Hospital employee health directors often wear a lot of hats: wellness, safety, ergonomics/injury prevention, and overall staff health. The challenge is implementing a program that addresses these different needs and engages employees in the process.
The Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workforce in Lowell, MA, has created a free online toolkit to help organizations with their wellness efforts.(http://bit.ly/1vodD8r) Since launching the healthy worksite toolkit and website a year ago, the center has provided a series of seven webinars to teach users how to implement the program materials in any organization, says Suzanne Nobrega, MS, project director of the center, which is part of the University of Massachusetts Lowell and University of Connecticut.
“We had 200 people participate in one or more of those training seminars, and hospital people make up 70% of participants," she says.
Training covered these topics:
How to gather support for the program;
How to assess health safety and wellness needs among the workforce;
How to form program committees;
How to train a program facilitator, and
How to guide a participatory intervention planning process where they’re engaging people on the front lines of their jobs.
“We want to engage the people closely connected with the work,” Nobrega says. “We’re trying to improve safety and health in their working environment.”
Drill down to root cause, brainstorm interventions.
Some of the meetings during the planning process involve drilling down on an issue to discover the root cause. Then it’s followed by a creative brainstorming session to set the hospital’s wellness team on the path to formulating an intervention and to winning management’s approval for that plan, she adds.
Among the early adopters of the program was Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NH. The hospital has had some wellness infrastructure in place for years, including an ergonomics team of front-line workers, and a safety committee of middle and senior management, says Janice Parker, MSN, APRN, FNP-B, employee health nurse practitioner/manager at Frisbie Hospital.
The hospital had collected employee health data for decades. The information is discussed in the safety committee, and hospital leadership had been looking for a way to use the data to inform employee health efforts, Parker notes.
Then, Parker saw the healthy worksite toolkit and knew this could help her organize a more effective wellness program.
“So our structure was already there,” she says. “We were primed and ready for this kind of program.”
The center’s website contains links with tools and information to help sites set up their wellness programs, including a 45-page pdf with flow charts and a step-by-step guide to its implementation. (See story on hospital implementing program, page 20.)
Nobrega visited the hospital, speaking with the safety committee last spring, and by June, the wellness program was being implemented.
“We followed the instructions on the web page pretty directly, looking at the highest risk and cost injuries,” Parker says. “Then we went to the steering committee and asked for people to give us their priorities.”
Frisbie Memorial has done a good job with their implementation, Nobrega says.
“What I like about their implementation is they’ve really dovetailed the implementation of the program with existing committee structures, building on what they already have and taking it to the next level,” she explains. “They’re also doing a very good job of getting employee input, developing their own survey around the patient handling for the nurses, and getting feedback from nurses and other people working with patients.”
The Center for Promotion of Health is in the process of evaluating how well wellness programs based on the toolkit are being implemented, Nobrega says.
“We’ve had about 50 people participate in a follow-up survey, and we’re following those folks,” she adds.
Ideal outcomes for the program would be to see more organizations do in-house program designs for employee wellness initiatives, Nobrega says.
“Right now a lot of organizations have their wellness or safety services delivered to them through a vendor, and a vendor has a packaged program that may or may not fit well with what people in the workforce feel is important,” she explains.
“I’d like to see a lot more engagement of regular working people in the design in the kinds of health and safety wellness programs they have available to them, and I’d like to see a lot more participation and a stronger culture around employee health generally in organizations.”