CentraState Healthcare System
Employee Wellness Manager
Tracey Saliski, MA, CWP
Professional Development and Leadership
I grew up competitively dancing and participated in a performing arts high school which made me acutely aware of the importance of caring for my body. During college, I naturally followed my interests into the field of Exercise Science. While studying at Georgian Court University, the curriculum opened my eyes to new ways of health and well-being. Not only was I learning the traditional Western model to health, my professors brought a very holistic approach to the classroom introducing alternative and integrative medicine. My view on health and how I cared for myself was transformed and after graduating with First Honors and summa cum laude in 2010, I knew I had to continue my studies at GCU by beginning the Master’s in Holistic Health Studies program. During my graduate work, I was fascinated by the idea that the choices myself and my fellow students were making every day were going to be responsible for our health as we matured. I saw the opportunity to create a campus wellness program and through my graduate assistant position, I spent the last year of my studies building wellness education on campus. In my last month as a GCU student, I created the 1st Wellness Expo joining the local community and campus together; there were over 50 vendors, a day full of speakers, yoga and Qigong classes outside, and we had over 250 attendees. With its success, the Wellness Expo has been repeated every year since, growing in size and engagement from areas of the GCU campus and the community. After graduation in 2012, I joined CentraState Healthcare System as their Wellness Program Coordinator where I have spent my professional career adapting a holistic approach to wellness in the dynamic healthcare environment. With the success of our growing Employee Wellness Program, I was promoted to Employee Wellness Manager in 2016. Over the years, I have continue to grow my knowledge by obtaining certificates as a Holistic Health Coach (Institute of Integrative Nutrition), Worksite Wellness Specialist (National Wellness Institute), WELCOA Faculty Member, and Certified Wellness Practitioner (NWI). I also look forward to attending the WELCOA Summit in 2019!
In Wellness, you must be an authentic leader as you cannot inspire others to care for themselves if you do not do the same. I eat a plant based diet, attend my favorite Pure Barre exercise classes regularly, surround myself with people that add to my life, and I pay attention to what I need to feel my best; sometimes that’s a nap, sometimes it’s a night out with friends, and in the summer, it always includes time on the beach.
My advice to future leaders is to be innovative and look for opportunities to create positive change. When you create a new path that addresses the needs of employees and their work environment, you can set a new standard for wellness in the workplace. Wellness in the workplace encompasses the whole person, not just their biometrics, don’t be afraid of collaboration within your organization.
Success Stories and Innovation
CentraState’s Plant Powered Program was created in partnership with myself and my colleague Anthony Dissen. Looking to bring an innovative program to the workplace, we capitalized on Anthony’s area of expertise and created a twelve week pilot program for Employees and Spouses. The program provided education on eating a plant based diet and included the necessary tools like cooking classes, label reading, food shopping, guides for eating out, education for substitutions, and continuous online support. If employees completed three biometric screenings, they were also reimbursed with half the cost of the program. At the end of twelve weeks, the program was well received by the participants and their health improvements were remarkable. The average weight loss for participants was nine pounds, all decreased their waist circumference and three participants lost at least four inches. Plant Powered has been expanded to a community program with its success. We have had six different offerings since our original pilot. This summer, we will have two more in-person community classes and a new pilot of a completely online version of the program for CentraState Employees. The long term change created from Plant Powered Program can be found in our participants reducing their fasting blood glucose to non-diabetic ranges, reduction to cholesterol levels, improved energy levels, and their ability to make healthier choices even when they are not eating a 100% plant based diet. I have always been struck by one employee who shared completing Plant Powered was the first time in a weight loss program she did not feel like a failure. Plant Powered has been recognized nationally for its innovation and featured as a WELCOA Case Study.
Working in healthcare, it is important we focus our wellness efforts on resiliency and self-care. Programs like “Caring for the Caregiver” provided CEU’s, encouraged employees to make their own self-care plan, and introduced them to various modalities to add to their life. In a follow up survey of participants, 75% said the material learned in the program improved the quality of their work-life. For two years, we have offered yoga at no cost to all staff three times a week. We are not only providing a space and time for self-care, but bringing employees together from different CentraState locations has been an added benefit. In addition to the free classes, we have offered a beginner series “Yoga for Every Body,” and “Yoga for the Office Worker.” Staff feel valued and appreciate the offerings and in a recent Wellness Culture Audit, 80% respondents stated that Employee Wellness programming helps them care for themselves.
In a dynamic and stressful work environment, wellness goes beyond biometrics. A new initiative at CentraState is a collaborative effort between a group of employees including Employee Wellness, Pastoral Care, Patient Experience, and Nursing called the Additional Care Team. Using our diverse skillset and expertise, we are committed to preventing crisis, de-escalating it when it does occur, and offering follow up support for second victims to create a supportive work environment for all employees.
If you turn on the news or go on social media, you’ll see the stress society is undergoing. In a needs assesment of employees and community members, stress management programs was their top priority. Developing time efficient and effective coping skills is the greatest opportunity in wellness regardless of who the target audience is. As I continue to focus my efforts on healthcare specifically, I will be concentrating on how we transform the work environment to holistically support employees so they can continue to provide quality and safe patient care. Other industries’ work environments have evolved to increase the quality of life for employees, healthcare is behind on this trend. In an environment where the well-being of the employee directly effects the care provided, we must be at the forefront on finding innovative solutions to enhance the safety and quality of life for healthcare workers.