I currently serve as the Administrative Director of the Corporate Health and Wellness Department for Mercy Springfield Communities which employs approximately 10,000 people. It is part of Mercy, the fifth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. which serves millions annually with 40,000 co-workers. Our program began in Springfield in 1994 and since then, it has become the model for all of our Mercy communities.
I’ve been employed at Mercy for 35 years, starting as a registered nurse in the ER and then a flight nurse with our helicopter team. Before moving to our wellness department, I served as the director of Mercy’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program educating patients and their families on healthy lifestyles.
Alongside offering guidance to the wellness program for Mercy co-workers, I meet with area businesses and community leaders to develop onsite health and wellness goals for employees and public health venues.
Healthification at work!
I received my nursing degree from St. John’s School of Nursing and post graduate work at Drury University, Springfield, MO, in Marketing and Business. After nursing graduation, I worked as an Emergency Trauma Nurse, completed many hours in critical care including ACLS, PALS & ATLS. I became a Paramedic Examiner and Instructor and examiner for Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider courses. I received my CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse) and also became an instructor for the CEN certification course. I have been certified by ACSM and as a Health and Wellness Coach. Together, the nursing and coaching certifications have proven to be the most valuable.
Our programs have received numerous awards including global publication and the WELCOA Gold Award in 2009 and again in 2013. And I achieved WELCOA Faculty Status in 2011.
I chose health and wellness to inspire others to live healthy. Early onset heart disease runs in my family, giving me a personal incentive to be healthy. I believe that prevention is key and have witnessed many diseases in my career that could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.
I gathered a group of Mercy co-workers who were at high risk for metabolic syndrome and invited them into a coaching program to achieve healthier lifestyles. I am a strong believer in the coaching system because it offers individuals the chance to take personal responsibility and community responsibility in their health decisions while receiving support and accountability from their coach and helping to create a social responsibility as well. To make a lasting transformation, it is important for people to find the intrinsic desire to change.
There were 26 participants in this 10-week pilot program. The program covered all aspects of risk factors associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Interventions included biometric measurements before and after the program, telephonic coaching, personal training sessions, group exercise, nutritional lectures, field trips to the grocery store and psychological consultations.
We saw a 23% average reduction in insulin levels and an 8.6% reduction in waist measurement along with decreases in cholesterol levels, weight and BMI. Several of our participants were able to reduce or stop taking blood pressure medication. The program allowed our co-workers to gain the knowledge they were missing to make healthy choices and they can now pass that along to friends and family and the community.
Our organization has invented the word “Healthification” to describe our wellness efforts. The culture is changing every day to support healthy lifestyles, including an online portal where co-workers can track exercise, weight, calories and read/watch educational materials. I have led the initiative for healthier foods in vending machines and at business meetings. We have signs up on soda machines with reasons why you should drink water instead. We have a weekly farmer’s market onsite to give co-workers the opportunity to buy local fresh food. We have walking paths indoors and outside and offer fitness center discounts.
WELCOA’s 7 Benchmarks are a part of everything we do at Mercy. (1) Our leadership is very supportive in all our wellness endeavors and regularly participates in group activities. We have developed a program called “Walking with Rob” where our co-workers can take a 30 minute break and walk and chat with our CEO. (2) We’ve had a wellness committee for 20+ years. We have wellness captains in each department who serve as our feet on the ground representatives. We have a Healthification team made up of various Mercy leaders that plan activities and address cultural change. (3) We track biometric data and participation and use results to drive our efforts. (4) We develop an operation plan yearly with our Healthfication committee where we carefully develop goals and objectives. (5) We send out surveys, look at biometric results and do cultural audits to develop wellness programs to address the areas of highest need. (6) We offer healthier options in our cafeterias and even offer discounts for choosing healthy items. We have several marked walking trails with maps and markers and offer quarterly wellness zones allowing our co-workers to participate in wellness demonstrations and programs they might not normally. (7) We consistently look at our healthcare utilization report to see how we can lower utilization and cost.
I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. I exercise each day and participate in local community events and Mercy Healthfication events. I buy local fresh food and even grow my own herbs and vegetables. I maintain a normal BMI and get my annual physicals and mammograms.
I have been blessed with supportive leadership throughout my career that has allowed me to use my nursing skills and develop my passion for health and wellness. As the director of cardiac rehab, I quickly became familiar with heart disease – the causes and prevention methods. I was able to lead and educate co-workers, patients and their families to make better choices.
My advice to future health and wellness leaders would be to understand all aspects of what makes you healthy, including stress, exercise and nutrition in order to see the big picture. You must walk the talk yourself to inspire others to make the change. I also believe that coaching can be used in everyday life and all leaders should look into the certification program.
One technique that I believe has proven to be an innovative solution is Well Coaching. Helping people to realize that change does not happen unless they are in the driver’s seat has boosted a lot of positive results. Example: We implemented the coaching technique with our tobacco cessation program resulting in one of the highest success rates in the country with a near 60% success rate tobacco free after a year. In fact, a succinct medical overview of our cessation program has been published in a global publication. You get across the finish line much faster if you have the intrinsic desire to change you behavior.
In the next 5 years, I’d like to see more engaging programs in the wellness field versus programs that are not results-oriented (answering surveys). I want individuals to find the internal satisfaction for achieving a health goal – not have the mindset that they should be rewarded with money or other prizes.
I plan to continue the well coaching technique. I want to keep seeking to engage people to make a change. I will walk beside them and work with individuals to help them imagine a healthier life and guide them into putting their plan into place. I want people to be in control of their own success.