With more than 100 employees, Sitka Community Hospital (SCH) is one of the larger employers in town. This year, SCH made huge strides toward becoming a nationally recognized "Well Workplace." After SCH co-hosted the Well Workplace University training in September 2006, Administrator/CEO Moe Chaudry appointed a core group and tasked them with building the foundation for the SCH Employee Wellness Team. This group included Jennifer Spriggel, Bill Spivey, Steve Warren, Diane Matteson and Elisabeth Crane.
"The most important thing about starting a wellness program is to remember to offer opportunities as opposed to targeting behavior," Crane said when asked what the keys were to starting a team. "People tend to get defensive about the latter, and it's very important to try and include everybody in a positive way."
Over the past several months, the team has updated two employee wellness bulletin boards created for both floors in the hospital; added a number of tasty and healthy options to the cafeteria menu; hosted an Alaska Marine Safety Education Association lunch-and-learn session on new developments in personal flotation devices; and tobacco treatment specialist Steve Warren provided free cessation services for staff and community members wanting to quit tobacco.
Wellness programs have been proven to save money in terms of reduced absenteeism, lower health care costs and increased productivity. Programs like this also show a sense of thoughtfulness and concern, Chaudry said. "I deeply care about our staff and their wellness. I believe that wellness at work is not only possible, but important for everyone. I am proud to be leading an organization that facilitates and supports wellness for all employees. Employee wellness makes common sense."
Future plans for the SCH Employee Wellness Team include a walking program, more lunch-and-learn sessions, and an innovative stress management program. Starting next month, a soft bell will tone over the intercom at key times during the work day to remind employees to join in a short wellness break.
The Sitka Employee Wellness Coalition is a community-wide organization promoting workplace wellness created as a follow-up to the Well Workplace University.
The coalition is co-sponsored by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital and the Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program.
The coalition's next brown bag lunch meeting is noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 20, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.