By MARY DELACH LEONARD
The premiere episode of the Good Day Ascension Newscast in January opened with photos and videos of caregivers from across the health care organization flexing their vaccinated arms in relief and celebration after receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Co-host Candice Evans signs off on the first Good Day Ascension Newscast recorded in January. The upbeat 15-minute newscasts focus on Ascension’s caregivers and thought leaders and reinforce the idea that the sprawling system comprises a single, unified ministry.
"It's been really hard and heavy for a long time,'' said an emotional critical care nurse in a video clip from Ascension Seton in Austin, Texas. "Even though I know there's a lot of heaviness left to go, just knowing there's an end in sight is really, really exciting.''
In another clip, nurses at Ascension St. Vincent in Evansville, Indiana, brought balloons and party hats for a woman who was getting her second dose on her 100th birthday.
With its cheerful co-hosts and upbeat music and visuals, the new monthly newscast aims to lift spirits and recognize the dedication of the 160,000 Ascension associates in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to Nick Ragone, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer.
"We want the stories to be very hopeful and inspirational — something that colleagues across the ministry can find inspiration in or learn from,'' Ragone said. "We try to include some thoughts from leaders from around the ministry, but really the focus is on our caregivers and covering as much of our ministry as we can."
The 15-minute newscasts are fast-paced and include a range of timely topics and human-interest stories. Segments have featured the Ascension virtual choir; a Tulsa, Oklahoma, associate who ran a marathon to honor nurses; a new pharmacy brand called Ascension Rx; and ABIDE, a framework that furthers Ascension's commitment to addressing racism and systemic injustice.
The March newscast introduced Ascension associates who stepped up to help patients and one another during the winter storm in February that left Texas with power outages, broken water pipes, and snow-covered roads.
Candice Evans, left, and Rosie Ford, co-host Good Day Ascension. Because of COVID restrictions, the women livestream the program simultaneously from their home markets. Evans is director of marketing and communications at Ascension in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ford is senior director of brand marketing in St. Louis, the corporate home to the system, which operates in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Heidi Suppelsa/Ascension
The newscasts are hosted on YouTube and shared on Ascension's social media, with links emailed to all associates.
The response has been overwhelming, Ragone said.
"The newscast was originally designed as an internal communications channel, but our associates were so enthusiastic and supportive of it they began sharing it on social media. So, it has become an external communication, as well,'' he said.
A response to the pandemic
The newscast joined existing internal communications tools that are branded "Good Day Ascension." Those include a daily news summary, a quarterly magazine that is mailed to every associate's home and a podcast that was introduced last year.
"We had been talking about extending the Good Day Ascension brand with a newscast someday, but COVID-19 accelerated it,'' Ragone said. "It's hard to reach all of our caregivers all of the time with meaningful conversation because they're obviously working long days and don't have time. We created a Good Day Ascension podcast, which has been hugely successful, because a lot of our caregivers told us they like to listen to podcasts. And when the podcast took off, our CEO Joseph Impicciche suggested that now is the right time for the newscast.''
Good Day Ascension also supports the rebranding initiative that added Ascension to the names of all 2,700 sites of care, Ragone said.
"We call it our 'Journey to One Ascension,' which has been going on for five years, trying to bring our ministry closer together under the Ascension name,'' he said. "The newscast has really resonated on this idea that we're one single ministry, Ascension. We carry the same name, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with each other."
The newscast is co-hosted by Candice Evans, director of marketing and communications at Ascension in Tulsa, and Rosie Ford, senior director of brand marketing at Ascension in St. Louis.
"We want everybody to feel like we are one family,'' said Evans. "When we report on caregivers saving a life in Texas, the associate watching might be in Florida, but they do the same job. They can relate."
Evans was surprised by the volume of emails from associates who saw the first newscast and wanted to suggest story ideas.
"The feedback was more than I could have ever expected,'' she said. "And a lot of what I'm hearing is, 'When are you doing the next episode?'"
Putting it all together
Producing the newscast while following COVID-19 safety protocols requires the creative use of technology, said Heidi Suppelsa, a director of marketing and communications at Ascension in St. Louis, who serves as executive producer of the newscast.
Because of travel restrictions, Evans and Ford are recorded while standing in front of green screens in studios in Tulsa and St. Louis. Backdrops of corporate office settings are inserted during post-production editing.
"It's really cool because we're livestreaming together,'' Evans said. "We feed off of each other's energy, and it feels like we are together. We wear earbuds, and she can hear me and I can hear her.''
Suppelsa predicts that even after the pandemic ends, the newscast will continue using remote interviews.
"I think we're going to use technology a little smarter than we have in the past, and maybe people are going to be more amenable to doing a Zoom interview versus sending a big fancy camera and crew just to shoot a 30-second sound bite,'' said Suppelsa, who worked in television news broadcasting before joining Ascension.
Good Day Ascension newscasts conclude with the co-hosts thanking associates for their dedication to the Ascension mission — a sense of gratitude that drives the project, said Evans. She has witnessed firsthand the pressure caregivers have been under while caring for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
"When we started pulling the newscast together, it was like we couldn't get it done fast enough. We knew we needed something upbeat to help them find hope in all of the turmoil,'' Evans said.
"These are incredible stories that people need to hear about.''
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