HealthONE - November 22, 2022

They say you never really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. The phrase, which has become somewhat of an American proverb, is the impetus behind the “Walk a Mile” initiative at Swedish Medical Center. “Walk a Mile” is a program that allows colleagues to invite members of the hospital’s C-suite to spend a day shadowing their jobs and learning what it is like to be on the hospital’s front lines. While similar to other leadership shadowing programs, Swedish’s “Walk a Mile” program has elements that make it uniquely Swedish. “It is an opportunity for our senior leaders to spend meaningful time on a unit—whether clinical or nonclinical so we can better understand what our colleagues do, day in and day out,” Ryan Tobin, president and chief executive officer of Swedish Medical Center explains. “And as a thank you, we order participating colleagues a pair of custom Nike shoes.”

The Walk a Mile program is Tobin’s brainchild, and the gift of shoes adds a component of his own personal style. “I like shoes,” he smiles. “I know that on Nike’s Web site, you can make your own shoes and I thought it would be really special to put Swedish on a pair of Air Jordans for our colleagues. They let us into their space, and this is a way to thank them for that opportunity.”

Tobin has received the invitation from five units thus far, including the hospital’s Wellness Center, where he walked a mile (somewhat literally) earlier this year. “We thought it would be really great for Ryan to see what we do and get a little more familiar with everything we offer throughout the Wellness Center,” explains Alicia Satterwhite, a clinical exercise physiologist in the Wellness Center. Satterwhite’s colleague Lacey Acree (also a clinical exercise physiologist) details, “We created a tailored program for him. We know he enjoys running so, to start, we wanted to get him cross-training with a 50-minute spin class. Then we were able to go through one of our physical assessments (he’s in really great shape) after which we rounded with him on units with our theraguns [a handheld percussive therapy tool].”

For Satterwhite and Acree, the experience was completely unlike any other they’d had with the executive leadership team. Acree has been with the Wellness Center for nearly 15 years and Satterwhite, 10. “This was the first time we’ve had this type of interaction with a CEO. It sort of removes the ‘elite-ness’ and brings leaders to a personal level,” Satterwhite underscores. “To have him spend this kind of time with us adds a personal element—it was nice to see him in a different light. Now, when we see each other in the hall, we have that connection and level of comfort.”

For Tobin, this time of experience is not only important but also enjoyable. “I want to be mindful of their day and not disrupt that, but it’s great to see them in action. I don’t want to just be there for 30 minutes, I want to block out a decent amount of meaningful time to really appreciate what they are doing,” he details. “Every time I get to do this, I enjoy it. I get to know the team better; I get to see really incredible teamwork in action, and I know that it breaks down a barrier so they will be more willing to reach out to me directly in the future.”

Colleagues are encouraged to sign up for the Walk a Mile program by completing a request form on the Swedish Intranet. “Honestly, it fills my cup—I’m always glad I have had the opportunity,” Tobin encourages. Acree adds, “I hope everyone knows what a great opportunity this is for teams—and the shoes are incredible! It’s a great memory of the experience.”