Current Company: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc.
Job Title: Regional Wellness Programs Consultant
Industry: Healthcare Industry
Years in the Field: 10 years
Employees* (including physicians): 11,000
*Employees only (~9000)
Professional Development and Leadership
A career in wellness was not what I had envisioned. In fact, according to my plan, I would have a successful career as a broadcast journalist for NBC. That is the funny story about life it never goes as you plan it. You could say it was a terrible car accident that made me reprioritize my life and realize tomorrow is not promised. It was because of this accident that health became a part of my essence.
Now it made sense on the relevance of a healthy lifestyle and helped reshape my perception on health. Being an already picky eater, I eliminated additional processed foods that were not essential to my diet. I started eating only chicken, seafood and turkey to a pescatarian diet to help reduce the amount of chronic migraines that I was suffering from monthly. Exercise was increased from twice a week to three times out of the week. Mindfulness was also introduced into my regimen.
Graduating with a B.S. in English Writing Journalism and a M.A. in Professional Writing does not seem to match working as the Regional Wellness Programs Consultant for an employee wellness program for a nonprofit health care provider/insurance company. My path it would seem would be in Broadcast Journalism or PR company not a health insurance company but there is more to the story. A chance internship opportunity within Kaiser Permanente Corporate Communications department revealed there is more than meets the eye with KP. For starters, KP offers more than just insurance but a holistic approach to working with its members, community, and most importantly its employees.
The internship essentially paved the way and opened the door to endless possibilities within the organization. Moving from the bottom up, it was clear the opportunities were there for the taking, I just had to decide if it was for me. Receiving my M.A. within two years allowed me to evaluate the commitment that KP had for me and that I had for KP. They truly invest in their employees as much as they do for their members. Networking along the way I learned of a new program being created for employee wellness.
What made it unique was that there was no blueprint but an open invitation to build the program up with an innovative vision of where we saw wellness going. Not having a background in wellness was also not a requirement but something that motivated me to obtain certification in. Pursuing the Corporate Worksite Wellness Specialist certification from National Wellness Institute and becoming certified by Wellness Councils of America as a Faculty member provided me with insight to developing an effective employee wellness program.
For anyone coming into the field do not to let the title waiver your application. Sometimes that is not the determiner of the role but an opportunity to develop a skill set further. Remember you are you biggest barrier. If you can keep that into perspective the skies the limit on what you can achieve in the field of wellness.
Success Stories and Innovation
A major success story that was instrumental in demonstrating the value on investment has been our Total Health Tour. Originally launched as a partnership with an incentive plan where employees could receive a payout if our region met its goal, has expanded to a strategic tour addressing chronic conditions. What makes this a success is the buy-in received from Senior Leadership, employees, and Frontline Managers. It was an all-hands on deck approach and really took into consideration various settings (i.e. call center, medical center, admin building).
This started the conversation on self-care and the value of taking time out for employee’s wellbeing. Healthcare providers are the worst patients when it comes to taking care of themselves. Demonstrating the importance on why self-care was essential and connecting it to the overall Operating Plan helped rethink the way employees viewed wellness. It was also a cross team promotion involving various departments to ensure all voices were heard.
Innovative solutions align with where the tour has evolved to. Transitioning from touching all facilities in 2018 to looking specifically at 7 in 2019 was very strategic. Allowing a narrower focus for the tour offers more customization based on data (biometric screening) and educational outreach. Each facility will have a pre/post screening touch to evaluate any improvement/changes in data. Ultimately, it will influence the culture and behavior change of employees residing within the facilities but also their families.
Based on these learnings it will help to shape additional tours and/or programs surrounding chronic conditions. Self-care is move than a movement but a way of life. Changing the way employees perceive wellness and shifting towards the concept of well-being is how not only health improvements can be changed but the way they interact with one another.
Shifting from wellness to well-being means that not only how programming is structured but evaluated needs a refresh. In the past evaluation was not necessarily a part of the tour but is essential in understanding the needs/wants of the employees. Was the tour beneficial, do they find joy in coming to work, etc., helps in providing insight into their needs. Incorporating a depression scale is also a new addition to evaluating where employees are and if additional resources are required.
The wellness industry is looked to for shaping the health and well-being of employers and their employees. The biggest threat if not acted upon is not adjusting to the growth and demand of the workforce. More people are teleworking and/or traveling constantly. There are no one-size fits all but there are some common things that can help wellness programs be successful. This is where the wellness industry can shine an are of focus on and really help provide the necessary tools for oncoming wellness professionals and beyond.
Where I am is just a stepping stone for where I want to be. Applying research acquired from my doctorate to the additional skills to transition to a program manager will aid in rethinking the wellness industry from a mindfulness perspective. Putting the mind first and building from there can shift the way health and wellbeing are perceived. The skies are the limit.