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How a Hospital Executive Avoids Burnout

By Avant Healthcare Professionals

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October 22, 2018

"How do you go day to day with the pressures from your staff, parent company and your CEO without burning yourself out? How do you care for yourself?"

These are the questions that were keeping Adam Kless, MSN, RN, NEA-BC up at night.

As a former Chief Nursing Officer with 10 years of experience and a career that includes notable health systems such as Cleveland Clinic, HCA Healthcare, and now VP of Clinical Operations for Avant Healthcare Professionals, Adam understands the pressures and demands of working as a nurse and nurse leader.

Adam Kless, CNO speaks to his nurses

"You are on all the time. Even when you’re not at the hospital, you still must be mentally present because you’re never off the clock," Kless said.

When asked how he disconnects from his work life, Kless implied that there is no option of disconnecting when you’re a hospital executive.

Below are a few of Adam’s personal tips on how he debriefs and keeps healthy when working under the pressures of a CNO.

Go somewhere new in the hospital

“One of my favorite things to do is go to the obstetrical unit to see the babies and talk to the OB nurses. It’s typically a happy place,” Kless said. “The happiness around the newborn babies and the excitement of the nurses is infectious.”

It's important for hospital executives to move outside of their familiar settings and visit units they may not regularly interact with. Adam labeled it as a form of self-care.

“I like going to the OR to talk to the surgeons in the lounge to build camaraderie. This is so that your interactions as an executive aren’t always negative with your medical staff. This is always something that I found rejuvenating.”

Typically, staff comes to leadership with issues or problems. If an executive wants to build a more mutual relationship, he or she should come to their staff members to establish a personal connection. Something as simple as asking them what they’re doing with their weekend can go a long way in building trust.

Related Story: Maintaining Hospital Culture Through C-suite Leadership Turnover

Make the effort to seek out the good

Since hospital executives mostly get the bad stuff, it’s essential for leadership to get out of their offices and seek out what’s good. Positive environments are essential for self-care in a hospital setting.

Adam Kless, CNO speaks to his nurses

“I make a point to walk around and talk to my nurses and ask them to tell me something good that happened today. Getting to know them personally I found very valuable and that helped with stress because you were connected back to the purpose,” Adam said.

“As a hospital, we would do huddles, and we would talk about good catches that occurred. Because we often find ourselves focusing on what’s wrong and what’s broken, but I found myself saying to our team, ‘We save lives every day. We’re doing amazing work in this hospital.’”

Give advice often

Having a strong relationship with the staff will allow them to feel comfortable to seek advice from leadership when needed.

Adam’s background is in psychiatric nursing, and he said he enjoyed when a nurse came to him for advice on caring for a difficult patient. “To me, that is a wonderful feeling, like you’re doing real nursing again.”

Detaching from the job is difficult for a hospital executive. However, these are great practices for leadership to avoid burnout.

As a hospital executive, how do you avoid burning yourself out? Are you getting outside to interact with different units? Are you focusing on the positives? Are you building relationships with your staff? These daily self-care practices will help re-center yourself and bring back the joy in your profession.

"I always found myself to be refreshed and centered when I was reconnecting to where the real work happens. The real work of a hospital happens at the bedside and that is the gratifying part of being a CNO," Kless said.

About Adam Kless

Adam Kless

Adam Kless, MSN, RN, NEA-BC served as a Chief Nursing Officer for 10 years at a variety of health systems before joining Avant Healthcare Professionals as the VP of Clinical Operations in 2018. Adam specializes in several areas of organizational development and leadership including performance improvement initiatives, patient experience, and development of business models for clinical programs.


About Avant Healthcare Professionals

Need nurses? Avant Healthcare Professionals is the premier staffing specialist for internationally educated registered nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists. Avant helps clients improve the continuity of their care, fill hard-to-find specialties, and increase patient satisfaction, revenue and HCAHPS scores. Avant is a Joint Commission accredited staffing agency and founding member of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR).

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