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Wellness: Helping the Helpers

Wellness: Helping the Helpers

Of course the team at St. John’s Health is dedicated to patient wellness at all stages of life, but equally important? The wellbeing of our staff. Keeping employees from every sector of the St. John’s team as happy, healthy, and resilient as possible translates into endless benefits in the hospital and beyond.

“Our mission is to serve the staff community by improving their overall essence of wellbeing in their minds, bodies, and spirits,” explains Natalie Stewart, the Wellness Director at St. John’s Health. In her role, Stewart collaborates with team members Torrie Gold and Julie Blanton — as well as across other departments and with outside organizations — to offer stellar programming built around the pillars of Lifestyle Medicine.

Focusing on the foundations of a healthy lifestyle, the programs focus around nutrition, exercise, high-quality sleep, stress management, mindful substance use, and positive social connection. Over the past few years — even in the face of social distancing and the overwhelming demands of the pandemic — Stewart has developed and implemented a diversity of programs available to all employees.

“We’ve brought in professional trainers from the community to teach movement classes like yoga, MELT, and pilates,” she explains. “As well as community members with other forms of expertise to help folks build positive connections while learning something fun and new.” From lessons in French to learning to play the ukulele or spin a hula hoop, these classes are aimed at getting diverse groups of staff members to forge strong, positive relationships. Other features include employee passes to Astoria Hot Springs, a golf tournament, and more. “We try to be out of the box!” says Stewart.

Other offerings are more focused on restorative wellness habits like meditation and how to set yourself up for high-quality sleep. “Rest isn’t just physical,” explains Stewart. “It’s also mental, intellectual, social, and spiritual. Developing healthy rest habits is what brings us from being depleted to reinvigorated.” Other classes promote stress management strategies, grief management, and other mental health-building tips.

Stewart also had to get creative around how to maximize the accessibility of all Wellness programming at St. John’s Health. Facing the challenges of a staff that works varying shifts around the clock, as well as many employees who live in the outlying communities of Star Valley or Teton Valley, her team decided to film and archive each one of the Wellness events and classes. “We acknowledge the fact that our staff just isn’t all in Jackson, but with the video library, that’s not a barrier anymore. It’s available whenever people need or want to look at it.” Classes also include bilingual translators, who ensure that Spanish-speaking staff don’t face a language barrier to any of the content.

The entire library, says Stewart, is accessible to the public as well; the tips and recommendations are far from exclusive to healthcare providers and support staff at St. John’s Health. To further the health of community members, the Wellness Department is now offering individualized coaching for anyone in the local community (or beyond). “Our Lifestyle Medicine Coaches help you make progress toward long term health by breaking down goals into smaller, realistic, and attainable steps. As each step is accomplished, you build momentum toward attaining your ultimate goal.”

Coaching packages are tailored to an individual’s needs and goals, and conveniently managed via a phone app. “It’s all about empowering people to take control of their own wellness to achieve what they envision for themselves,” says Stewart. And that control will hopefully help community members recover from illness or injury, or — better yet — prevent them from becoming patients in the first place.

Both at the community level and the St. John’s level, increasing overall wellness is a win for everyone, Stewart says. “Caring for everyone’s wellness, including our staff, is truly what’s righteous. It’s compassion in its highest form.”

Not only is it ethically right to prioritize employee wellness, Stewart adds, but science has backed the positive impact that Wellness programs have. “Exceptional caregivers are fully invested. Patients have an experience provided by people who are happy — because as employees, they work somewhere that wants what’s best for them. That energy perpetuates, radiates forward, and creates a truly more healing hospital.”

Especially in a post-COVID era, leadership at St. John’s Health understands that working in healthcare can be exceptionally stressful. Moreover, there are plenty of other stressors at work in many employees’ lives, says Stewart. In order to maximize their health and happiness — and thereby their commitment to St. John’s and ability to provide unmatched patient care — it’s critical to offer robust and dynamic support.

“There are so many things out there that we can’t control, like the housing shortage,” reflects Stewart. “Here, we’re striving to give our employees tools to better handle other factors and take great care of themselves, creating an even better environment all around.”