Sanford leaders discuss top issues facing rural care

Lingering effects of COVID, future of telehealth among topics at Becker's Hospital Review meeting

Three health care industry leaders seated at a board room table prepare to address an audience at a conference. A moderator is checking his notes at a podium.

Clinical and executive leaders from the nation’s top health systems met in Chicago to participate in discussions about some of the most pressing issues facing hospitals and health systems today.

The Becker’s Hospital Review 12th Annual Meeting included the following leaders from Sanford Health who were invited to join panel discussions:

Those conversations included topics like the future of telehealth, nursing and workforce challenges, employee resilience and well-being and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw virtual care visits skyrocket across our health system,” Dr. Cauwels summarized in his article on LinkedIn about telehealth and the patient experience.

“While the numbers have tapered off, we continue to see steady demand for and utilization of behavioral health virtual visits. Most of the counties in our footprint are designated as federal shortage areas for mental health providers, and virtual care has proven to be a promising solution to meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

Staffing in a pandemic

“We’re still very worried about the workforce,” Dr. Cauwels said.

Dr. Cauwels said chief medical officers and system leaders nationwide are feeling the staffing struggle like Sanford.

“We still want to make sure we’re bringing joy back to medicine,” he said.

Some nurses still don’t know what it’s like to not work in a pandemic with, he said, “much simpler, more streamlined” ways to take care of patients.

Watch: Dr. Cauwels recaps conversation about telehealth, patient experience

“As we transition, all of the leaders are looking for the same thing: How do we bring that joy back to medicine? How do we bring that sense of accomplishment to our nurses and doctors to say, ‘This was a calling … and we’re here to support that’?” Dr. Cauwels said. “I think that’s been a huge takeaway from this conference.”

Supporting the caregivers

Dr. Garcia spoke on a panel about resilience.

“Medicine is challenging,” Dr. Garcia told Sanford Health News. “We have met the ultimate commitment to our patients to give excellent care, regardless of the circumstances.”

He said that challenge was accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our staff, our nurses, our physicians, our advanced practice providers (APPs) continue to show up despite the challenges, because they have a passion, they have a calling for what they do, and they don’t stop having that calling.

“As an organization, we need to be able to support them through those difficult times and not only as employees, but as members of the families in our communities.

Sanford Health is heavily invested in and focused on creating the right environment for employees to have a good experience as they provide patient care.

Watch: Dr. Garcia recaps conversation about resilience

“I hope that those who joined me at the Becker’s panel left with three important takeaways: Well-being programs must be viewed as an investment, leaders must establish comprehensive strategies to promote clinician well-being, and different approaches may be necessary to meet the varied needs of your workforce,” Dr. Garcia stated in his article on LinkedIn.

Making every nurse the best nurse

DeBoer spoke in depth about workforce automation, workflows and bringing joy back to work.

“There have been a lot of amazing ‘aha’ moments,” she told Sanford Health News.

Motivated by collaboration, DeBoer recognizes that many of her colleagues nationwide and at home are facing similar struggles but it takes everyone to solve them and continue to care for communities.

“We are leveraging technology to ensure our nurses have the tools they need to do their most fulfilling work — taking care of our patients. One example is our inpatient telesitter monitoring program which helps reduce patients’ risks of falls and removal of critical tubes and IV lines. The program ensures our nurses have the appropriate tools to maintain safety and build care teams that can deliver hands-on care to our patients,” she detailed in an article on LinkedIn.

Watch: Erica DeBoer recaps nursing conversations, priorities

With the pandemic in mind, DeBoer and fellow hospital leaders want to continue striving to create the ultimate patient and employee experience.

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Posted In Leadership in Health Care, Rural Health, Virtual Care, Workplace Health