How do you see the role of Occ Health?
We take care of employees, so they can take care of the patients. Our employees are our biggest asset and if they're not healthy, happy, functioning and productive, then the organization can't perform its function, which is to treat sick children. So my job is to make sure that our employees are the healthiest, safest and happiest they can be.
What changes have you made so far?
We've renovated our space and added an exam room. In trying to improve our patient flow, we found that even though walk-in clinics sound convenient, they don't work because so many people come at the exact same time. So were moving toward an appointment-only system and asking employees to call ahead for everything except for annual TB testing and, of course, if they're injured. We also expanded our hours of operation; were now open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. My goal is to expand hours further, work on our scheduling system and service employees more quickly.
What are some of your goals?
One way we could be influential is to screen employees for early indications of problems like hypertension, diabetes or depression. This would be beneficial to the organization, too, since the hospital pays for most of employees health care costs. Plus, absenteeism is costly to a hospital since we have so many specialized positions: If a surgeon is out with a chronic disease, you can't necessarily replace her. Also, we hope to do more episodic care, so if someone has a sore throat, she can run over here for a strep test instead of leaving campus for a doctors appointment.
What changes are you excited about?
Im excited about our health and wellness initiatives, including our new walking group. We have three groups that meet at different times by the Parking Office and we take half-hour or 45 minute walks together. As the program takes off, well probably add more groups. The plan is to have fun and build fitness and we have incentives: We'll reward people with prizes based on how much they walk. Were also going to participate in the Public Health Commission's Take the Stairs Campaign, which encourages people to walk up or down the stairs instead of riding elevators or escalators as a way of building a healthful lifestyle. Also, were partnering with Fitcorp on new fitness initiatives. Their trainers will lead some on-site 20-minute core conditioning classes, and we launched a yoga class on Monday evenings in One Autumn Street to rave reviews.
Are you offering ergonomic screenings?
Definitely. We see lots of repetitive strain injuries and want to help employees avoid them. The biggest thing to remember when you're at your desk is that your legs and knees should be at 90 degree angles, with your back straight. Lots of people don't realize their chairs are adjustable, and they should lower it so their feet touch the floor. You don't want to hunch over—you should sit back in your chair and the chair shouldn't rock. When typing, your hands are supposed to be tilted down a bit and your wrists free-floating. The computer monitor should be an arms length away. Also, if you're always reaching for your mouse, you could wind up with neck, or shoulder problems. Any employee can call us for a personalized assessment or group training if they're not sure if their work station is properly set up.
How can we stay healthy at work?
Take good care of yourself. You are no good to your patients if youre sick, stressed out or in any way compromised. Deep breaths will help you deal with stress and fatigue. Its critical to wear personal protective equipment to protect yourself from hazards such as blood and body fluids. Stretching is important. Take five-minute breaks during the day to do wrist and back stretches. If stretching every 20 minutes isn't realistic, just stretch back a bit every time you stand up. Fitness doesn't have to be onerous. Little things will make a difference and help you feel good. My favorite exercise is to sit at your desk, cross one leg, keep your back straight and bend over a bit. You wouldn't believe how much that stretches your back, and no one has to know you're doing it. If anyone would like to request a fitness-at-your-desk seminar for your department, we can do those. Or, if you'd like to make suggestions for other training sessions, let us know.
What are some summer health tips?
Incorporate healthy choices into your life, like walking to work and eating fresh fruit instead of raiding the vending machine. Drink lots of water in the heat. Take one of our new 20-minute Fitcorp classes. If you do that even once a week, its a great start. Also, we have pedometers available for anyone who wants one. You should walk 6,000 steps a day for fitness, and 10,000 to lose weight. Remember, every little bit helps. Occ Health is here as a resource to you for any health needs or questions. We help take care of you, you take care of kids and families; everybody wins.