Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre Brings Wellness Opportunities to the Workplace

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) is taking wellness seriously. As part of a strategic visioning and renewal process, Prevention and Screening Services emerged late last year as a new service to help promote and support wellness across the entire Health Sciences Centre. Some of the work of Prevention and Screening takes place off campus, but there’s plenty to do on campus too with a staff of 2700 people – not including hundreds of students, physicians, and others.

Staff Get Moving

From early spring to late fall, Prevention and Screening runs a weekly walk/run group open to staff of all ability levels. The group is a fun way to develop new relationships with colleagues and inspires people to stay after work for a bit of exercise and a visit. Group participants have been known to use the walk/run group as a springboard for more regular or prolonged activity in their lives including daily walking, progressing to regular running, and even entering competitive events.

Fresh Market On-Campus

In time to capture the harvest season, this September Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s (TBRHSC) Eat Smart! Team partnered with local farmers to launch an on-site fresh market. The Fresh Market strengthens TBRHSC’s vision of Healthy Together by giving staff, patients, families and visitors the opportunity to purchase locally grown food. It was a great opportunity to promote healthier eating habits by educating people about what they can do with beets, turnips, chard, beans, and a cornucopia of other farm fresh items.

Recipes and nutrition information give people the knowledge they need to make food choices that are a good fit for their lifestyle and tastes. “By reminding people of local food options available to them, we stimulate interest in trying new recipes that are creative, tasty, and healthful,” says TBRHSC Director of Prevention and Screening, Alison McMullen. “With just a few ingredients and a little time in the kitchen, you can have a made-from-scratch meal on the table that is delicious and nutritious.”

TBRHSCH Health and Wellness Event

Wellness is not just about food. In October, all TBRHSC staff were invited to Take Care of Business at an inaugural Health and Wellness Event. This drop-in event offered tangible screening and prevention opportunities as well as information and resources to spur and ignite interest in healthy lifestyle change.

Scores of people came. Visitors to the event could have their blood pressure tested; screen for diabetes risk and check their blood glucose level; get a flu shot; receive a Heart Health Assessment; find resources for tobacco cessation; get tips for staying active; take the Work/Life Balance Quiz; pick up Canada’s Food Guide; learn more about TBRHSC employee health benefits; and much more.

On-Site Breast and Cervical Screening

In addition, female staff could squeeze screening into their work day with both Pap tests and mammograms available on-site. Interested women called a Confidential Cervical Hotline to book both their breast and cervical appointments and took a short walk down to Occupational Health and Safety, stepped outside to the Ontario Breast Screening Program mobile coach, or headed to diagnostic imaging to visit the Linda Buchan Centre for Breast Screening and Assessment.

Women were very positive about on-site screening, and felt that the opportunity to conveniently screen during their work day was terrific. One participant wrote, “I think this is wonderful. Everyone is so busy and we tend to neglect ourselves.”

Your health. Your workplace. Your voice.

Before the year is out, TBRHSC Prevention and Screening staff will complete an all-staff survey that asks staff, “What do you need to be healthy?” Responses to the survey will give valuable insight into how staff perceive their level of wellness, and guide future health and wellness initiatives in the workplace. The Staff Health & Wellness Survey takes just 5 to 10 minutes to complete (online or through hard copies) and participants have a chance to win an iPod shuffle or gift cards for our on-campus coffee shop.

Tackling Flu Season

Research shows that when flu shots are provided to healthcare staff, frequency and severity of influenza outbreaks are reduced, along with influenza-associated illness in patients. Healthcare staff immunization also minimizes absenteeism and reduces the financial burden on healthcare organizations. But in spite of the evidence, immunization rates among staff in hospital settings remain well below the public health target of 100 per cent.

Three years ago, in an effort to improve influenza immunization rates at TBRHSC, Occupational Health and Safety came up with an innovative approach. In addition to the Department’s regular program of providing immunization to staff through departmental pre-bookings and individual appointments, it inaugurated a “roving” immunization cart under the leadership of Occupational Health and Safety Manager, Lorraine Campbell.

The roving carts have been a great success. An advance e-mail is sent to department managers allowing them to pre-book the roving cart. Managers then advise staff when immunization has been booked for their department or meeting before the team of two to three nurses arrives with the cart.
Remarkably, the fast paced and high pressure Emergency Department proved most receptive and appreciative of the immunization visits, and the Housekeeping Department was another exceptional supporter, says Debbie Babiak, Occupational Health Nurse. “It’s the convenience of having it done at work, whether it’s influenza immunizations or screenings,” she says.

In addition to planned visits, the roving cart makes unscheduled stops, especially to nursing units, to ensure that staff on all shifts can get immunized.“It’s important to have someone on the team, such as a senior nurse, who knows people on the unit, or who isn’t afraid to say, `Hi, have you had your flu shot yet?’” says Babiak. But there’s no pressure; the roving cart nursing team uses a friendly approach and never pursues those who refuse immunization. As additional incentive, participating staff are entered into a draw for gift cards at the end of the flu shot campaign.

Not including countless physicians, volunteers, students and security staff who use the mobile immunization clinics, last year, 1,173 staff members were immunized by March 2012 – this year, TBRHSC hopes to see that number increase.