St. Vincent’s Formation program brings spirituality to work
By Mike Ford, Clay Today
A Clay County hospital program gives every employee, from maintenance workers to executives, a chance to pause and remember they are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings learning to be fully human.
St. Vincent’s Medical Center Clay County employees go through a program called Formation, which focuses on workplace spirituality and leadership formation. The program’s goal is to improve each employees’ life in tandem with offering patients more well-rounded healthcare.
“As people, we all have three callings from God and the first is to be fully human. How do we fully realize who God has called us to be? The second is vocation; what has God called us to do – as individuals and as a community? The third is the calling to ministry – to serve the needs of others. Formation looks at all those things and helps us fully live out who we are as human beings in our work,” said Tracie Cox Loftis, chief mission integration officer for the hospital.
The program begins with training received by top brass and junior executives, who pass it on to associates in workshops or seminar style monthly meetings. Along with St. Vincent’s campuses in Riverside and the Southside region of Jacksonville, the Clay County campus is led by Blain Claypool, president of acute care. He said he takes master’s level theology courses online as a student of the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Catholic seminary in St. Louis. He said the coursework has enriched him, not only as a Catholic, but as a healthcare executive.
“My whole career, I’ve trained to be a healthcare executive and have worked for public and community-based not-for-profits, but this is the first faith-based hospital I’ve worked for and it has changed me,” Claypool said. “The Formation program has affected my relationships with my family and friends, how I present myself and open myself to them and, as a leader, it has given me the strength to pause.”
Claypool said the healthcare industry changes quickly and works at a continuously rapid pace. He said he has been trained to work like a fighter pilot who is responsible to make split-second decisions. This trains one to make decisions simply out of habits – emotional habits, set ways of thinking and other components of one’s daily life that should be re-examined from time to time.
“Formation has given me an ability to say ‘stop. Get off the treadmill and pause.’ Then, we can take that to the associates and say ‘stop. I hear you; let me listen,” he said. “Then, we can think through why we make the decisions we make as a team, who benefits and who we reflect upon in making those decisions.”
Cox Loftis said the program is sensitive to the wide range of backgrounds employees come from, but is firmly rooted in the organization’s Catholic identity.
“Formation nourishes the inner life and is rooted in theological and spiritual teaching, but not everyone who receives Formation is Catholic. Many times, Formation begins with opening our eyes differently to our experiences to see what God is doing, she said.
“This deepens our relationship with ourselves, as well as others and as we live it out, it transforms our work and our ability to live out our identity as a ministry of the Catholic Church.”
For Claypool, applying faith formation to his work has taught him what he describes as servant-based leadership skills that have moved him toward the approach of total quality management and away from scientific management, where leaders lord their authority over others and treat them as subjects.
“As a leader, Formation has brought me to a place where I’m comfortable with who I am – my strengths and weaknesses and my ability to share them – to be vulnerable with my team so they know it’s okay for them to do the same,” Claypool said.
Building such a community within the hospital’s walls allows St. Vincent’s leaders to convey the organization’s faith-based mission to its employees, who then live it in front of patients and their families.
“We aren’t just a hospital treating illnesses – we treat the whole person because we lead with our faith and our faith compels us to deliver healthcare. We aren’t just an acute care hospital, we truly are a ministry,” he said.
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