How 10 hospitals, health systems promote employee well-being

Hospitals and health systems seek to keep their employees healthy and happy. To accomplish this, they implement various initiatives, including tobacco cessation programs, healthy food options and discounted rates at gyms and fitness centers.

Becker's Hospital Review asked healthcare leaders to share how their organizations promote employee well-being. Below are their responses.

Note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Mary Cataudella
Vice President of Human Resources at Jersey City (N.J.) Medical Center

Jersey City Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, believes wellness is extremely important to our employees. We offer employees the tools and incentives to make better choices and to improve their overall health and well-being! 

As a leading healthcare provider, our hospital (and healthcare system) is committed to supporting employees achieve their healthy lifestyle goals. One example is noting calories and healthy food choices on items in the hospital cafeteria. 

RWJBarnabas Health also partners with RedBrick Health to offer employees the BHealthy Wellness Program. BHealthy offers fun, interactive and engaging programs and tools for staff to access online, by phone or with a mobile device. Employees can choose activities based on personal goals and recommendations from the BHealthy portal and earn rewards for making positive, healthy choices. Spouses, too, can use the program to help them achieve their wellness goals. We believe families focused on health together will be more successful. In addition, RWJBarnabas Health has a number of fitness centers and gyms employees can attend at discounted rates.

Lisa Kelly-Croswell
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Boston Medical Center

"Exceptional Care without Exception” is the mission of the Boston Medical Center Health System. In recent years, we've extended this commitment beyond our patients to our employees through substantial well-being efforts. At the heart of these efforts is a combined focus on cost, culture and care, with an eye towards making life easier for our employees and cost avoidance vs. cost-cutting strategies.  

For the last two years, a well-being theme has been launched each month in the form of a new benefit, a series of classes or new set of resources/solutions. We now have about 20 well-being programs and 10 resource guides ranging from helping employees manage health, time or money. These include successfully introducing less traditional programs such as how to improve financial credit, how to have a better nights' sleep, and a full-time onsite employee assistance program and resiliency clinician who is 100 percent dedicated to the well-being of our employees. 

This year, a major part of our well-being efforts has been focused on actively addressing the opioid crisis. Nearly 1,500 employees responded to an initial survey resulting in several key initiatives. For example, a comprehensive, 10-section Mental Health and Addiction Resource Guide was developed including topics such as privacy, taking time off, medical benefits, screening tools and naloxone use. The guide was also translated into Spanish and Creole given the multi-cultural nature of our workforce.  We are also in the midst of implementing a three-part required manager training series focused on understanding the crisis and supporting the well-being of our employees. In addition, as part of BMC's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, we developed a free, online Employer Resource Library where employers can access tools and documents to assess and address substance use disorder in their organization. 

Sheryl Dodds
Chief People Officer of Florida Hospital (Orlando)

Florida Hospital has a rich history of providing whole-person, compassionate care to our patients, and that naturally extends to our own team members. Today, our employee well-being efforts are embodied in our CREATION Health program. But CREATION Health is really more than a program — it’s a lifestyle philosophy. Each letter represents a guiding principle: choice, rest, environment, activity, trust, interpersonal relationships, outlook and nutrition. We believe when we prioritize each of these areas, we are better able to carry out our mission and be the best version of ourselves.

These principles are carried out in a variety of ways. Every new employee learns about CREATION Health as part of their onboarding. Throughout the year, we offer many seminars for team members (and in some instances, also their spouse or significant other) that address topics such as rest and sleep, trust and building relationships, nutrition and personal finance. Team members can join a friendly competition with "Walk the Talk," an organization-wide challenge to see what teams have the most steps, or sign up for events such as Mission 5k. We have financial incentives for employees who complete a series of goals, such as attending a seminar, participating in a 5k, and getting their annual medical check-up.

The best part of our CREATION Health program is there’s something for everyone.

David Lubarsky, MD
Vice Chancellor of Human Health Sciences and CEO of UC Davis Health (Sacramento, Calif.)

We believe the well-being of physicians, nurses and all our employees is such a critical piece of proving outstanding patient care that we consider it the fourth leg of healthcare. At UC Davis Health, we're working to create a culture of wellness that integrates well-being into the routine of normal behavior.

We recently appointed a chief wellness officer to oversee that. He is creating programs ranging from guiding physical well-being and emotional health to instituting systems and efficiencies that streamline the mundane chores that can overwhelm us.

Physician and employee burnout hurts patient care. A study in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association said 45 percent of second year residents reported burnout and in an April NEJM Catalyst Insights Council survey of clinicians and health care leaders, 83 percent reported that burnout was either a serious or moderate problem in their organizations.

Maybe the most important steps to reducing burnout involve removing bureaucratic tangles and streamlining the numbing, clerk-like chores that can make us feel as if we’re working for the computer system instead of it working for us. In that Catalyst Insights Council survey, 82 percent of respondents said the most vital interventions should attack organizational and EMR issues.

At UC Davis Health, we launched our Physicians Efficiency Program in February with impressive results. The program sends teams to ambulatory clinics for up to six weeks to work with clinicians, watch their processes and offer a range of shortcuts and personalizations for EMR and computer tasks. The results have been an average of 25 fewer hours per month on those tasks, large increases in job satisfaction, and major reductions of after-hours work, meaning more time spent at home with their families.

As an academic medical institution, we are obligated to lead the way on wellness. We're integrating wellness curriculum within our education curriculums, we're expanding and refining our programs that can serve as examples, and we’re working to integrate the culture of wellness as far as possible throughout the healthcare system. There are proven cost benefits from wellness, and there's an even more fundamental and crucial reason: When physicians, nurses and other health care providers love what they do, patients love the care they get.

Alison Mincey
Senior Associate Vice President of Human Resources at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (Columbus)

As a leader at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, I see it as my responsibility to ensure that we provide a healthy workplace for our employees by offering programs and resources that support their overall wellness.

It is important that our faculty and staff feel as though they work for an organization that values them and provides a culture that supports well-being through all aspects of their lives — both personally and professionally. We are committed to providing a work environment that inspires them to do their very best and measuring their engagement is a critical part of identifying and affirming our strengths and assessing where we need to focus our efforts toward improvement.

Recognizing the importance of faculty and staff well-being, including clinician burnout awareness, our newest program, Gabbe Health and Wellness, was created to coordinate wellness initiatives through education and preventative health programming and research. Some of our other wellness programs include Your Plan for Health, the Employee Assistance Program and Caring for Our Own. Ohio State is invested in creating healthy communities and we show this by offering ways to give back through events like our annual Healthy Community Day events, Bucks for Charity campaign, the Columbus Volunteer Challenge and many more.

Bruce Rogen, MD
CMO of Cleveland Clinic's Employee Health Plan

We stopped hiring smokers back in 2007 because we felt that as a healthcare institution it was a bit of an issue when you're trying to help people quit smoking and you're trying to keep people healthy to have employees who smoked themselves. If they were smokers at the time they applied for a job, we offered free smoking cessation, and if they were able to quit, then they would be hired.

At the same time, we took away payments for smoking cessation programs, so smoking cessation programs became free. We took away the cost of weight management programs, so we started to incentivize the use of programs like Weight Watchers, [now WW], and Curves where we would either partially or fully subsidize the cost of those programs. That's in addition to all the discounts we already have in the community for various fitness centers. We have our own on-site fitness centers, and we also waived the cost of joining those fitness centers for employees and their families.

[Additionally], we cleaned up the cafeterias quite a bit. We got rid of trans fat. We tried to switch away from fried foods and tried to incentivize the cost of healthy foods. We tried to balance the cost so that healthy foods were [the same price or less expensive] than the more popular but not as healthy food.

We started a program called Healthy Choice in about 2010 where we wanted to see what we could do for getting people more active. We started to give premium discounts to otherwise healthy people, who could show they were staying active.

We handed out fitness devices — almost 30,000 of them — for our employees and their families. We [then] tied them to a financial incentive for reaching pretty basic activity levels — at a minimum, what was recommended by national guidelines for exercise on a weekly basis — and we started to gather that data and essentially get more people to be more active, be able to track that activity through the device, and be able to incentivize them to do so through a premium discount. For those that weren't able to be active, we talked about diet, fruits, vegetables, appropriate caloric intake [and] nutrition. For those with a chronic disease, we incentivize them to enroll in chronic disease management programs. We're very focused on our employees and their families.

Tamara Smith
Director of Healthy Results program at Indiana University Health (Indianapolis)

Over the past 16 years, Indiana University Health has built a wellness program that reaches across its 34,000-employee system and has gained national recognition. While changing behavior isn't easy, we have found a few keys to promoting wellness in the workplace. They include earning senior leader buy-in, being data-driven in our approaches, allowing team members to personalize their wellness journeys, and creating incentives and challenges that appeal to people's competitive nature and desire for rewards. It also helps to communicate the wellness message broadly and frequently, starting at new-employee orientation. One last learning: Employee wellness is best viewed as a holistic effort. A robust wellness program should address the range of issues and lifestyles that impact health, from sleep patterns and depression awareness to emotional health, work habits and more.

Megan Spurling
Manager of Sharp Best Health, Sharp HealthCare's employee health and wellness program (San Diego)

Sharp HealthCare takes a comprehensive approach to promoting employee well-being, offering resources and programs that focus on physical, emotional and social well-being. This includes free access to a digital mindfulness and yoga platform, free annual wellness screenings and health coaches, and a year-round competition to reach personal fitness milestones. Sharp also offers live Compassion Cultivation Training, digital self-care workshops, and a variety of other campaigns, classes and events which reflect the needs and interests of our employees. Overall, the objective in Sharp's approach to well-being is to ensure that the voice of the employee is taken into account and that our culture and environment is one which encourages and actively facilitates self-care and wellness.

Pam Stahl
Chief Human Relations Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, Southern California

Maracie Wilson, RN
Director, Caregiver Well-being at Providence St. Joseph Health, Southern California

Providence St. Joseph Health knows it is only as strong as its employees and is committed to ensuring their well-being. As a healthcare organization, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of those who are caring for our patients or supporting that care is vitally important.

We do that in a number of ways, beginning with our efforts throughout the organization to incorporate our core values into all that we do.

During the past year, all employees were offered the opportunity to earn a significant incentive to help cover their out-of-pocket healthcare costs if they took part in a program called Choose Well. Accessing Choose Well online or with an app, we can confidentially record our daily exercise, sleep patterns, work-life balance, sleep, diet, quiet time and other issues that affect our overall health. Challenges are offered to create healthy competitions for those who choose, encouraging friends all over our seven-state system to participate.

It was exciting to see people challenged and inspired to improve their health. Groups now are seen taking walks outdoors and measuring those daily steps. Some of our hospital cafeterias incorporated the program into special Choose Well meal selections, tasty balanced meals.

Data show meaningful health improvements and well-being achievements are reached as a result of sustained engagement in healthy behaviors. Over the past year we have seen tremendous engagement in Choose Well. Not only are we close to 93 percent of our employees enrolled in the program, the majority of those are actively engaged in daily well-being behaviors and fitness tracking. This high level of engagement and participation gives us hope that together we are all working toward easing the risk of avoidable chronic illness one person at a time. 

The program was so impactful, we will offer it again in 2019.

Erik Taylor
Director of Employee Health and Well-being at UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.)

UCHealth values its staff and encourages employee well-being in a number of ways, because when our staff are taken care of, they're better able to care for our patients. We offer 24/7 emotional well-being counseling and peer chat to all employees, as well as various activities including self-care fairs, classes, biometric screenings and team challenges. Staff also are able to participate in pilot programs like virtual reality. Our employee experience team focuses on taking down barriers to make the day-to-day work/life balance possible.




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