HealthLeaders: Chief nurse builds a kinder world within the walls of Northside Forsyth

Ella Castle

From HealthLeaders: The Kindness Initiative has changed the culture as it’s expanded throughout the Northside Hospital System. Carolyn Booker, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer of Northside Hospital Forsyth, in Cumming, Georgia, was troubled how violence was making its way into places she considered to be sacred and safe: schools, churches, […]

From HealthLeaders:

The Kindness Initiative has changed the culture as it’s expanded throughout the Northside Hospital System.

Carolyn Booker

Carolyn Booker, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer of Northside Hospital Forsyth, in Cumming, Georgia, was troubled how violence was making its way into places she considered to be sacred and safe: schools, churches, and hospitals. 

Kindness, she thought, could be an antidote, so in 2018 she began exploring the possibility and ultimately developed The Kindness Initiative, which has caught on and rippled through all of Northside’s campuses.

HealthLeaders spoke with Booker about how The Kindness Initiative was developed, why it has taken off like wildfire, and how it has changed the health system’s culture…

HealthLeaders: How did The Kindness Initiative originate?

Carolyn Booker: What I began to see in the media was that there did not seem to be any protection against violence. That level of negativity happening out in the world was making its way into the hospital setting, and I wanted to figure
out a way to address that. I began to look at the whole concept of kindness, just a Google search, and saw the effects of being kind and then I got the idea to do something.

The definition of kindness I like to use is the one that points to the fact that it’s when you do something for someone just to make them feel better, with no expectation of anything in return. This was around the holidays, and we had gotten this huge
basket of candy at the hospital. I took that basket and went over to labor and delivery, sat it at the nurses’ station, and said, “Guys, this is for you.” The reaction that came from that unexpected act just gave me a buzz.

I did more research and found an organization called kindness.org, which promotes kindness, and found they had these kindness toolkits. Our Kindness Initiative got started because of this thought about how we could possibly take kindness and make it the
norm within the hospital setting.

HL: How did The Kindness Initiative begin to spread throughout the hospital?

Booker: I have a series of meetings with employees, and I began to bring this Kindness Initiative into the work environment and started talking through it and sharing YouTube videos of acts of kindness that people were demonstrating for
others. The impact of it—people seeing that versus all this negativity—was extremely huge.

I got the idea to do the Kindness Challenge in November 2018, which was spurred by kindness.org, in which we would challenge employees to log acts of kindness. These acts could be in their community, in their home, or it could be at work, and they had
to log and submit 12 acts of kindness, because we were counting them up. The goal was to have 10,000 acts of kindness by May 11.

When a person submitted their 12 acts of kindness, we would give them a T-shirt, and that component turned out to be almost like cultural iconography. It was a gray T-shirt that had white lettering and black lettering on it with a red heart and it said,
“You have a choice. Choose kindness. I did.” We had to order three times to keep up with the acts that were being submitted.

By May 11, we had more than 11,000 acts of kindness that we had logged in terms of our employees, and those things were not necessarily huge things because we wanted any act of kindness—acknowledging one another, making eye contact, speaking to
each other, and seeing each other because that’s something that’s important as well. The whole environment was positively charged because of this particular activity.

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