When it comes to wellness, Franciscan St. Francis Health is a pioneer. Certain components of the hospital’s program are more than 25 years old, so perhaps it’s no surprise that more than 90 percent of hospital employees participate. Franciscan St. Francis Health has had plenty of time to fine-tune the program and build a following.
Then again, sometimes it only takes one testimonial to make clear how life-changing, or life-saving, a wellness program can be.
One employee recently told the story of what happened when her husband, Joe, took advantage of a routine health screening. Joe seemed healthy enough, but his doctor found a blockage in Joe’s carotid artery that the doctor said would have resulted in a massive stroke within days had Joe not come in for the exam. Joe had surgery the very next day and is doing well. The wellness program “saved my husband’s life,” the employee said.
The hospital’s focus on fitness, nutrition and health has earned it the American Heart Association’s Gold-level Fit Friendly Company designation each of the last five years. The designation is based on several good-health practices that Franciscan St. Francis Health employs across more than a dozen wellness plans from which its employees can choose.
It’s also a reflection of the heart-healthy food the hospital serves, both in its vending machines and in the cafeteria, where everything gets a red, yellow or green label. Nutritional information is provided for each item, and about 70 percent of the cafeteria’s offerings get the favored green label, said Corey Baute, regional director of human resources for Franciscan St. Francis Health.
Offering heart healthy food is one of the things Franciscan St. Francis Health can do to influence employee health across its entire employee base. Health care workers are caregivers, and caregivers don’t always take care of themselves, Baute said.
That is one of the reasons Franciscan St. Francis Health’s program focuses not just on fitness but on the spiritual, emotional and financial health of its employees. Franciscan St. Francis Health offers a very robust Employee Assistance Program that helps its employees with a variety of mental, spiritual and emotional health issues. It is a valued resource for employees because they feel very comfortable in accessing the services due to the high level of trust established by the counselors, Baute said.
Adding to the complexity of the Franciscan St. Francis Health program is the fact its employees work around the clock and at multiple facilities, said Joann Peavler, wellness program coordinator. But the flip side of being part of a complex organization, and being a health care company, is that the wellness program can draw on all of the hospital’s many services.
The hospital is especially proud of its smoking cessation program. Its Aspire to Be Tobacco Free program boasts a 34 percent quit rate, exceeding the national rate of 15 percent. Asked why the program is so effective, Peavler said it has much to do with the quality of counseling. “We have a counselor who is very good at helping people find an opportune time to quit,” she said.
The same strategy is employed in the Franciscan St. Francis Health weight loss program. Those in the program for at least one year have decreased work days missed by a combined 44 days. And obesity-associated costs have fallen by more than $670 per participant.
Franciscan St. Francis Health employees who want to lose weight or merely maintain a healthy weight now have a new 3,500-square-foot fitness center at their disposal. The center, in the Education Service Support Center near the hospital’s main campus, is akin to an L.A. Fitness or any big-box private gym. Employees have badge access to the facility and pay only $5 a month to belong.
So far, the center is drawing a crowd. The goal for this year was 500 members, but more than 600 employees have joined.•