A Publication of WTVP

When your workplace is a hospital, it’s obvious to focus on getting patients healthy and back to their lives. But what about those whose job it is to care for those patients—shouldn’t we be looking out for their health, too?

That’s exactly what OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Illinois are doing by undertaking new employee health initiatives. Under the leadership of Dr. Tim Vega, OSF Business and Community Health medical director, there have been a number of changes for the Employee Health Center over the past year, with more to come. All of these changes have been implemented to better serve OSF Saint Francis employees.

In an industry driven by outcome measures, the numbers don’t lie. According to a recent survey, unscheduled absences cost large companies an average of $764,000 annually in direct payroll costs. Sixty-six percent of unscheduled absences were due to illness. Even those employees who show up to work and aren’t completely healthy cost a company. Productivity losses related to personal health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually, according to the Journal of Occupational Medicine.

“We recognize as healthcare workers, we are driven to provide excellent, compassionate care to our patients,” says Jo Garrison, RN, MSN, director of Business and Community Health. “Every patient, every time, with the greatest care and love is our mission. However, healthcare today is very challenging, and the expectations placed on employees can sometimes seem overwhelming.”

“The Employee Health Center is committed to bring the greatest care and love to our family of employees,” she adds. “This initiative supports an OSF Healthcare System core value—employee well-being, the concern for the physical, spiritual, emotional and economic well-being of employees.”
Studies have shown that healthier employees are more productive, make fewer errors, have a more positive attitude, get along better with coworkers, enjoy a better quality of life and cost the company less.

“We want to start developing a culture of health across the organization,” says Garrison. “It will start the minute someone walks in the door as an employee. We want them to feel the support of the medical center. Employee Health offers a wide variety of programs to help employees increase their physical activity, promote a healthy diet and learn to handle stress more effectively. It’s all about showing them we care about their health.”

Some of the programs offered to employees include the Caring for Caregivers Program, which reviews risk factors and opportunities for better care and develops a plan for the employee and their doctor to manage those issues. Employees have the opportunity to meet with a registered dietitian, exercise specialist and psychologist if needed for education and guidance.

The Culture of Health and Caring program looks at the overall work atmosphere. The hope is to provide an environment that supports healthy choices and allows employee opportunities to take care of themselves while at work. Some of the initiatives underway or being considered include: discounted healthy cafeteria entrees; an additional subsidy for fruits and vegetables; no MEGA cups; the “500 Club,” which offers 500-calorie lunches at reduced cost; having the farmers market on campus weekly during the summer months; and offering employee wellness visits.

The Employee Health team is also looking at ways to get people moving, including offering a quarterly stair-walking campaign. Stairwells around campus are being painted with bright, cheerful colors and designs to encourage their use.

“We started a Tone and Sculpt program that uses resistance bands. We had more than 200 employees sign up to participate and had to order extra bands!” says Garrison.

OSF Saint Francis is in the process of developing employee incentives, including recognizing healthy behaviors in employees and offering rebates for RiverPlex exercise time.

“With fall upon us and the change in seasons, now might be a good time for employers to think about changing the approach to employee health within their workplace,” says Garrison. “We know a healthier workforce is happier, has less absenteeism and turnover. We also know there is a trickle-over effect to their home life. You want to be proactive rather than reactive.” iBi