Meet Program Manager for Chaplaincy Operations and Manager of Wellness Melinda Nasti. She’s been with Northwell Health for 10 years and her work has led to wellness becoming an important part of our employees’ daily lives. We talked to her about her journey, her motivation, and the simple steps we can take to improve our own mental health.
Q: Tell us about your role and how Northwell has helped you in your career journey:
Melinda: When I came to Northwell Health to train as a Chaplain, I already had a career in wellness as a Reiki Practitioner. As a Chaplain I realized that if you could support staff wellness you would not only be caring for them, you would also be improving their patients’ care. I began to offer Reiki and Guided Imagery to staff. Now I work with both the Chaplaincy and Wellness teams. As Chaplains we support the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of our patients, family and staff.
Q: What should people know about the work you’re doing to improve employee wellness?
Melinda: My wellness sessions include Reiki, Guided Imagery, Aromatherapy and Community Building. Reiki is hands-on natural energy healing. Both Reiki and Guided Imagery bring about a peaceful, deep state of relaxation, stress reduction and symptom relief.
I also do team community building if there’s been a staff death, multiple patient deaths in a short period of time, a conflict within a team, or simply to support staff wellbeing. Components of the retreat may include Reiki, Guided Imagery, Trust Walks, rituals and time for sharing. Teams may reconnect to why they came to work in health care and hear a little bit of each other’s stories in a safe space.
I try to transform the workspace into something more tranquil for the workshops – a serenity room. I layer it with aromatherapy, candles and soothing music. Sometimes staffs think they’re coming into a meeting and when they see the space, they immediately begin to relax.
Q: What kinds of opportunities are available at Northwell that you’ve found helpful?
Melinda: Northwell is very passionate about supporting employee wellbeing. Employee Wellness offers so many opportunities including Healthy Choices in the cafeterias, farmers markets, teaching kitchens, online self-help modules, and creating walking trails and workshops including everything from improving sleep to aging gracefully. And of course there is our system-wide walking challenge the “Walk to Dublin!”
Q: Why is wellness important to you?
Melinda: As a Chaplain, I’ve been on the front lines and seen how challenging the work is. By nature, people in health care are caregivers. They take care of everyone else but sometimes the self-care piece is lacking.
I was working with the night shift when a patient on a cancer floor walked by with his IV pole. He asked who I was and I said, “I am Chaplain Melinda.” He said “YOU’RE Melinda? I’d like to thank you. I don’t know what you did with the staff tonight, but whatever it was, I got the benefit.” In all the years I’ve been doing this that was the most rewarding moment I’ve ever had. It was evidence that when we take care of ourselves that care is passed on to our patients.
Q: What advice would you give people to improve their wellness?
Melinda: I’m a really big believer in the small things. There are some very simple breathing techniques: Stop, close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few moments.
If you cannot leave the workplace for lunch, swap desks with someone so that neither of you can reach your phones. Eat intentionally and pay attention to your food. Swap out just one unhealthy food for a healthy one. Lower the lights for a few minutes or shut the computer screen to give your eyes a break. Go outside and feel the sunshine on your face. Take a moment to think about everything you are accomplishing rather than focus on your do to list. Close your eyes and think about something or someone you are grateful for. These are small things that will improve your overall wellness.
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