2006 Salary Survey Results

Seek a higher profile for yourself — and EH

Advanced training, new programs bring boost

Employee health professionals take on duties that overlap with other jobs in the hospital, including risk manager, safety officer, infection control, and educator. But don't neglect one more task: marketing yourself and your program.

Raising the profile of employee health means demonstrating that you are aligned with the hospital's goals, such as reducing lost-time injuries or workers' compensation claims. Or it could involve a new level of outreach, such as a health promotion program, to build bonds with employees.

"You need to be communicating — providing information and tracking indicators that are meaningful to the [hospital administrators]," advises Charlene M. Gliniecki, RN, MS, COHN-S, vice president, human resources, at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA.

Most employee health professionals have a long tenure in health care, which gives them a broad understanding of the hospital and its employees' needs. In the 2006 Hospital Employee Health survey, 79% of respondents said they had worked in health care for 22 years or more.

Salary increases rose somewhat in the field. About half of the respondents (49.6%) received a 1% to 3% raise this year, while 29% received a raise of 4% to 6%. Another 15% did not receive a salary increase. That represented a slight improvement over last year, when 21% of respondents received a 4% to 6% raise.

There were 225 respondents to the survey. They were most likely to work in a nonprofit hospital with 300 or fewer beds. Respondents were slightly more likely to live in a rural area or medium-sized city than in an urban or suburban area. The predominant salary ranges were $50,000 to $59,999 (25%) and $60,000 to $69,999 (23%).

Building a better image

Employee health professionals have an eclectic mix of titles, such as employee health and fitness manager, or occupational health coordinator, or employee occupational health specialist. In part, that reflects the variations in the employee health departments themselves.

How you define your job will clearly affect how employee health is viewed by the hospital's administrators, managers, and employees. You may find ways to create a desired image for your program.

At the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Craig D. Thorne, MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM, medical director of employee health and safety, says the EH motto is "providing extraordinary care for extraordinary people." Thorne worked with the hospital's marketing department to create a photo wall with a montage dedicated to employees.

That visually differentiates the employee health service from the occupational health department that serves outside clients, he notes. And, he adds, "It helps us focus our attention that we're here for the employees."

Thorne also created a personal health promotion program called "Step Up to Good Health." Matria Healthcare, a "health enhancement" company based in Marietta, GA, confidentially handles the employees' health assessments (which calculates their "health age" and identifies their top five health risks) and provides nurse-coached wellness programs, a 24/7 nurse line, a maternity program, and chronic disease management. Thorne and his employee health team also discuss personal health issues with employees and help them navigate the health care system. If they need further care, Thorne's staff can obtain appointments within the medical center faster than employees can on their own.

The employee assistance program also is administered in conjunction with employee health, which means employees receive a wide range of care — from personal health, including psychological health and well-being, to free on-site cholesterol tests, to work-related injury care, and more. "They go away more satisfied than if they just came here for a TB test," says Thorne. "I also have a rule that nobody waits more than 15 minutes without being seen."

The services ultimately benefit the hospital. "We have demonstrated that health promotion actually lowers the hospital's medical costs by helping employees manage their chronic diseases," Thorne says. "It has increased the perceived importance of employee health at the medical center. Our surveys show that employees give us an average of almost 100% satisfaction, which demonstrates that we are a very welcoming, caring and competent clinical entity."

COHN brings new authority

Sometimes an advanced degree or certification can change the scope of your job. When MaryAnn Gruden, MSN, CRNP, NP-C, COHN-S/CM, received her COHN certification, she became eligible as a "certified safety professional" to head up the accident and injury prevention program that Pennsylvania requires when an employer is self-insured for workers' compensation.

"Staff and management see me in a broader role now," says Gruden, who is employee health coordinator at Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh and past president of the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare. "I'm reporting to various groups about how we're doing on our accident and illness prevention efforts."

She chairs the Work Safe Program, which has three teams that look at the hospital's most common injuries: slips, trips, and falls; patient handling; and bloodborne pathogen exposures. Increased credibility and visibility for employee health may translate into more resources from administration, such as funds to buy additional lift equipment, she says.

Other training also can boost your status. You don't necessarily need a business degree to do your job, but you do need to become business-savvy, advises Barb Maxwell, MHA, RN, COHN-S, CCM, CWCP, division director of Company Care-HCA West Florida Division in St. Petersburg.

That means presenting outcomes to senior management meetings and showing how employee health has reduced injuries and the cost of injuries. "If our senior leadership does not know what we do, we're the first to be cut," she says. "We do bring value. They just need to be educated."

An advocate for employees

Employee health professionals also benefit from a perspective that differs from other medical providers in the hospital. You're not just addressing health issues on an individual basis, but you're an advocate for employees, notes Gliniecki. "You're always thinking about the people who didn't come — the people who may have been exposed or may have been at risk," she says.

"Even though you're dealing with each person you encounter, you are always stepping back at some point and looking at an aggregate — by department, job classification, exposure type," she says. "It's much more like a public health model."

Of course, "employee health" isn't just for employees. Employee health professionals often provide services to volunteers, students, and some nonemployee physicians. That is one reason some programs prefer the title "occupational health."

"What's important, regardless of the title of your department, is that you do a good job internally communicating what you are doing to support the mission of the organization," says Gliniecki.