Health care workers face a range of unique risks to their health and well-being on the job. They may be at increased risk of suffering from burnout or exhaustion, often experience lost-time injuries as well as higher rates of violence and client aggression. An ageing workforce, stress and fatigue also contribute to a high-turnover in nursing staff, which can put a strain on limited hospital resources. A healthy and supportive workplace can make all the difference.
Trillium Health Partners created CareWorks to ensure that the hospital is taking care of the people who take care of its patients. “Our people are our most valuable and trusted resource in providing outstanding, high- quality patient centred care,” says Morag McLean, Vice President, Human Resources, Volunteer Resources and Organizational Effectiveness. CareWorks, which developed from the hospital’s wellness strategy, is an innovative customer service program designed to support staff in their own work environment, and support physicians and staff to help manage and prevent lost-time injuries.
The program is an inter-professional initiative that draws on resources from areas including Human Resources (HR), Employee Health, Safety and Wellness, Patient Relations, and Learning and Organizational Development. CareWorks aims to identify and address issues of concern amongst health care workers. It differs from other health and wellness programs because it creates plans that are specifically tailored to the needs of a given unit. For example, palliative care nurses, who are emotionally exhausted might need a plan that focuses on compassion fatigue, whereas, a pharmacy staff member may need support that is rooted in physiotherapy, stretching and realignment of their workspace. CareWorks’ inter-professional approach responds to the unique needs of each unit in order to provide staff with an environment that enables them to work to the best of their ability.
“The goal of CareWorks is to create and sustain a stimulating and quality work environment, that will attract, retain and develop the best prepared workforce of individuals and teams, who are inspired to do their best,” says Julie Fischer, Clinical Leader, Employee Health, Safety and Wellness at Trillium Health Partners. “As a result of receiving targeted and dedicated integrated support, we believe our staff can excel at championing inspired health care in a positive, healthy work environment.”
The CareWorks program can be initiated on a unit by the Employee Health, Safety and Wellness team in a number of ways, including: analyzing employee survey results, HR indicators such as sick time and turnover rates, and receiving feedback from Patient Relations or unit mangers. The team works collaboratively with the unit to create an inter-professional program tailored specifically to address the issues of a given unit.
With a focus on physical, occupational and psychosocial wellness, CareWorks aims to educate and empower employees to become engaged in safe work practices, reduce workplace stress and increase their satisfaction. Program interventions often include increasing awareness and knowledge of preventing illness and accidents, identifying and controlling workplace hazards and improving safe work practices. There are also a number of items that address health and wellness including teambuilding opportunities, workstation assessment, physical assessments by a physiotherapist and a weekly connection cart that provides healthy snacks for all on site in-services.
With a 96 per cent satisfaction rate CareWorks has been a tremendous success with staff. Catherine Sodoski, Patient Care Manager, Oncology says, “I have seen a reduction in sick time since the program was rolled out, and that is good for our patients, our staff and our organization as a whole. This is a valuable program for the organization and it makes our staff feel valued by the organization as well.”
Fischer and her team are extremely pleased with the results they have seen to date, but they are not going to stop there. “Going forward we want to do more follow-up with our units after we have completed a program to see how they are continuing to implement and practice the tools gained from CareWorks,” said Fischer. “We are exploring ways to continue to grow the program to have an even greater impact across the hospital.”