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Walking competitions keep staff happy
Program addresses mental and physical health
[Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series that examines ways to support employees in their personal lives in order to improve work performance and staff retention. Last month we looked at the use of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and offered suggestions for choosing the right provider for your hospice. This month, we learn about a hospice that has set up an in-house wellness program that addresses personal life issues for employees.]
Designing a program that appeals to the interests of all employees is not an easy task, but the managers and employees of Home Hospice of Grayson County in Sherman, TX, have developed an employee wellness program that offers something for everyone.
"We have to take care of our employees just as we ask them to take care of our patients," says Sherry Little, executive director of the hospice. While her hospice has had an Employee Assistance Programfor 16 years, the agency offers other in-house programs that also address the personal needs of employees, she points out. In 2010 the hospice offered an employee wellness program that addresses emotional, spiritual, financial, and physical needs of employees, she says. Although participation in the different facets of the program is not required, 100% of employees have participated in at least one seminar or activity, she says.
A series of seminars and activities throughout the year address topics that help employees find support in each of the four areas addressed by the wellness program, Little explains. Topics of seminars have included team building, how to identify what makes you happy, and how to save money. "We also have a monthly meeting led by our chaplains to address spiritual needs," she adds.
Helping employees stay physically healthy is also important, points out Little. "In addition to nutrition seminars and health screenings for high blood sugar or cholesterol, we also developed a competitive walking program," she says. Employees who participate in the walking program join teams and each person wears a pedometer to measure the distance walked. Results are tracked to see which teams walk the furthest. "We set goals for the mileage by choosing destinations," she says. "For instance, the teams are now walking from Sherman, TX, to Pikes Peak." Employees who choose to work out at local health clubs enjoy the hospice's offer to pay one-half of the health club membership fee, she adds.
One activity that about one-third of employees attends regularly is a breakfast meeting that started about six years ago and occurs every two weeks, says Little. Entitled "Our time together," the meeting is organized and led by employees, she says. Leadership for the meeting rotates among employees who regularly attend the get-together. The meeting's leader asks four people who plan to attend to bring breakfast and decides the topic of the morning.
Topics range from dealing with the grief and stress that is part of a hospice employee's job to sharing personal stories that might inspire others, says Little. "The bi-weekly breakfast gives newer employees a chance to get to know long-time employees on a personal level," she says. "You hear things you don't hear in a team meeting to discuss patient care; you hear stories that explain why we do what we do," she adds. The breakfast meetings not only serve to encourage employees, but also to let them see that other people do understand what they are feeling, she says.
Employees are paid for their time to attend "Our time together" as well as other seminars that occur during their normal workday, points out Little. "We are planning evening workshops this year so spouses can accompany employees for some of the seminars," she says. "We are also going to invite our board members and their spouses."
Hospice employees are asked to help patients and families face the most stressful and emotional times in their lives and that responsibility increases the need for hospice managers to make sure their employees get the help they may need for themselves, points out Little. She adds, "A recent employee survey conducted to evaluate the wellness program showed that 100% of employees liked the program and want the hospice to continue offering it."
For more information about employee wellness programs, contact:
Sherry Little, Executive Director, Home Hospice of Grayson County, 505 West Center Street, Sherman, TX 75090-7827. Telephone: (903) 868-9315. E-mail: Sherry.Little@homehospice.org.