“The Thriving Clinician all started with gut-wrenching stories of physicians and nurses who had contemplated suicide or were sadly lost,” said Sharon Sloane, CEO of WILL Interactive, the company that created The Thriving Clinician in partnership with Yale New Haven Health/Yale School of Medicine. She relayed specific anecdotes of tragic consequences for professionals we often think of as among our brightest and most selfless.
The video series just received the Platinum Award in Health Care from dotCOMM, an elite international competition honoring excellence in web creativity and digital communication.
“Burnout and mental health in healthcare is a public health crisis because we’re all consumers of healthcare,” Sloane said. “What happens if our best and brightest leave the medical profession or burn out? We needed to do something about this.”
The Thriving Clinician is a first-of-its-kind interactive training program for clinician well-being. WILL Interactive Chief Creative Officer Jeff Hall and his team interviewed more than 80 doctors and nurses to create the themes and characters for the 100-plus videos, which were shot on-site at healthcare facilities during COVID-19 with social distance guidelines.
The topics include leading a team under challenging conditions; coping with depression and trauma; and seeking and accepting help, among others.
Suicide rates in healthcare far exceed the national average. Doctors have the highest rate of suicide of any profession, and the Washington Post last year reported that doctors die by suicide at “twice the rate of everyone else.” Female nurses, according to WebMD, were twice as likely to commit suicide than the general American woman population. In a report from Medscape that surveyed more than 15,000 physicians across 29 specialties, 42 percent reported burnout, and nurses reported high rates of burnout as well. Covid hasn’t helped those numbers, with physicians’ overall work life happiness plummeting to 49 percent from 69 percent pre-COVID, according to a survey from Medscape.
“We want that crazy dedicated person to be a doctor, and we owe a debt to them as a society,” said Hall, whose wife is a clinician and was valedictorian in high school. “But there’s no reason these high fliers have to become martyrs, too.”
Hall has been with the company from its inception in 1994, when, as Sloane described, “we were eating a lot of peanut butter sandwiches in the early years.” There have been some truly amazing moments, like the time after 9/11 that Pentagon officials hopped out of a car and surprised the WILL Interactive team at its Potomac, Maryland, office saying they needed anti-terrorism videos created as fast as possible.
“When you make a high-end product that effectively improves behaviors, the critical issues of the times tend to beat a path to your door,” Sloane said. “School violence, racial profiling, opioid addiction, Army PTSD, foreclosure issues, workplace violence, up to our anti-bias training for police, COVID resilience, and racial equity projects. Our portfolio over the last 25 years reads like a history of America's headlines. It’s been incredible to be able to make a contribution in all those areas."
“Our methodology sets us apart,” added Hall, citing WILL Interactive’s evidence-based interactive behavior modification system where learners can “Choose Your Own Journey™” and face real-life situations, make choices and experience consequences. “We take on big-deal things for big-deal organizations. I think the Thriving Clinician is part of the continuity of what we’ve been doing all along.”
Sloane co-founded the company with Lyn McCall – a Marine for 26 years who was decorated for heroism and heroic actions in combat three times – and has led the company to over 100 awards in the last quarter century. Sloane described herself as a mix of her parents – her mother was the kindest, sweetest person she ever met; her father was a brilliant entrepreneur whose mother died when he was 8 years old, and, after growing up poor, became an incredibly successful business owner of numerous companies.
“I was blessed with two amazing parents,” Sloane said. “I know I grew up in an unusual house because our conversations at the dinner table were about profit margins and working those out on the back of napkins.“My dad was the one who told me that if I wasn’t making an impact, to go invent something and then find great people to do great things with us, and that was the inspiration to start WILL Interactive,” Sloane added. “When we started this, and we thought we could change people’s behavior with interactive movies, people thought we were crazy, but we were on the cutting edge.”