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The document asks leaders to aspire to new guidelines around scheduling and communication, with hope that these practices will cascade throughout the department. <br /> <br />

New Guidelines Support Leaders in "Modeling a Culture of Wellness"

Smiling Black man with a laptop and headphones sitting a desk in a well-lit room

Early this year, a group of administrative leaders from across the Department of Medicine disseminated a document titled "Modeling a Culture of Wellness," which contained guidelines for doing just that. Organized into sections focused on meetings, workload management, and communication platforms, the document offers a blueprint for crafting healthy boundaries around scheduling and communication, and also offers resources, message templates, and detailed examples to aid in these efforts.

"These recommendations include some relatively simple adjustments to how we perform our jobs that should positively impact our sense of well-being and help us better manage our busy lives," said David Aronoff, MD, who is Chair of the Department of Medicine.

Kerry Makielski, the Department of Medicine’s Vice Chair for Academic and Clinical Administration, helped lead the creation of the guidelines. She emphasized how much she has benefited from her team’s adoption of the guideline to keep Friday afternoons free of meetings. Now, she says, she can consistently rely on that block of time to focus on work that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to complete during her normal working hours.

“It sounds dramatic, but this has truly been life-changing for me,” she said.   

The idea for the guidelines originated during the first phases of the pandemic, when many members of the department were struggling to respond to the COVID crisis, meet other professional obligations, and maintain their own well-being. As the pandemic evolved, Makielski and other departmental leaders saw the potential for leveraging the guidelines toward a more sustained cultural change. Subsequently, the development of the formal guidelines was folded into the department’s ongoing process improvement work, resulting in the finalized document late last year.

"I am thankful for Kerry’s leadership in this effort and for the helpful input we received from department staff and faculty leadership," Aronoff said. "This is one of many ways we hope to better support wellness across the department."

That feedback from division directors, division administrators, service line leaders and service line administrators played a vital role in shaping the document, Makielski said.

 "The expectation is that they try to follow as many of the guidelines as possible, with the hope that the example they set will eventually cascade to all members of the department," she said.
Six months after the release of the guidelines, it seems that the plan is working.
For example, Bridget Working, the department’s Director of HR and Administration, has appreciated that hour-long meetings in the Chair’s Office have been shortened to 45 minutes.

“I’m trying to use that extra fifteen minutes to do some of the follow up from the meeting,” she said.

Throughout, the guidelines encourage members of the department to respect the time of others as well as their own. For example, one guideline suggests including language in email signatures acknowledging that working hours may vary from person to person, and that the sender doesn’t expect the respondent to reply to emails outside their own workday.

Maggie Bennett, RN, who is service line administrator for Infectious Diseases, uses this language in her email signature. Recently, she had an email exchange with a leader outside the department who appreciated it, she said.

“She said something along the lines of, ‘I really like the line in your signature block setting some expectations around emails. It takes the pressure off,’” Bennett recalled.

Makielski emphasized that the guidelines are not mandated. It’s not always going to be possible to adhere to them, she said.

Nevertheless, members of the department–particularly leaders–may find it useful to think of them as aspirational.

“I was delighted to see the culture of wellness guidelines come across my email. So much so, they are currently pinned to the top of my Outlook,” said Sacha Sharp, PhD.

Sharp, who is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, said that previously, she might have felt guilty about taking time off when sick, especially if she was still capable of reading her email while recovering.  

“These guidelines reminded me to take my wellness seriously–and they assure me that my division is doing the same,” she said.

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Hannah Calkins

Hannah Calkins is the communications manager for Indiana CTSI.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.