BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Manager Health Solutions Consulting
34 years combined experience in Workplace Wellness/Respiratory Therapy
In 1983, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Cardiopulmonary Science from LSUMC School of Allied Health, pursuing my passion to assist chronically ill patients in an effort to improve their quality of life. After approximately 28 years as a Registered Respiratory Therapist, I realized my passion for helping others could possibly best be served through a career in wellness in efforts to educate people on the impact of their healthy lifestyle practices. In 2011 I became a Certified WELCOA Faculty member, 2012 I received my CWWS through NWI and in 2013 I received my CWWPM through NWI.
Currently as a Health Solutions Consultant, I assist groups (approximately 150-1000 employees) in implementing wellness programs. Typically, these groups are venturing into this unknown wellness arena uniformed and not equipped with the knowledge it takes to implement a successful workplace wellness program, but in contrast have pre-conceived disparities around the simplicity of wellness. Oftentimes in my initial conversations with senior leadership, their understanding of implementation simply involves communicating once a year to their employees, providing an educational topic supporting wellness and sitting back and hoping it takes hold and saves them money. This misconception is frighteningly common. Leadership typically doesn’t realize the hard work, dedication and resources required to implement a successful program. Education is my passion and as I begin sharing ideas around what it takes to have a successful program, it’s inspiring when the light bulb goes off and they actually buy in to wellness as a lifestyle choice; something to offer to and not force on their employees. I enjoy using the WELCOA 7 Benchmarks as it focuses on the major aspects of a successful workplace wellness initiative and provides guidance. For those embarking on this journey for the first time, this resource removes the burden of where to begin. In my initial conversations with senior leadership, I stress how critically important it is for them to be truly sold on the idea of wellness and the importance of being in the forefront of the company promoting wellness. Leadership support or lack thereof can make or break even the best planned wellness programs. Next, I encourage them to build a well-represented team to drive their wellness initiatives, stressing the importance of equally distributing the job responsibilities so no one person is overwhelmed. I always encourage the group to survey their employees to find out what their expectations of a wellness program involve and more importantly, what motivates employees to want to participate or make lifestyle changes. We all tend to assume we know the answers to these questions, but are usually surprised at the results. My next step is to review with the committee all available data/ reports that give insight into identifiable health risks and possible areas for improvements, such as information that can be gathered in a walk through environmental/interview assessment. This information is the most valuable information you can collect. Providing feedback on simple environmental change is an essential part of what I do. Pointing out unhealthy vending, suggesting development of a walking/stretching policy or even addressing lighting in stairwells to encourage walking can assist in improving company culture which is crucial to success. Employers need to make healthy lifestyle choices easily accessible at work. Assisting groups with understanding which health risks are most prevalent among their employee population and then formulating inexpensive programs to address these chronic diseases is what I enjoy. 28 years as a Registered Respiratory Therapist has had a lasting effect on me. I believe this experience provides me with an advantage over most wellness professionals. I have seen firsthand how poor lifestyle choices can affect one’s health and quality of life.
I believe my dedication to the Health Promotion industry is evident in my daily activities which include both very conscientious eating and physical activity. I am dedicated to educating others on the importance of healthy lifestyle practices and how simple changes in their daily lives can have a huge impact on their health. It is very important to me to stay abreast of the latest research, thus I read and participate in many health promotion webinars/training sessions. I would say that perseverance within my particular role has attributed to success in my wellness career. My passion for wanting to make a difference in others’ lives has been the driving force behind my efforts to lead our wellness initiatives within my organization. Also, being willing to push the limits when no one else would, has proved beneficial in being recognized as a leader in wellness. Passion and perseverance are crucial to a successful wellness career because of the skepticism that still exists today.
I diligently work to assist organizational leaders to understand the importance they play in fostering a healthy workplace culture. This cannot be underestimated, but often is. I have witnessed vast differences in the success of wellness programs within the workplace when there is true senior leadership buy- in versus being “it in because everyone else is doing it”. My attempts to strongly urge organizational leaders to remove workplace barriers (to success) has proven to be worthy of recognition. First steps of aligning Mission/Vision statements to include wellness initiatives and changing policies to remove barriers are often times easy tasks to undertake which foster healthier workplace environment/culture and create conditions where employees feel encouraged and supported to practice healthy lifestyles. Nothing excites me more than to watch an unhealthy culture change into a well workplace culture. Cultural norms are easily set, yet when you improve upon them, positive change is contagious!
Our CULTURE is our biggest threat and opportunity! Scientific research has proven that decades of living in an unhealthy culture has and will continue to be detrimental to our lives, medically, physically, and emotionally; yet the government isn’t stepping up and doing what is right. Their judgment is clouded by the financial gains at stake, so they tend to turn a blind eye to the problem. The increase in chronic diseases is skyrocketing along with health care costs and yet we know the culprit (inactivity, poor nutrition) but no serious action is being taken. This is an epidemic and we must wake up. The FDA should take drastic action to put tighter food manufacturing restrictions on the food industry AND put physical education back into our school curriculums. We are in the midst of a Culture Clash and here in lies my pursuit for the next 5 years!