Leading wellness in healthcare: A qualitative study of leadership practices for wellness in hospital settings

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PloS one


Ways of dealing with workplace stress and enhancing healthcare workers wellness are sought globally. The aim of this study was to explore healthcare leaders' practice in relation to the implementation of a workplace wellness program called SEED in the context of multiple crises (bushfires and COVID-19) affecting a local health district in New South Wales, Australia. Practice theory informed interviews (n = 23), focus groups (n = 2) and co-analysis reflexive discussions (n = 2) that were conducted with thirteen leaders and twenty healthcare workers. A pragmatic approach to program implementation for healthcare workers' wellness explored the process and actions that resulted from leadership practice in an inductive thematic analysis. Preliminary themes were presented in the co-analysis sessions to ensure the lived experiences of the SEED program were reflected and co-interpretation of the data was included in the analysis. Three key themes were identified. 1) Leading change-implementing a wellness program required leaders to try something new and be determined to make change happen. 2) Permission for wellness-implicit and explicit permission from leaders to engage in wellness activities during worktime was required. 3) Role-modelling wellness-leaders viewed SEED as a way to demonstrate leadership in supporting and caring for healthcare workers. SEED provided a platform for leaders who participated to demonstrate their leadership practices in supporting wellness activities. Leadership practices are critical to the implementation of healthcare wellness programs. The implementation of SEED at a time of unprecedented crisis gave leaders and healthcare workers opportunities to experience something new including leadership that was courageous, responsive and authentic. The study highlighted the need for workplace wellness programs to intentionally include leaders rather than only expect them to implement them. The practices documented in this study provide guidance to others developing, implementing and researching workplace wellness programs.

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