Jaime Hargus is a Registered Dietitian and the Health & Wellness Supervisor for Mercy. Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City is a large, non-profit hospital located in Oklahoma, and the hospital is part of Mercy Health, a much larger network of health care professional and services across six states employing 38,000 co-workers. Her passion for health and wellness started at the early age of four, when her father was diagnosed with type I diabetes and the lives of her family changed forever. In his journey to live a healthier life with diabetes, he encountered many health care providers and a special dietitian who positively impacted his health and ultimately, his family’s health. It was those events and lifestyle changes that directed Jaime into a career of health and wellness. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Oklahoma in 2008 and began her career as a clinical and outpatient dietitian. In 2010, she advanced into the role of Wellness Coordinator focused on coordinating Mercy’s corporate wellness program, Healthification. Healthification is founded on four key initiatives: nutrition, physical activity, tobacco cessation, and balance. In March, Jaime was appointed Health & Wellness Supervisor. In addition to coordinating Healthification in Oklahoma, she manages Tobacco Free Mercy, and she serves on the Healthification Leadership team for the entire health system, providing nutrition expertise. Jaime believes that health, wellness, and spirituality are the foundation to living a full life, and she is dedicated to encouraging healthy lifestyles for her co-workers, community, family and friends.
Jaime has a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from University of Oklahoma, and is a Registered and licensed dietitian which has been highly valuable in her wellness career. She is a WELCOA faculty member, and has been a WELCOA member for four years. In 2013, she was the recipient of the Oklahoma Hospital Association’s Advancing Spirit of Wellness Award and most recently, she received the Champions of Health – Corporate Health Champion Finalist. Through her work in health and wellness, she has contributed to Mercy earning a spot on the list of healthiest companies in America, being recognized as an Oklahoma Certified Healthy Business, and a Platinum AHA Fit-Friendly Worksite.
According to Mercy’s annual 2012 HRA results, 69.5% of Mercy co-workers are overweight or obese, reporting a BMI of greater than 25. The report also showed our co-workers are willing to change and make healthier choices. Healthification is dedicated to help transform Mercy into a culture of complete health & wellness, with education, support & inspiration to make positive nutrition changes in our co-workers' lives through the Eat for Life pillar.
Using the HRA data, Jaime began working with senior leadership to provide operational and financial support, and with the food and nutrition team and the wellness committee to collaboratively begin developing programs to support co-workers in making healthier choices. Two nutrition programs evolved: Fit Free Friday and My Mercy Plate.
As part of the Fit Free Friday program, on the fourth Friday of every month, Mercy offers free lunches to all customers which includes co-workers, volunteers and guests. Jaime works with Mercy’s Executive Chef to purposefully prepare five nutritious and delicious recipes that meet specific nutrition criteria for the Fit Free Friday program. The cafeteria is transformed into a venue serving only healthy options. Sodas and snacks are not served during Fit Free Friday. Mercy’s Hydration Station, water infused with fruits or vegetables and herbs, is the featured beverage choice.
While Fit Free Friday has been largely successful, program evaluations identified that it’s not everything Mercy co-workers need it to be. They need healthy meal options available to all shifts, at all locations, for an affordable price on a daily basis, not just one day per month. Jaime used the evaluation data to continue working with the Food and Nutrition team and wellness committee to begin brainstorming how to effectively meet co-workers’ needs and developed the My Mercy Plate program.
My Mercy Plate is the daily healthy meal bundle with a punch card incentive. It features a healthy entrée, two vegetable sides, one piece of fruit, and water from the Mercy hydration station for $4 ($7 value). Mercy co-workers receive an additional 20% co-worker discount on the meal. Every time a My Mercy Plate meal is purchased, the customer receives a punch on the card. After 10 meals have been purchased, the customer receives a free one, or 20% merchandise discount in Mercy stores. The My Mercy Plate special is extended to the night shift and offsite locations through the Mercy co-worker store which offers extended hours and concierge meal delivery services for the offsite locations.
The nutrition programs have contributed to successful outcomes. According to the 2013 HRA results, the overweight and obesity rates are trending down, with a 2% decrease from 2012. On average, 300 My Mercy Plate meals are purchased per month and Mercy serves between 700-1,000 meals during Fit Free Friday. Based on evaluations of Fit Free Friday, 76% of participants are satisfied/very satisfied with Fit Free Friday, 67% of co-workers reported the program has taught them how to recognize correct portion sizes for meals and 57% have increased their fruit and vegetable intake by participating in the program. Our Mercy co-workers have demonstrated the need and desire to Eat for Life.
Jaime’s passion for health and wellness has shaped her lifestyle and career. A true role model, Jaime can always be caught parking in the back of the parking lot, taking the stairs, bringing healthy snacks, eating fruits and veggies, drinking water in her pink water bottle, and demonstrating work-life balance. She has repeatedly been called upon to serve in committee leadership roles based on demonstrated success in outcomes, team leadership, and her ability to work well with others. In early 2014, she was promoted to a supervisor position and now manages the health and wellness department in Oklahoma City. She continues to grow in her leadership role through mentors, continuing education, training dietetic interns in wellness, and utilizing outstanding resources like WELCOA. Her best advice came from one of her mentors, “Use your God given strengths and talents to do in life what you were designed to do, and do it with every ounce of your heart and soul.”
To enhance educational lunch and learn opportunities for co-workers and increase participation, Jaime and a team of dietitians designed Wellness Wednesday, a nutrition class now paired with a cooking demonstration, food samples and recipes. The new structure and program has been in place for 9-months, and monthly participation has increased by 78%. Participants report these classes are not only changing their lives, but the lives of their families through the meals they are preparing at home.
The future is bright with opportunity for wellness, especially as healthcare is changing and technology is continually evolving. Being future oriented and innovative, Jaime feels blessed to work for a healthcare organization that is on the cutting edge. Mercy is leading the way with telemedicine and the nation’s first virtual care center. This center will further extend specialized health care services to all the Mercy communities, and hopefully provide the opportunity to provide the community with the health and wellness resources and experts that are positively impacting the lives of Mercy co-workers.