to initiate. Additionally, the act of seeking emotional support often comes with an attached stigma, particularly in the health care space: this discourages many clinicians from reaching out for help.
Henry Ford Health System is a not-for-profit, 6-hospital health system with over 30,000 employees based in the Detroit metro area. It includes a number of medical centers, as well one of the nation’s largest group practices, Henry Ford Medical Group.
To combat isolation and normalize the act of seeking emotional support, Henry Ford stood up their in-house “Stronger Together Buddy Program.” Buddies receive weekly emails that include a “wellness teaching” grounded in well-being best-practice and a “challenge” to complete with their buddy. These challenges provide staff with a platform to have meaningful conversations with their peers and give them a foundation to form mutually supportive relationships.
Henry Ford conducted a survey of the participants after the buddy program’s first 12 weeks. The vast majority of participants reported that they found value in the program and enjoyed the weekly emails and challenges. Comments showed that many are grateful to have a meaningful relationship at work and wish the program to continue even after the pandemic.