Healthcare workers across the United States often face long hours, a fast pace, and stress from a job that can have life-or-death consequences — a fact that is no truer than now with COVID-19 sweeping the country.

While taking care of others, it's not uncommon for hospital personnel to ignore their own health. For that reason, maintaining the wellbeing of employees should be a top priority for hospitals and health systems.

Because May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month and National Hospital Week (May 10-16), we are devoting this post to a discussion of corporate wellness in healthcare: why it matters, steps peers have taken to foster wellness, and how you can deploy or enhance a program in your hospital or health system.

By supplying some helpful advice, we're giving you a chance to "practice what you preach." After all, if your hospital is going to be the epicenter of health in your community and tell patients how to care for themselves, it's only reasonable that your organization's culture reflects, and leadership and workforce model, healthy lifestyles.

Why Employee Health and Wellness Matters 

Ensuring the health and wellness of team members should be a priority in any company, regardless of industry, but it's even more important in hospitals, for two reasons:

  • Hospitals are one of the first places people go when they feel sick. To care for others, hospital employees must stay healthy;
  • Modeling healthy lifestyle choices is one way to impress on patients the value of better self-care.

It also matters because healthcare professionals have some of the highest rates of elevated health risks among any other profession.

For example, obesity is rampant in the healthcare industry. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine found obesity in healthcare (and its cohort social assistance) ranks second only to public administration among any other occupation.

Not only that, but healthcare workers also have more chronic disease than other workers, have dramatically higher healthcare costs, and visit the emergency room more often than workers in other professions. 

These reasons, in and of themselves, are enough to establish a wellness program at your hospital, or enhance the one you already have to make it more effective.

Perhaps that's why 83 percent of hospitals in the United States provide such programs (compared to 46 percent of all employers), according to a CDC survey.

Other CDC survey statistics include:

  • 63 percent of hospitals offer health screenings compared to 27 percent of all employers;
  • 31 percent of hospitals provide health coaches compared to 5 percent of all employers;
  • 56 percent of hospitals have stress-management programs compared to 20 percent of all employers;
  • 55 percent of hospitals offer counseling to help employees stop smoking compared to 16 percent of all employers

Wellness Program Benefits Aside from Health

There are at least five other benefits to having an employee wellness program:

Improves productivity

A Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study found that participation in wellness programs can help improve employee productivity and save money for employers.

Increases engagement

Establishing a wellness culture at your hospital creates a focused and engaged workforce that sees wellness as benefiting their careers.

Helps hospital recruitment and retention

Offering your teams a wellness program shows the organization's concern for their health and wellbeing, which positively impacts hospital recruitment and retention. 

Contributes to broader business strategy

Wellness programs can become part of a broader business strategy that distinguishes your hospital from competitors.

Reduces healthcare costs

Forbes cited a Harvard Business Review report that stated, on average, employers who invested in health and wellness initiatives saw $6 in healthcare savings for every dollar spent.

Wellness Program Examples from Peers

One of the best ways to learn how to implement a wellness program is by reviewing what others have done. Here is a list of ideas gleaned from Becker's Hospital Review you may want to consider incorporating into a corporate wellness policy.

Jersey City (N.J.) Medical Center - BHealthy Wellness Program

The Jersey City Medical Center's BHealthy program consists of a portal that offers tools staff can access online, by phone, or with a mobile device. Employees can choose activities based on personal goals and recommendations and earn rewards for making healthy choices.

Boston Medical Center

The Boston Medical Center has 20 wellness programs and ten resource guides to help employees manage their health, time, or money. They include topics such as how to improve financial credit and how to get a better night’s sleep.

Florida Hospital (Orlando) - CREATION Health Program

Florida Hospital in Orlando introduces its CREATION Health wellness program as part of the onboarding process. The program consists of seminars that address topics such as rest and sleep, trust and building relationships, nutrition, and personal finance.

Sharp HealthCare (San Diego)

Sharp HealthCare, based in San Diego, California, takes a comprehensive approach to promote employee wellbeing by offering resources and programs focused on physical, emotional, and social welfare. This includes free access to a digital mindfulness and yoga platform, annual wellness screenings and health coaches, and a year-round competition to reach personal fitness milestones.

CMO of Cleveland Clinic's Employee Health Plan

One aspect of Cleveland Clinic's employee wellness plan centers around a stop smoking initiative. Any employee who is a smoker at the time they applied for a job is offered a free smoking cessation program. Those able to quit were hired.

(Read the Becker's Hospital Review article for in-depth information about these and other examples.)

How to Deploy (or Enhance) a Wellness Program in Your Hospital

What does a comprehensive wellness program look like?

It contains elements like a free health assessment, non-monetary incentives, comprehensive reporting, health coaching, a wellness guide, screening reminders, reward activity tracker, calendar-related campaigns, and a broader emphasis on hospital culture change.

Review the following resources for help in setting up or enhancing a program at your hospital or health system.

CDC Workplace Wellness

The CDC offers a range of resources and tools to help hospitals and health systems (or any employer for that matter) set up a corporate wellness program. These include:

Workplace Health Resource Center – Search research-based tools and resources to help employers develop or expand a workplace health program.

Workplace Health Model – A comprehensive approach with interventions that address multiple risk factors and health conditions.

Work@Health Program – An employer-based training program to improve the health of participating employers.

Worksite Health Scorecard – A tool designed to help employers assess if they are implementing health promotion interventions in their workplace.

SHRM Employee Wellness Guide

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides a comprehensive how-to guide that walks employers through the process of setting up and maintaining an employee wellness program.

Hubspot Workplace Wellness Post

A blog post from Hubspot, a marketing platform technology company, offers several cost-effective ways to implement workplace wellness initiatives. Not all are suited to a hospital setting, but some, such as holding lunchtime yoga sessions, are.

Forbes on Workplace Wellness

A Forbes article says the trick to successful employee wellness programs is "learning how to connect all of the components of employee wellness. These components include physical, financial, emotional, and social wellbeing."

It also cites a study by GreenPath Financial Wellness, which found that 58 percent of employers reported financial "illness" plays a role in employee absenteeism. In comparison, 71 percent of employees say their top source of stress is personal finances.

WellSteps Pitfalls to Avoid

A blog post from WellSteps, an employee wellness solution provider, lists 14 reasons corporate wellness programs fail and makes suggestions on how to avoid pitfalls. Included on the list is failure to create a health-promoting culture, poor leadership, incentivizing the wrong things, and keeping the wellness program in a silo.

HBR Corporate Wellness Plan that Works

Harvard Business Review (HBR) examines the reasons why wellness programs sometimes don't work and offers a list of dos and don'ts that include: Do build a culture of health; Do ask for help; Don't do financial incentives; Don't do short-term, quick fixes.  

Becker's Most Popular Wellness Programs

Becker's lists 18 of the most popular employee wellness programs based on a survey of 876 hospital CEOs, human resource, and wellness leaders. Flu shot or other immunizations ranked number one, followed by employee assistance and mental health services, smoking cessation, health food, and weight-loss programs.

SCP Health Work-Life Balance

Another critical aspect of workplace wellness is making sure providers have a healthy work-life balance. To that end, SCP Health created a one-page guide containing essential information that advises hospitals to:

Give physicians a break - Don't flip-flop doctors from day to night and back to day shift in short order.

Keep communication lines open - Check in with physicians regularly to discuss improvements in the practice environment.

Listen objectively - Check-in with objective personnel (e.g., a scheduler) to get a feel for the mood of the department.

Promote a team mentality - Ensure shift assignments are fair and balanced. All doctors, regardless of seniority, work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Address stress - Use your wellness program to teach doctors how to improve resilience and maintain balance.

Conclusion

We hope you found this information on why you should establish or enhance a corporate wellness program at your hospital or health system and how to go about it helpful. In the face of the current crisis, what could be more vital?

Interested in working for a company that prioritizes employee wellbeing? Check out our corporate careers and provider openings to learn more about working for SCP Health.

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National Hospital Week

National Hospital Week, celebrated May 10 through 16, 2020, takes place every year around the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), the founder of modern nursing. It celebrates hospitals, health systems, and the people who support the health and wellbeing of their communities.

Global Employee Health & Fitness Month

Global Employee Health & Fitness Month (GEHFM) is an international observance of health and fitness in the workplace. The goal of GEHFM is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through worksite health promotion activities and environments.