I received my Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics from Kansas State University. After practicing in the field for 12 years, I decided to pursue a Master's Degree and graduated with an MA from the University of Alabama in Health Studies/Health Promotion. Combining my Registered Dietitian credential with my Certified Health Education Specialist credential was a natural fit. While working on my master’s I became interested in worksite wellness and was excited to accept my current position as Manager of Employee Wellness for the Olathe Public Schools six years ago. Olathe Public Schools is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state of Kansas with over 29,000 students and 4,500 staff members spread throughout 64 locations. While my main focus is on the health and wellness of employees in our school district, I often assist with student health and wellness programming as well.
I am passionate about health and teaching others to make good choices. I believe teaching individuals the skills to make healthy choices is key in developing lasting good health habits.
1. Professional Development
As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Health Education Specialist, I continually participate in continuing education through reputable organizations and programs, such as the Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition practice group and the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. I also participate in the WELCOA webinar series on a regular basis and I am proud to be a WELCOA Faculty member. Going through the WELCOA Well Workplace Award process has been an integral part of my growth as a worksite wellness professional.
2. Demonstrated Success
Collaborating with others is essential in spreading messages and gaining support for a successful employee wellness program. Our Healthy Lifestyle Target is a result of collaboration. Working with our teachers’ union, along with the support of our district administration, we increased our health insurance premium wellness discount requirements. Members initially participated in a health screening and the health risk assessment. They are now asked to also be tobacco free, log physical activity and complete an Eat Smart program. This change increased the discounted dollar amount as well. These components were selected to help address our top risk factors of body weight, blood pressure and stress. We worked with our technology department to create our own physical activity logging system. We also created an employee wellness webpage that houses a variety of Eat Smart options as well as provides a one stop shop for employee wellness information.
We continue to monitor our health risk assessment and health screening data regularly and create programs to meet the needs of our employees. Participation in the healthy lifestyle target has grown from 80% the first year, to 88% this year. Based on our Time 1, Time 2 and Time 3 aggregate data comparing individuals over a 3 year period that took the HRA each year, we have seen an improvement in certain health measures and the self-report of overall health improved in the very good and excellent categories for year. As I have reviewed best practices around the country and participated in a multitude of workshops and webinars on employee wellness, I know that we can’t be static in our efforts. We are continuing to think strategically and consider our next steps.
Our focus for wellness does not stop with only working with those on our health plan. We have the great opportunity to help all of our employees improve or maintain their health. As part of our wellness programming we offer a variety of health challenges, fitness classes, flu shots and an employee assistance program. We monitor participation in all components of our programs. We have consistently seen participation completions rates of our health challenges at or above 50%. We are pulling in the elements of total well-being into our programming and seeing the benefits. A recent physical activity challenge encourage teaming up for a friendly competition among area school districts. We brought home the trophy for the most average minutes of physical activity, but the real award was seeing the 650 plus district employees encourage each other to be physically active.
Each employee is unique and we are striving to providing programs that move people from where they are to where they want to be.
My health is very important to me, as is being a positive role model for others. I try to inspire others through demonstrating a positive attitude and practicing what I preach.
I serve on several district committees and lead our Benefit’s –Wellness Subcommittee as well as co-chair our Nutrition & Wellness Committee. I am often asked to write for school newsletters and present to health classes. Additionally, I co-authored a chapter on Employee Wellness in the 2nd edition of School Nursing: A Comprehensive Text.
In my professional field, I have a supportive network which allows me to grow personally as well as help others. In addition, I serve as a preceptor to area university programs. I feel that working with students is not only a benefit for them but also provides growth for me and my department. My advice to students and other workplace wellness leaders it to be part of a network of other professionals in your field.
Time will always be a factor in participation, but we are striving to break this barrier by providing programming that is efficient, meaningful and behavior changing. We found that having programs at the end of the day or over the lunch break had poor participation. After reviewing participation and visiting with other wellness coordinators in my network, we decided to run an electronic book study. Our initial study had 132 participants and 86% completion rate. Since then our participation has more than doubled and the completion rates have been consistently above 50% with each study. We continue to improve our studies based on participant evaluation and technology. Changing our focus from on-site educational sessions to convenient online book studies has impacted the culture in district buildings; staff are sharing the valuable resources they receive with co-workers and encouraging them to participate.
5. Compelling vision
As the field of worksite wellness continues to grow, I believe opportunities lie in innovation and individualization. Practitioners must have an understanding of research and best practices, but then use the knowledge to help their organization find the best fit for their workforce and environment. Programs must evolve and continually evaluate the needs of their workforce. Leaders and good practitioners must see the group as a whole, but also work to provide opportunities for staff to grow and improve at an individual level.
I believe that sharing between practitioners is essential. I am fortunate to meet with worksite wellness coordinators in my area regularly. Sharing ideas, brainstorming as well as discussing struggles with other practitioners is an immeasurable benefit. As the field continues to grow and evolve, the need for sharing of best practices will continue and aid in helping improve the health of our countries workforce.