Hospital Employees’ Health

Diverse group of hospital workers

Hospitals are one of the first places people go when they feel sick. To care for others, hospital employees must stay healthy. Hospitals can provide workplace wellness programs to improve employee health.

Hospital employees across the United States often face long hours, a fast pace, and stress from a job that can have life-or-death consequences. While taking care of others, they can sometimes ignore their own health.

National Hospital Week takes place every year around the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), the founder of modern nursing. It celebrates hospitals, health systems, and the women and men who support the health and well-being of their communities. National Hospital Week provides a chance to thank hospital employees for their contributions. It also gives hospitals an opportunity to focus on employees’ health. To support employee health year-round, many hospitals have started worksite wellness programs.

He Was a Ticking Time Bomb

Male hospital worker standing outside building

Fitz received life-saving health advice through a workplace wellness program at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.

Meet Fitz, a 51-year-old hospital employee in Jackson, Mississippi, who didn’t realize he was a ticking time bomb until he went for a free annual health screening as part of his hospital’s Healthy LivesExternal workplace wellness program.

The veteran health professional knew how to remain calm under stress. For 17 years, he has moved patients between their rooms and surgery at St. Dominic’s Hospital. Although he was cool as a cucumber, Fitz was having his own health emergency—and didn’t even know it.

“I went to a Healthy Lives screening in 2016 because I wanted to take advantage of our workplace wellness program,” says Fitz. “I was feeling fine. I signed in and went to get my height, weight, and blood pressure checked. The nurse encouraged me to go straight to the emergency room because my blood pressure was very elevated.

“I reluctantly went to the ER. From there I was admitted to the hospital and sent to the intensive care unit for three days to correct my blood pressure and sugar levels. I had no idea I was diabetic.”

The scare convinced Fitz to get serious about his health. Thanks to the Healthy Lives program, he began to meet regularly with a registered dietitian at no charge. He also began to learn more about nutrition and ways he could make healthy changes to his diet. Soon he started swimming and walking at the hospital gym. Now Fitz has lost 25 pounds, brought his blood pressure and sugar levels under control, and been able to cut down on his medicine intake.

“I’ve been blessed because if it hadn’t been for St. Dominic’s program, I could have died,” he says.

Melissa Hinson, registered nurse and director of the Healthy Lives workplace wellness program, says, “With ever-changing employee needs, we work every year to bring new components into our program to engage our members.” Some of the recent additions to the program include healthier food and drink options in vending machines. Hinson also worked with the hospital’s dietary department to add healthier foods to the menu in the St. Dominic’s deli and cafeteria.

Her Heart Attack Was a Wake-Up Call

Like Fitz, a licensed practical nurse named Debra had a wake-up call that inspired her to make big changes in her habits. She works with very ill patients at Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth, Mississippi, and it can be stressful at times. To make matters worse, Debra was overweight, smoked, and had diabetes. At age 44, she suffered a heart attack, and doctors put stents in her arteries to improve blood flow to her heart.

“I decided to do something about it,” Debra says of her health problems. She took a class her employer offered on stress management. She lost 30 pounds after signing up for a weight-loss challenge and making a habit of treadmill walking at work. She entered a program at Magnolia Regional that helped her to stop smoking cigarettes. The Disease Management Program, sponsored by the hospital’s main Wellness Program, pays for her blood pressure and diabetes medicines. She is required to track her readings on monthly log sheets, attend wellness classes, and speak with her employee wellness nurse/coach regularly.

“I really appreciate the hospital putting the time and resources into this wellness program to help us get better,” she says. “We promote health and wellness. We should reflect that!”

Elizabeth Woodruff, registered nurse and employee wellness nurse/coach for Magnolia Regional’s Wellness Programs, calls Debra a superstar. “She has decreased her medications, lost weight, quit smoking, and is eating healthier and exercising.”

Most Hospitals Offer Workplace Wellness Programs

When it comes to promoting workplace health and wellness, St. Dominic’s Hospital and Magnolia Regional Health Center have plenty of company. In 2017, CDC conducted the Workplace Health in America Survey, the first nationally representative survey of employers, including hospitals, regarding their workplace health programs, policies, and practices since 2004. National estimates1 from the survey showed that:

  • 83% of hospitals in the United States provide workplace wellness programs, compared to 46% of all employers.
  • 63% of the hospitals offer health screenings, also known as biometrics, compared to 27% of all employers.
  • 31% of the hospitals provide health coaches, compared to 5% of all employers.
  • 56% of the hospitals have stress-management programs, compared to 20% of all employers.
  • 55% of the hospitals offer counseling to help employees stop smoking, compared to 16% of all employers.

1National estimates were based on weighted data from 2,843 employer worksites with at least 10 employees, including 338 hospitals that completed the survey.