How to communicate wellness to hospital staff

Botsford Hospital in Michigan encourages its staff to get fit and stay healthy, mostly using traditional methods to get the word out.

Obese doctors scarfing down chocolate-glazed donuts. Nurses chain-smoking on their lunch break. Frazzled, bloodshot interns wandering the halls of the ICU.

Do any of these images remind you of what’s going on at your hospital?

It’s hard enough to talk to patients about staying healthy, especially if your own staff is suffering. Botsford Hospital in Farmington, Mich., faced a similar quandary, but a group of hospital staffers decided to do something about it.

In 2007, the hospital’s wellness committee was formed, and it created the Botsford Health Improvement Plan (B-HIP) for employees. The 20-member wellness committee— comprising clinical and professional staffers, nurses and representatives from human resources—meets twice a month to discuss ideas to keep its physicians and other staffers healthy.

Stacy Brand, who chairs B-HIP, is the hospital’s communications projects coordinator. She’s responsible for keeping employees informed about the program.

Here’s how she spreads the word—and how you can do the same for your wellness efforts.

Getting buzz

Brand uses traditional avenues of communication to promote upcoming events to employees. She writes e-mails, posts information on bulletin boards and creates signage throughout the hospital. Flyers are posted near time clocks and break rooms. Some activities are advertised on the hospital’s intranet.

“The more places you can spread the word, the more likely employees will know about upcoming wellness activities and general health information,” Brand says.
This year, the hospital created a health and wellness catalogue featuring activities, fitness information, tips about strength training and nutrition tips.

One of the cornerstones of B-HIP is its free health assessments for employees. Brand says there has been improvement in top six risk categories, including high blood sugar and sleep deprivation.

Help from the big boss

The hospital’s CEO sends out voice messages about the health assessments—and he takes part himself. “He encourages employees to participate in the program because it promotes wellness and gives employees the opportunity to learn about their overall health and risk factors,” Brand says. “He has also attended some of our programs and is supportive of having a healthy work environment.”

Because the results to date have been so positive, in 2011 the committee is backing off the health risk assessment aspect and will offer more specific regimens—such as smoking-cessation and weight-loss programs.

B-HIP is trying to target all 2,500 employees. Brand says that she wants healthy employees to be ambassadors for the program. She says she has the most difficult time reaching out to employees who have little interest in health improvements or those who work the later shift. Brand says the committee has tried to hold events at night, but attendance is low.

Since the effort started, Brand says, she’s noticed a difference among employees overall. “I think people have become much more active and involved,” Brand says.

“It’s common now for people to walk on their lunch break.”

To share the message externally, Brand has written several news releases about the program. For example, one press release showed how much the health of employees has improved, based on health risk assessment results. The local paper, the Oakland Press has also written about B-HIP.

“In addition to pitching directly to our contacts, we have received calls from the media over the years about employee wellness,” Brand says. “Communicating with the local media about wellness initiatives is a good way to remind them that we are always focused on good health—whether for employees or patients.”

3 health and wellness ideas your hospital could adapt

Want to start some healthy initiatives at your hospital? Brand shares the following examples.

1. Competition:This summer, Botsford Hospital competed with another local hospital in Relay for Life. More than 100 Botsford hospital employees signed up and raised more than $3,000 for the American Cancer Society. Botsford bested the other hospital by walking more than 700 minutes.

2. Fresh produce:The hospital gave employees the opportunity to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. The hospital worked directly with Maple Creek Farm in Michigan, and the fruits and vegetables were delivered to the hospital on Tuesdays. More than 20 employees received fresh farm food on a weekly basis.

3. Check the calendar:Each month offers new possibilities. During December, for example, the hospital’s fitness center conducted holiday survival classes during the lunch hour at the hospital. Fitness instructors conducted classes on stress management, healthy holiday cooking and winter safety tips.

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