May 6, 2020 The Handoff – Nurse Burnout: Russ Richmond, Founder & CEO of Laudio

In this episode of The Handoff, Dan Weberg, PhD, RN an author, provocateur, and the Head of Clinical Innovation at Trusted, speaks with Laudio Founder and CEO, Russ Richmond. Russ is a physician who left the bedside early on to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. He explains to Dan why he was drawn into solving issues at the system level but still thinks of himself as a caregiver. He also shares the story of a serious skiing accident that landed him in the hospital for three months and gave him a completely different lens into what it’s like to be a clinician. This experience ultimately inspired him to start Laudio, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to predict and prevent clinician burnout.

Russ shares that the number one cause of burnout is feeling unappreciated, and how meaningful employee interactions between clinicians and managers can have a profound impact on addressing this. He and Dan discuss the important role that managers play in preventing burnout and staff turnover, the difference between transformative and transactional leadership, and why it’s not one big thing, but hundreds of small things that can make the difference in keeping staff engaged and preventing errors in patient care.


Dan: Russ, welcome to the show.

Russ: Thanks. Thanks for having me, Dan.

Dan: So, Russ, you started out as a physician and pretty early in your career pivoted into other things including venture and starting startups. Tell me about that whole journey.

Russ: I loved caregiving as a physician, but I also had a real interest in entrepreneurship and system-level issues. And my pivot happened very early on, as you say, in residency. And that’s when I realized that although I loved the work I was doing, I wouldn’t be happy doing it for 30 years and that there was other work at the system level on making it work more smoothly to smooth out the operations of it, to help deliver higher value at lower costs, et cetera, et cetera, that I was equally or more interested in.

Russ: And that’s when I started to explore around. I actually, with the blessing of my residency program leader, looked around and found a job as a management consultant at McKinsey and Company. And that led to a career first in consulting, and then this is the third healthcare IT-related startup or business that I’ve been involved in at Laudio. And so, I think of myself now as still a caregiver and still a physician, but working on building companies to impact and improve the system.

Dan: I love it. And you never lose that caregiving clinician mindset. I think it adds a ton of value to your ventures. Would you agree?

Russ: Totally. I mean for me it’s what gets me up in the morning, which is knowing that I’m working on something that’s going to have some meaning and is going to somehow impact or change or improve a life, whether that’s a patient, whether that’s another caregiver, the system in general. That’s what’s really motivating for me.

Dan: So tell me what brought you into starting Laudio. I think there’s an assumption out there that, why is a physician and his team coming in to solve somewhat of a nursing problem and I just wonder what inspired you there? Because it’s an amazing platform. I’ve been able to see it in the early days and be a part of it, and now it’s growing and getting traction in the market. So tell me what inspired you and how’s the platform solving the issues of staff burnout and those frontline leader issues?

Russ: I think there were at least three major influences for me. One is, as I just mentioned, I’ve been a caregiver, I’ve been on the front line. Many of my friends, including my wife, are also caregivers. And so I feel immersed in it from a day to day personal network and personal experience point of view.

Russ: And then about three to four years ago, Dan, I became a patient. I hit a tree, had a skiing accident, and hit a tree. And I spent almost three months in hospitals and had a completely different lens on what it meant to be a patient and how important the frontline caregivers were, including and mostly including my nurses and therapists. And that was just a tremendous eye-opener as I’m sure anyone of our listeners who have been in that position before will attest, you get a completely different view. And I got to know my caregivers because I was there for a long time. And as someone who was very interested in the industry, I heard from them what they were thinking.

Russ: And then finally, the third reason is that in each of my last three companies, I’ve had mostly the same team. I’m working with a team that is really excited by the issues of engagement and turnover and burnout in frontline healthcare. I’m really one of four co-founders that share this passion. Our prior business was a company built and sold nursing pre-hire assessments. And really that was our portal into understanding some of the issues specifically at the nursing level, and we kind of took it from there. So, a bunch of different angles from me.

This transcript is an excerpt from the full interview. Click here to listen to the complete podcast from The Handoff.

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