Workplace wellness programs have gained quite a bit of momentum over the past 10-15 years. Large corporate and smaller organizations alike have begun to see the potential for cost savings when they commit to supporting the health and wellbeing of their employees. Johnson & Johnson has even reported that since the inception of its wellness program in 1995, the company has saved a total of $250 million on health care costs.
Hospitals nationwide are beginning to feel the weight of employee healthcare costs. In fact, a study done by Truven Health Analytics states that healthcare costs for hospital employees are 9% higher than the general working population. Workplace wellness programs will not only drastically help reduce healthcare costs among hospital employers, but could also lead to an overall more effective healthcare system with happier employees. Ultimately healthy, engaged nurses and caregivers do better work to take care of their patients; meaning the sick get well more quickly. Below are five reasons to prioritize the health and wellbeing of healthcare workers.
Healthcare employees are at higher risk of chronic disease
The number one reason why healthcare costs for hospital employees are higher than those of the general working population is because chronic illness is more common among healthcare workers than the general public. In particular, hospital employees show 12% higher rates of asthma, 46% higher rates of obesity, and 20% higher rates of depression than the general working population. These three chronic conditions alone can severely decrease quality of life, productivity levels, and increase visits to the doctor and absenteeism.
Let’s look at the numbers for depression and its financial impact on employers. Depression sets US employers back about $35 billion a year in reduced performance at work. Because depression has such a large impact on mood and energy, employees are physically present at work but mentally checked-out. If hospital employees typically show 20% higher rates of depression, imagine how much of the $35 billion a year is from the hospital workforce alone! It’s imperative for hospital employers to address the high rates of chronic illness through various support programs and workplace wellness initiatives.
The impact of nurse syndrome affects care-taker wellbeing
Nurses and other healthcare professionals tend to be natural-born caretakers. The expectation of hospital work culture is to put the patient and his/her needs first, no matter what. For example, if a nurse is going through a rough time in her personal life, she is expected to put her own emotions aside to help take care of a patient who has just gone through surgery. Because of the nature of the job, nurses put others’ needs first, often at the expense of their own. This common tendency can further perpetuate, or even instigate various health
and wellbeing challenges. The delay of self-care is often a result of constantly caring for others.
To help counteract the effects of nurse syndrome on healthcare providers, workplace wellness programs and initiatives needs to be put in place so that nurses feel encouraged to acknowledge and tend to their own needs. Creating a culture of health in a hospital is about the staff as much as it’s about the patients, and sending the message through a well-communicated and well-executed wellness program is among the best places to start. If nurses are able to better take care of their own health, they will invariably be better able to take care of their patients.
Healthcare employees are less likely to get preventive screenings
A review of the WorkHealth America program done by NC Prevention Partners shows that healthcare employees are less likely to partake in preventive screening testing’s implemented by their corporate employers. This might be due to the idea that healthcare professionals know about symptoms and conditions they’re being screened for so they don’t feel a need to participate in the assessments. However as stated above, there are more instances of chronic conditions among healthcare workers, ultimately leading to higher overall medical costs.. Employers could save a lot of money for themselves and for their employees by implementing an effective, fun, and engaging workplace wellness program that educates healthcare employees on the benefits of preventive screenings as well as programs that help address those at a higher risk of developing a condition.
Employees thrive in friendlier environments with a sense of community
A Harvard Business review states that employees are more engaged and productive in their work if they feel a sense of camaraderie with their coworkers. Studies show that employees who feel like they have close work friendships are seven times more likely to engage completely in their work.
In a hospital setting, it is sometimes hard to find the time to cultivate friendships with coworkers. Attention is spent almost exclusively on helping patients that it is at times impossible to feel a sense of community or camaraderie. Hospital employers would benefit and see more productivity and engagement in their employees if they focused on cultivating a friendlier environment. Workplace wellness programs can help create this work environment and sense of community by engaging employees in something they can all relate to and talk to each other about. A fun wellness initiative could help employees feel a sense of camaraderie to ultimately produce a more engaged and productive workforce.
An effective wellness program helps decrease burnout and turnover rates
Hospital employees deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Many hospital nurses work 12-hour shifts on a regular basis. A study done by the BMJ Open states that such long shifts are associated with a 40% higher level of job dissatisfaction and a 31% higher risk of planning to quit. In order to maintain quality care and lower the risk of burnout, the health needs of nurses and other hospital employees alike need to be a priority for hospital employers. A Workplace wellness program could help address the issue of burnout, and thus turnover rates.
It’s clear that hospital employers are facing a serious problem with their employees’ overall health and wellbeing. With higher risks of chronic illness, taking less preventive measures against such illnesses, and an overall higher burnout rate in the hospital setting, it’s time to act. By creating a supportive environment, fostering camaraderie, and prioritizing self-care as a organization-wide expectation, hospitals will counteract the effects of working in a high-stress environment on their workers. An effective wellness program, targeted for the needs of the unique hospital landscape, will ultimately create a happier, more effective workforce.