CHI Health mission department embraces technology to expand reach of formation work

October 1, 2022


For the several years that he's been senior vice president of mission integration for CommonSpirit Health's Midwest division, Andrew Santos and the mission leaders he directs have grappled with how best to engage nearly 13,000 employees at 28 hospitals and hundreds of clinics across four states in formation and spirituality work.


Santos and his mission department colleagues have found some success by creating video blogs and interviews, reflections, prayers and other content to help employees explore what brings them meaning in their work. Mission staff and managers use the resources as a starting point for discussions intended to be a prelude to personal reflection, integration and action. Santos says the resources "are reminders that God is still with us, and that helps bring meaning to the lives and work" of many staff members.

Water symbolizes refreshment of body and spirit in a recent "Feeding the Spirit" video blog by CommonSpirit Health's Andrew Santos.

He notes that while he and the mission department he leads began creating the resources before the pandemic, they greatly increased their output of materials after its onset. "We're going through tough times — there's a great amount of stress. We hope to offer people a perspective of faith and spirituality to fill the void created by all that stress."

Fostering unity
CommonSpirit Health formed in 2019 through the combination of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. The division Santos works in covers CommonSpirit Health facilities in Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota — they all are branded "CHI Health."

Since the CHI-Dignity merger, mission leaders throughout CommonSpirit have been working to foster cohesion, collaboration and unity among the system's 150,000-plus employees and to guide them in formation around the system's mission, vision and values, says Ken Carlson. He is director of mission and spiritual care at CHI St. Luke's Health — Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, a CommonSpirit facility in a different system division.


Santos says to bring about this sense of unity and to form employees in the CommonSpirit culture and spirituality requires mission leaders to connect in a meaningful way with the employees in their regions and to make formation activity relevant to employees and their work.

The mission group took advantage of technology already in their toolbox, including video recording capacity and broadcast messaging capabilities, to get the resources to the mission leaders and to the broader group of employees, says Colleen Leise, division director of pastoral care for CHI Health in Omaha, Nebraska.

Generating engagement
The main resources Santos develops with help from colleagues in the region's mission and communications departments include:

  • "From My Corner of the World," a short letter on a mission-related topic intended to be timely and pertinent to employees.
  • "Spirituality at Work," a monologue-style video blog that Santos produces several times a month. He relates aspects of CommonSpirit's mission, vision and values directly to employees' work.
  • A monthly interview with a division executive about how they live out their own spirituality in that work.
  • "Feeding the Spirit," another video blog in which Santos explores formation and spirituality. Among subjects he's covered from a faith perspective are caregiver fatigue and vaccine mandates. He's blogged about Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas.
  • Writing prayers, reflections and messages that connect to CommonSpirit's mission, vision, values and the charisms the system prioritizes.

The content is pushed out to senior- and mid-level managers at each CHI Health facility. Those leaders are encouraged to share them at team huddles, by email, in executive meetings and in other forums. The mission content is accessible on the employee intranet and on an app that is available on employees' smartphones or other devices.

Fr. Beausoleil

Says Fr. Kent Alan Beausoleil, director of mission at CHI Health in Omaha: "We try to bring these resources to life," encouraging leaders throughout the division's facilities to get the resources to employees "though small group discussion and sharing. We want to foster community among employees and build morale."

The heartbeat
"Employees love talking about spirituality," says Santos.

Santos says since the mission team has been circulating the formation and spirituality resources, CommonSpirit employee satisfaction surveys have shown more Midwest division staff saying they find meaning in their work. He believes the formation work his mission leader team has been doing — including through the resources they've been creating and circulating — has contributed to this change.

"If we have engaged employees, then we have greater patient experiences, and then we have a market differentiator that leads to growth," Santos says.

Fr. Beausoleil adds that maintaining a focus on the mission "keeps people in tune with the heartbeat of our organization." It's been gratifying for the mission integration team to help people tap into their excitement for being part of that mission.

Cutting edge
Dennis Gonzales, CHA senior director of mission innovation and integration, lauds the CHI Health efforts to "use every avenue possible to reach every staff member" with mission-related resources.

Jill Fisk, CHA director of mission services, adds that mission leaders are "meaning makers," who can help ministry staff bridge the gap between their personal and professional purpose. She says that the CHI Health mission leaders are doing this through the "timely, relevant and practical content."

She says that tapping middle managers outside the mission department to be mission champions as CHI Health is doing is a smart strategy.

Gonzales says the mission team's work is "really on the cutting edge of what all ministries and mission leaders are trying to accomplish in an increasingly virtual world." He says with growing numbers of people working remotely, mission leaders are searching for ways to reach and inspire staff and the template used by the CommonSpirit Midwest division "is completely replicable and absolutely essential."

Leise notes that many employees at CHI Health work in high-stress jobs and the stress amped up during the pandemic. She says the resources that she and her colleagues are developing aid with resiliency and provide staff a spiritual outlet for handling the stress.

"When we are extra stressed it's even more critical to attend to our spirit." She says the spirituality resources her team is generating are helping staff to do this.

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