At the first-ever HR Excellence Awards, Philippines in 2022, leading hospital in Metro Manila, Asian Hospital and Medical Center (AHMC), won gold for Excellence in Workplace Wellbeing, and silver for Excellence in Business Transformation
We catch up with Sharon C. Hernandez, Chief Strategy Officer, Asian Hospital and Medical Center on the reason for launching the team's ELITe programmes, by proactively reaching out to departmental leads, and the value in conducting a series of group debriefing sessions to support employee wellbeing.
Q Congratulations on the achievement! Could you take us through the highs-and-lows of your winning strategy?
We recognised that our healthcare workers were vulnerable to stress even before the pandemic due to their direct involvement in unexpected adverse patient events. With this, the challenge for us was to ensure that they’re still capable of sustaining patient safety and quality-of-care.
These factors become our foundation to form our psycho-social support team, 'Extreme Life Incident Team or ELITe'. The HR team is at the forefront of our mental health advocacy.
We intensified our HR competencies by equipping them to be a certified 'debriefers'. Our doctors in the Department of Psychiatry supported the initiative as our ELITe Advisors. We expanded this advocacy and later on invited other employees to join the ELITe. Now we already have a total of around 50+ ELITe members, who are working together in educating and initiating our mental health programmes.
Q How did the HR team identify and align the business & employee needs, and craft out this perfect solution?
At the start of the pandemic, we strengthened our ELITe programmes, proactively reached out to the department leads, and conducted a series of group debriefing sessions. Also, apart from our employees' physical condition and symptoms monitoring through our 'Daily Health Declaration' upon entry to the hospital, we incorporated a mental health assessment survey to identify employees in need of debriefing. Through this effort, we were able to immediately capture employees’ current mental health needs.
We expanded this advocacy by increasing awareness, educating, and training interventions for the entire community. This mental health awareness campaign strengthened the psychological resiliency of our healthcare staff, which allowed them to function normally and at their best performance in providing quality services to our patients.
Q Could you share the results that your strategy has delivered – be it on the business, HR, or people side?
Based on the data of our 'Employees Health Services', the number of employee referrals to a psychologist or psychiatrist decreased by about 67% from the year 2020 to 2021 respectively. The numbers may be attributed to pandemic’s effect on employees' mental health. The continuous development of the ELITe programmes may have also helped in decreasing the numbers given its activities and interventions.
The stigma on mental health has somewhat vanished because of the increased awareness. In total, we have increased the number of debriefing sessions by 92% vis-à-vis sessions conducted pre-pandemic, and received a 90%, equivalent to above average rating, on effectiveness of the debriefing sessions based on responses by the debriefed staff members.
The numbers are a testament to the effectiveness of the ELITe programmes, which are now more accepted and valuable to the community.
Q What is your message to all the stakeholders who have supported you in this journey?
Our aim as Asia Hospital’s arm in mental health advocacy is to form an army of 'debriefers' within and outside the community.
We are grateful for the support of our MANCOM, the mentorship of Department of Psychiatry, most especially, Dr. Ben Vista, our ELITe Advisor, and to all who joined our ELITe programmes.
We would also like to thank the organisations outside Asian Hospital, who allowed us to share and inspire them with our mental health advocacy in creating their own mental health programmes in their respective organisations through interviews and discussions, such as Maynilad and Toyota Tsusho Philippines Corporation. The programme was also highlighted on forums such as HPMA meetings (Hospital Personnel Management Association).
Finally, with utmost appreciation to the members of the ELITe who shared their time, effort, kindness as volunteers, and staying true to its mission of “quick to care and slow to judge.”
Q What are you most excited about when you think about the future of HR?
The ELITe will embark on creating support groups such as for employees diagnosed with mental health condition, and for those who have experienced trauma during their time of duty as healthcare workers.
We believe in the power of groups and this will be an additional platform and safe space for our employees.
The ELITe will continue to tap into experts of different disciplines to continue to spread awareness about mental health and form structured resiliency programmes for our healthcare team. In addition, the ELITe aspires to make sure that Asian Hospital staff members are mentally well so that they can perform effectively.
Future initiatives for recruitment, employee engagement, training, and organisational development will encompass this campaign. We encourage HR professionals to be at the forefront of mental health programmes. As advocates, we believe that the mission of all HR professionals is at par with ELITe’s mission of 'human being reaching out to another human being'.
Image / Provided (featuring the AHMC team)
Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!