Prioritizing Self-Care and Well-Being at Northwell Health
Every year, Northwell team members can rely on our employee wellness programs and trust in the implementation of new initiatives designed to create a happy, safe, and healthy work environment. Our well-being isn’t meant to be checked at the door when we finish our workday; several of the resources and activities available are devised with employees and their families in mind such as healthy recipes developed by our dietitians for home cooked meals. And in some cases, as with our annual walk challenges, the encouragement to get healthy has a ripple effect, inspiring family and friends to join in hikes for the sake of motivating our team members along.
This year’s walk challenge, Walk to the Caribbean, saw thousands of team members trek across state parks, local gardens, and sandy beaches, tracking their steps for a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean. Three lucky teams claimed the winning prize: a team from North Shore University Hospital, led by team captain Lydia Brown, a team from Northwell Health Physician Partners Long Island Jewish Medical Center, led by team captain Anna Costakis, and a team from Lenox Hill Hospital, led by team captain Jacqueline Pinksbennett.
Participation in the walk challenges always runs high and it is just one example of many programs aimed at promoting wellness both in and out of work by incentivizing team members to get active by rewarding them with myRecognition points which can be used to claim amazing products through our internal portal. The health and wellness of our team members is a top priority to leadership in the organization and because of that our initiatives are actively encouraged, such as Northwell’s Well-Being Credit Program which offers employees who are who enrolled in a Northwell offered medical plan the opportunity to earn a maximum of $2,080 in paycheck credits in exchange for four healthy actions. It is our belief that a healthy workforce is a happy workforce, and therefore a successful one.
Read on to learn about a few more of the programs and resources that have made Northwell Health #2 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America by Healthiest Employers®.
Want to join an organization that puts employees first? Discover a career well cared for here.
Health and Wellness Isn’t Just about Our Patients: It’s about Our Team Members, Too
We spoke with Michael H. Goldberg, executive director at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJMC), about his dedication to making wellness a top priority for employees at LIJMC and all of Northwell Health. Michael’s healthy initiatives have had a real impact throughout the health system — and with tens of thousands of followers on social media, Michael has inspired people far beyond the walls of LIJMC with his passion for healthy living at home and at work.
Michael has been with Northwell for more than two decades, beginning as an intern in 2000. “I was inspired by the executive leadership’s commitment to improving the lives of the people in the communities we serve,” he says. “I knew Northwell had values that aligned with my own — and was a place where I could help make a difference.” Throughout his tenure, Michael has committed to living Northwell’s core values, whether it’s helping other Northwell team members achieve their health goals or driving clinical and operational initiatives at LIJMC that ensure safe, efficient and innovative care to all patients.
Northwell expects collaboration and contribution from all employees, regardless of role, considering its CEO is known for saying things like “Ability is in everyone” and for noting that innovation is stifled when employees are expected to just do their jobs and aren’t encouraged to share new ideas. So it’s no surprise that Michael continually goes above and beyond his operational responsibilities to champion initiatives promoting employee self-care.
These initiatives include the new LIJMC fitness center available to hospital employees 24/7, healthier meal options at campus cafés thanks to menu changes made by Northwell’s very own Michelin-star chef Bruno Tison, and health challenges like the Northwell Heroes Challenge. The annual Heroes Challenge, a testament to Northwell’s “team of one” culture with hundreds of employee participants, is a fitness event to raise money for the Caregiver Support Fund, which provides resources to team members in need, such as programs and services related to emotional and psychological well-being, as well as financial support for essential and crisis services.
Michael still marvels at how far Northwell leaders go to improve patient and employee well-being. “Wellness goes beyond physical and nutritional health at Northwell,” Michael says. “There are many offerings for mental wellness, too. From transcendental meditation to acupuncture to our employee assistance program, the support available to all our team members is unparalleled.”
That level of support inspired Michael to run in the 2019 New York City Marathon and upon announcing his commitment to running as part of the Northwell Health team, the accolades, tips, support and donations to the caregiver support cause on his behalf started pouring in.
That’s what you can expect from colleagues at Northwell. What you’d soon learn, as Michael knows so well, is that your coworkers aren’t just colleagues — they’re family.
If you’re looking for a workplace that does things differently — through a mission to create an environment where you can build relationships, thrive in positivity and make a difference in the community — then we invite you to discover a career well cared for at NorthwellCareers.com.
A recipe for culinary success — Northern Westchester wins Northwell Health’s 2021 Chefs Challenge
Each year at Northwell Health, we host the Chefs Challenge, where our chefs and their team members collaborate and create unique, healthy dishes that may be offered to their patients in the near future.
This year six Northwell Health hospitals recently competed in the 2021 Chefs Challenge at Glen Cove Hospital. Chefs, cooks and registered dieticians assembled to prepare healthy and delicious three-course meals within five hours — and using an assigned set of ingredients, in the style of an Iron Chef competition!
Northern Westchester Hospital was awarded first place in the competition. The winning menu included a butternut squash and shrimp wonton appetizer; entrée of braised lamb osso buco (shank) with spring vegetables, Yukon gold potato and slow-roasted cherry tomato; and caramelized pineapple upside-down cake dessert. South Shore University Hospital placed second, with a menu featuring butternut squash noodles carbonara, and Lenox Hill Hospital, whose meal included an herb and pistachio crusted rack of lamb, placed third.
Why join our culinary team?
When people consider hospital dishes, they usually don’t picture restaurant-quality three–course meals. Northwell Health believes in redefining hospital food because food is medicine, and our culinary departments strive to provide patients with the same level of nutritional care as the clinical care they receive altogether.
Our culinary department and chefs raise the standard of hospital food by designing meals with fresh ingredients, including herbs and vegetables harvested from Northwell Health’s gardens. Northern Westchester donates food from its recently opened wellness garden to discharged patients leaving who are food insecure or vulnerable, while Lenox Hill’s Victory Greens garden is New York City’s only hospital-based, organic rooftop garden.
In addition, our teaching kitchens partner chefs and registered dietitians together to share healthy recipes, basic culinary skills and nutrition education with team members and patients.
A Team of Trailblazers in and out of the Operating Room
The perioperative team at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJMC) and Cohen Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) takes their commitment to wellness very seriously. Not only the wellness of their patients, but also their own wellness and that of their colleagues. This is why recently the group of 14 registered nurses, certified surgical technicians, surgeons, managers, and support staff from LIJMC and CCMC laced up their hiking boots and hit the trails, something they do together regularly.
While these outdoor team-building exercises are a great way to enjoy nature, they are also a chance to get to know one another better and form bonds that help them work better as a team inside the operating room. . “Forming a better relationship/bond with your co-workers helps us work better as a team while at work,” says Danielle Colwell, assistant nurse manager, patient care at CCMC. “You gain more respect for one another and are more eager to assist each other when the need arises, which in the operating room is quite often.” It’s that kind of commitment, support and mutual respect among colleagues that makes Northwell Health a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®.
Northwell encourages its employees to find ways to make their wellness a priority both at work and outside of work. We provide the resources and support to make wellness more convenient and fun like incentives for exercising, such as walk challenges and wellness contests, as well as workshops, wellness apps, and access to resources for emotional and stress management, financial well-being, healthy eating, and more.
Nurturing wellness and empowering our people to decompress, get outside, and stay active however it best suits them is essential in healthcare. And we encourage and embrace opportunities for our teams to find ways to focus on their well-being together and bring that commitment and collaboration back to their careers at Northwell.
An Appointment With: Patricia Flynn, Assistant Vice President of Employee Wellness
Northwell Health’s Employee Wellness team helps enhance the well-being of every team member by delivering a healthy and safe work environment. Patricia Flynn, assistant vice president of Employee Wellness, helped develop the many programs that Northwell offers that guide our employees and their families.
Read our discussion with Patricia Flynn below to learn about the importance of well-being for our team members as we reflect on Employee Health and Fitness Month.
What is the significance of employee well-being at Northwell?
Caring for our patients begins with caring for our team members. At Northwell, well-being is so much more than a program; it is foundational to our culture – a culture that gives “permission” to be healthy! It includes healthy food choices, flexible leadership, resources for healthy living, and more. Well-being at Northwell is holistic – recognizing the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial aspects of our team members.
How does your team champion Northwell’s culture of well-being?
It is an honor and privilege to lead the professionals on my team. We exist to serve the Northwell team members, providing resources to support good health. The team is from varied backgrounds, covering the spectrum of well-being disciplines. We have public health professionals, registered dieticians, exercise physiologists, psychologists, health coaches, licensed clinical social workers and physicians. Everyone on the team is dedicated to helping team members.
How has the wellness initiatives helped our team members manage their mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond?
In 2021 during the pandemic, we spoke with our team members, asked how this was impacting their overall well-being, and listened in order to create impactful programs to support them.
The Employee Wellness team partnered with a variety of departments throughout Northwell to support our team members, including but not limited to Employee Experience, Chaplaincy Services, the Employee & Family Assistance Program, Behavioral Health Service line and the newly formed Center for Traumatic Stress, Resilience and Recovery.
By listening to our team member’s wants and needs, the team came together to design well-thought out programs and resources that included:
The well-being resource page – a focused well-being page that described all of our program offerings by topic area including emotional, mental, physical and spiritual.
The Emotional Support Resource Call Center – a call line manned by the Employee Wellness team 24/7 where team members called in for emotional support and mental health referrals during the pandemic. Today, the Emotional Support Resource Call Center enables team members to speak with an Employee Wellness team member, a member of our Employee Assistance Program or Chaplaincy Services.
An Employee Wellness YouTube channel – a channel that hosted over 100 videos including videos on guided meditation, deep breathing, self-care, healthy cooking, stretching, among others.
Healthy Choice at Home cookbooks – developed by our own Registered Dietitian, these easy-to-make and heart-healthy recipes provided team members with a creative stress relief outlet through cooking.
myHealthyBody Take 5 series – a series where team members could watch a pre-recorded stretch, have a certified personal trainer attend a team meeting, or join the myHealthyBody program and have a customized musculoskeletal program tailored to their needs. These were a hit among our team members and helped reinvigorate them before heading back to work.
The first Healthcare Heroes challenge – a fundraising effort for our team members in financial crisis which raised over $25,000.
And always a fan favorite among our team members, our “Walk to” challenge– an annual program our team members always look forward to and last year we continued our challenge virtually with Walk to the Parks.
What are some of the initiatives your team has planned for 2021?
Key priorities for 2021 are emotional well-being, supporting our team members’ families, a safe and healthy pathway back to the workplace and a continued focus on reducing chronic disease. We will also be launching another “Walk To” destination challenge. Last year over 20,000 team members participated in our Walk to the Parks.
In 2020 we also made progress in de-stigmatizing mental health – but much more work is needed. In 2021 we will continue to normalize the conversation around these issues.
This year, the Employee Wellness continues to bring a wealth of resources and support to our team members. We continued to ask our team members for feedback and listened to their needs through the Well-Being Support Survey, a collaborative survey with Employee Experience and the Center for Traumatic Stress, Resilience and Recovery.
As a result of what we heard, we are launching or have launched programs that include wellness workshops; projects around the importance of self-care and community; resources and programs for mental health; and an inspiration call line for our team members to receive uplifting messages of hope and encouragement.
What else should someone know about Northwell’s dedication to employee well-being?
A key success factor in any workplace well-being program is leadership commitment. At Northwell, it is real! Well-being IS the well in Northwell! Another key success factor is the integration of well-being into the plans of many partners and that has been critical here at Northwell. We partner with many teams across the organization.
Northwell Health’s Wellness Liaisons are an important part of our culture. More than 200 liaisons across the organization help enhance and support the well-being our of team members both mentally and physically by:
Influencing them to live a healthy lifestyle
Communicating system wellness initiatives
Implementing wellness programs in their departments
Hosting wellness workshops
Providing healthy tips and much more
Hear why our team members love being a Wellness Liaison and how they’ve achieved personal growth through healthy living:
Celebrating National Nutrition Month with Health Choice recipes
This National Nutrition Month, our Employee Wellness team and registered dietitians are helping educate team members across Northwell Health about making informed food choices. Their resources are helping improve well-being by providing the education needed to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits.
And at Northwell, we know our team members are all unique, with different personal and professional goals. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health, our Healthy Choice recipe videos provide instructions to a variety of recipes and dietary needs. Our team members even have the opportunity to submit recipes themselves, showcasing their favorite healthy dishes to eat at home with their family.
Join us at home with Loretta Desimone, outreach services associate from Staten Island University Hospital, to make her one pot, easy weeknight meal for the whole family.
Turning a passion for wellness into an impactful career at Northwell Health
An integral part of our success as an organization, especially as it relates to providing our patients with care that empowers them to lead healthier lives, are the healthcare professionals on our teams that lead healthy lives themselves. One person in particular who has been extremely impactful in this regard during her time at Northwell Health is Mystique Haynes, PTA, AAS, a physical therapist assistant at ORZAC Center for Rehabilitation.
Thirteen years ago, Mystique received her license as a physical therapy assistant (PTA), a move that would direct her steps on a path toward a rewarding career. Driven by her passion for health and wellness, she soon discovered incredible opportunities for growth at Northwell Health. “As a PTA in the sub-acute rehabilitation setting I work closely with nursing and medical staff to follow the patients’ prescribed treatment plans,” says Mystique. “I have had the opportunity to rehabilitate patients recovering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, joint replacements, fractures, amputations and much more.”
Now, as she approaches a decade as a dedicated and valued member of our staff, Mystique has found even more ways to bring her passion and purpose together though Northwell’s commitment to team member well-being. In 2018, Mystique was chosen by the Human Resources department to be on the wellness committee, and after only a few months in the role, she became the Lead Wellness liaison and spearheaded the facility’s program.
Encouraged to bring her own passion to her work, Mystique leveraged what motivates her to be at her personal best to drive impactful change within our company culture and her department at the ORZAC Center for Rehabilitation. With her hands-on approach and eagerness to help the lives of others, she began to introduce programming at Northwell that further pushed both her goal and ours of promoting healthier lifestyles. By educating on wellness and providing resources that team members can use to improve their overall health, Mystique believes it all comes down to one word: consistency. “Consistency is the key to longevity of the heart,” says Mystique, and her heart for the health of those around her couldn’t be more evident in her day-to-day.
As the lead wellness liaison, Mystique has developed and hosted activities like health and wellness fairs, walking trails, weight training, Zumba classes, line dancing, and self-defense training. Her work has helped encourage and incorporate a healthy lifestyle into the work culture of Northwell Health and lead our team members to a better version of themselves. And as a result, our patients also benefit as our team members are then able to pass that knowledge on. As Mystique explains, “We only get one body and wellness is a major source of determining our quality of life.”
Additionally, Mystique has created a space for team members at ORZAC to benefit from organic health produce through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA is an upfront investment in a local farm, which then provides weekly “shares” of the farm harvest. This promotes farm to healthy table eating by delivering a variety of seasonal vegetables, herbs and some fruit directly to ORZAC.
The work she does in wellness goes far beyond our facilities and overflows into the communities and lives of people she interacts with in her personal life too. “I try to pass along health tips, credible information, and encourage everyone around me to start where they are and to just keep moving depending on each individual person and what their needs are,” she says. “Being a wellness liaison is my opportunity to give back to Northwell to say thank you for investing in me, my co-workers and my family.”
Discover a career that invests in your passions at Northwell Health. Apply today!
Northwell’s Walk to the Parks step challenge is improving employee wellness
Focusing on team member well-being at Northwell Health is a walk in the park – a virtual one that is. 2,774 teams made up of 15,691 team members are virtually walking our National Parks as they compete in this year’s employee step challenge for the chance to win $5,000!
During our Walk to the Parks innovative employee step challenge, teams of six have six weeks to walk two million steps, the distance between all national parks. Tracking their physical activity, each day brings them one step closer to their goal and unlocks virtual destinations throughout their wellness journey. Any team that successfully goes the distance will be entered into the grand prize raffle – a $5,000 prize for each team member.
In these unprecedented challenging times, it’s more important than ever for our team members to find the time to focus on their own well-being. From walks outdoors during lunch to safely gathering in parks on days off, our teams are finding fun ways to get their steps in while gaining more energy, developing healthy habits and improving mental health. Additionally, for many of our currently remote employees, it provides a unique chance to connect with their teammates despite the temporary distance.
“Walk to the Parks is more than getting in your steps, it’s about team building, challenging yourself and taking time for your own well-being,” says Niha Malcomson, manager, Employee Wellness. “Now more than ever, it is something that is needed by all.”
And this isn’t Northwell’s first step challenge! Each year Northwell provides a fun opportunity to increase physical activity while allowing team members to focus on their own well-being in unique competitions. Last year’s Walk to Rome challenge included 2,018 teams who walked a total of 9,116,790,338 steps. That’s 4,558,395 miles – or enough steps to travel 183 times around the Earth!
With so many team members competing in this year’s challenge, Northwell Health is ready for a journey both to the parks and to better well-being.
Are you up for the challenge? Get moving and apply to Northwell Health today!!
Northwell Heroes Challenge promotes team member well-being while giving back
When our team members need help, you can expect everyone to rally behind them. The culture of giving runs strong at Northwell. That shined through during our first Northwell Heroes Challenge.
Inspired by a team member hoping to run a marathon to raise money for Northwell colleagues in need, a cross-functional team created the Northwell Heroes Challenge. This challenge was a way to encourage team members to focus on their well-being while raising funds in support of their colleagues.
Participants were encouraged to choose an activity and distance that fit their lifestyle, whether it be bicycling, running, swimming, walking, lifting, dancing or more. Over the next four weeks, team members trained and tracked their activity and movement on Northwell’s myWellness platform to meet their goals leading up to the first weekend in August when the challenge took place.
Partnering with Northwell’s Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Services (STARS) rehabilitation team, stretching and recovery exercises were shared throughout the challenge. Training materials were also provided including goals for beginner, intermediate and advance levels from the New York Road Runners, a Northwell non-profit partner that helps and inspires people to run the New York Marathon. Northwell’s wellness team also curated a nutritional guide featuring recipes for training and race day. These resources and more helped take care of our team members have fun and achieve their well-being goals.
“During the height of the pandemic, the well-being of our team members was something that we passionately invested in as an organization,” says Pat Flynn, assistant vice president, Employee Wellness. These trying times only brought to the forefront the importance of physical, psychological and emotional health, and it was inspiring to see our team members using all forms of movement to improve their own health and well-being goals while so generously supporting our Caregiver Support Fund.”
“The enthusiasm and generosity of the Northwell team is incredible. Providing support through the Northwell Heroes Caregiver Support Fund is a critical and timely need, and we are grateful to everyone who has donated to this important initiative,” says Brian T. Lally, senior vice president and chief development officer, Northwell Health Foundation. The Northwell Heroes Challenge is an extraordinary example of our mission and values coming to life through the Northwell team.”
And while giving back is a reward on its own, those who fundraised had the ability to reach three different goals with rewards including a certificate, points on our team member reward platform myRecognition, Northwell branded swag, and the chance to win the grand prize – a Peloton bike and one-year Peloton digital membership!
Julie Argueta, a unit service associate at Huntington Hospital was the lucky winner of the grand prize. “I joined the Northwell Heroes Challenge to honor the heroes who work with me at Huntington Hospital,” says Julie. “Their bravery and courage during the height of the pandemic inspired me to take challenges and reach goals with pride. What an honor for me to win this, I only wish I could get one for all the heroes on my unit. My daughter Alexus and I cannot wait to cycle to nowhere!”
Hear from some of our Northwell Heroes Challenge ambassadors, who led the way throughout training with motivational posts and tips:
“Having the honor of being ambassador for the Heroes Challenge, I witnessed firsthand how team members supported and motivated each other to meet their fitness goals. It was so inspiring and outcomes of the challenge surpassed my every expectation I had at the beginning of this journey. If we keep moving forward together, anything is possible!”
Elizabeth DowlingRegistered Nurse, MEETH Infusion Center
“When I learned about the challenge, I knew I had to take this opportunity to give back to Northwell to say thank you for investing in me, my co-workers, and my family. I also used it as a platform to encourage my friends and family to continue to invest in self-care by living a healthy lifestyle. I always tell them that you only fail when you stop trying.”
Mystique HaynesPhysical Therapist Assistant, Orzac Center for Rehabilitation
“Under normal circumstances, I’m a very active person. However, during the pandemic, I lost motivation. And seeing how our front line workers battled the virus, I wanted to help as much as I could. The challenge was an excellent opportunity for me to help my fellow Northwell coworkers and get back on track. It was a great feeling to raise money for a good cause, train together, and support each other.”
“I participated in the Northwell Heroes Challenge because I felt it was the right time to challenge myself. After months of just going into the hospital for work and returning home, I needed something to get me back into a healthier regimen and this good cause was the perfect motivation.”
Eric SiedenDirector, Nutrition and Food Services, Plainview Hospital
Johanna Moustouka embraced the Northwell Heroes Challenge as she continues her wellness journey
When Johanna Moustouka started her career journey at Northwell Health 11 years ago she looked forward to a career as a nursing assistant and to developing her skills professionally. She never realized the impact that the organization would also have on her personal life, especially on her wellness journey. Today, Johanna is a wellness champion and liaison at Northwell and also at home, and she is a triathlete who is always striving to reach her professional and personal goals.
Starting out at Glen Cove Hospital in the Rehabilitation Unit and eventually transitioning to the Emergency Department at Huntington Hospital, Johanna has gained career experience caring for patients with different illnesses. Along her Northwell career journey, she also became more aware of her physical and mental wellbeing, realizing that by living a healthier lifestyle she could help provide better care for her patients. Northwell has helped Johanna achieve her wellness goals by offering a great environment for leading a healthy lifestyle.
“I have always loved the wellness awareness and initiatives that Northwell provides to their employees such as, the yearly walking challenges, the wellness app, and the many events that Northwell sponsors as additional motivation,” she says.
Being a Northwell wellness liaison, Johanna also shares her wellness experiences with her colleagues at Huntington Hospital. She encourages her teammates to exercise including three-minute workouts on their breaks and going for walks. She realized if she was healthy and strong, she would be able to provide better care for her patients and her family. She also wanted to teach her five kids good wellness habits and instill in them that you can do anything you set your mind to, but you must lead by example. And, Johanna did just that.
Leveraging Northwell’s benefits, Johanna was able to instill healthy habits such as clean eating, clean shopping, and being physically active. This helped her family to adapt a healthy lifestyle! Johanna explained that her kids enjoyed partaking in her journey as a triathlete and training for the half marathon. They have done multiple 5k runs, completed races, and they go to the gym together. “I absolutely love how on board they are with all of this because it’s keeping them healthy and it’s extra bonding time for us,” she says.
Johanna leads a very active life and understands the true meaning of dedication. “Being a triathlete or a runner requires a significant amount of determination and discipline. You have to be able to balance work, family time and training. That could mean doing an open water swim or run at 5:00 am before punching into work at 6:45 am or a late afternoon or evening bike ride or run before bed,” Johanna said.
While working in the Emergency Room Department during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johanna saw how hard her team members were working and wanted to give back to her fellow heroes. She decided to participate in the Northwell Heroes Challenge during the first weekend of August. This wellness Challenge allowed employees to get moving while raising money for the Northwell Heroes Caregiver Support Fund, which provides programs and services to team members in need of emotional, psychological or financial support and more.
Johanna is a Northwell hero who goes above and beyond for her patients, the organization, and her family. Northwell’s culture and wellness encourages our employees’ growth professionally and personally, and Johanna is Made for this.
Northwell’s Employee and Family Assistance Program: Taking care of our team members
At Northwell Health, we’re committed to creating benefits that are as unique as our team members. As New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, we have more than 72,000 team members working to ensure we deliver compassionate care to our patients and communities. Our benefits help us to deliver that same compassionate care back to our team and their families in and out of the workplace.
One of these unique benefits is the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP offers complimentary confidential counseling services to employees and their benefits-eligible family members. These services provide short-term, goal-directed coaching and counseling designed to help resolve problems that impact work and home life.
The EAP provides counseling through in-person services, both at their main office and through a dedicated EAP team member at each of our hospitals. These one-on-one sessions help guide team members through specific issues they may be facing, whether it’s dealing with a stressful professional or personal challenge. Phone and telehealth services are also available to help support our team members.
Working in healthcare also means the potential of working through critical times. As our healthcare heroes deliver care through the COVID-19 outbreak, the EAP is there for continuous support. Currently the EAP is offering emotional support and referral services to all employees. Through partnership with the Behavioral Health Service Line, Wellness, and Human Resources, they’re ensuring that all team members get the support, services, and information they need to navigate through this crisis.
“Problems are a part of life,” says Margaret Kuzminski, the EAP program manager. “But unresolved issues can lead to a crisis that may affect an employee’s health, home life and/or job performance. The EAP offers goal-directed assistance and sometimes all it takes is just a phone call to help them get back on track.”
And the benefits go beyond just one-on-one meetings. Team members can participate in educational programs at The Center for Learning and Innovation or customized programs on-site that provide guidance on a variety of topics. Additionally, the EAP offers Northwell supervisors and managers programs to help them mitigate potential stresses in the workplace, such as interpersonal workplace concerns, recognizing team members in need of help, and developing training strategies.
How to strive and thrive on alternate work schedules
From more time spent with your family during the day to running errands without the crowds, there are a lot of advantages to working nights and weekends. We asked some of our Northwell Health team members who work shifts other than days about how they make the most of their alternate schedules.
Their tips? Technology, helpful neighbors and flexible spouses are just some of the things helping our team members manage their social lives and family time, including childcare.
Anacleto Bristol Ward Clerk, Emergency Services, Plainview Hospital
“I let [friends] know my time constraints and I reconcile my calendar with them. My phone’s calendar app is invaluable for this. I color code it with colors for work, night/social life and ‘me time.’”
Lucy Grant Administrative Supervisor, Northern Westchester Hospital “I have been doing this for 29 years. When the kids were young, my husband was there. I also was lucky enough to have a neighbor who babysat.”
When it comes to adjusting to a new shift, getting adequate sleep and shifting from work to family/social time and back, our team members suggested blackout curtains, preparing meals ahead of time and being organized about scheduling. Here are their tips and tricks for staying healthy:
Patrick Wang ED Technician, Emergency Department, LIJ Medical Center “Power nap on your breaks. Keep in touch with your friends and family but understand that you also need time to yourself to decompress. Everyone needs some alone time to ease their mind.”
Caitlin Vega Registered Nurse, Brain Injury Unit, Glen Cove Hospital “Avoid coffee after a certain time during the night and eat fruits instead. Work out, try to eat right and drink a lot of water.”
No matter what one’s work hours may be, balancing multiple priorities is a universal goal. We asked our shift workers how they make the most of their time off. Several said that doing chores and running errands when most people are at work frees up the rest of their time for what matters most: family, friends and healthy activities.
Amanda Zilnicki Registered Nurse, Emergency Department, Peconic Bay Medical Center “I sleep, clean, do yardwork, do homework, or go to the beach or gym. Great time because no one is home to bother you and public places aren’t as crowded.”
Natasha Vasquez Registered Nurse, Labor & Delivery, Southside Hospital
“I plan once a month group mommy dates and once a month date night with the hubby.”
Denise Walker Supervisor, Patient Access Services, Emergency Department, Peconic Bay Medical Center “I love riding my motorcycle, and during the day and during the week I get the most time in. When it’s a weekend, my husband and I will go for a ride and stop different places and enjoy the island. I also get the shopping done.”
Overall, we learned that our team members have impressive goals, are incredibly organized with their schedules, and are focused on healthy habits. With these helpful tips, they’re able to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle outside of their alternate work schedule.
Are you Made for delivering care on an alternate schedule? Apply today!
At Northwell Health, we know that wellness starts with our team members. By focusing on our employees’ wellness, we’re delivering a healthy, engaged workforce and a culture of well-being. With system-wide walk challenges, food and nutrition transformations, well-being programs and online resources, we’re constantly working to build on our commitment to our employee’s health.
Take a look at how we’ve helped our team members in 2019:
Our commitment to our team members’ well-being continues to evolve
Just as much as we’re focused on improving the wellness of our patients and communities, we’re committed to improving the emotional and physical health of our employees through a robust offering of well-being programs and resources. This year we worked to find new and innovative ways to do this and introduced several new confidential programs that use assessments, coaching, and follow-up resources to aid our team members in improving their well-being.
These resources were designed to assist employees in building personal healthy habits, manage stress, sleep better, plan care, and more conveniently and confidentially. It’s just one more way that we show our commitment and support for their physical and emotional health.
The newest web-based resource myHealthyBody helps individuals prevent and manage aches, pains and injuries through two different plans. The Prevention Plan helps all team members prevent common aches and injuries (musculoskeletal conditions dealing with muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones) through a series of exercise videos. The Recovery Plan offers a comprehensive online health assessment for team members and their dependents 16 years of age or older who are enrolled in a Northwell medical plan and suggests the appropriate care setting for treatment or provides an exercise program to self-manage recovery.
myJoyable is a web- and app-based tool behavioral health resource designed to help individuals with everything from day-to-day stress to more challenging behavioral health experiences for full-time employees. this digital behavioral health resource is provided by the experts at Joyable, at no cost to our non-union, full and part-time benefits-eligible employees. With myJoyable, team members self-assess their level of well-being and select from a choice of services to pursue an eight-week, well-being journey. Services include basic tools or activities, digital coach therapy, or a referral in-person therapy.
Northwell’s commitment to employee wellness goes all the way to Rome, Italy
1,900+ teams made up of over 18,000 Northwell employees are competing in the Walk to Rome challenge for a chance at the grand prize – a FREE trip to Rome! The walk is one of the many fun ways that showcases Northwell’s commitment to employee wellness across the organization.
“Everyone’s path toward wellness is unique, made up of various reasons, objectives and outcomes,” says Valerie Gundersen, manager of Employee Wellness. “The annual challenge offers a special opportunity to unite all of our paths into one shared journey toward wellness.”
Here is how the Walk to Rome works: During this innovative employee step challenge, teams of 10 will walk the distance from Dublin (the destination of last year’s challenge) to Rome, totaling approximately 3.9 million steps in eight weeks. Participants track their physical activity to unlock virtual destinations throughout the journey. Teams of ten who successfully go the distance will be entered into the grand prize raffle for a trip to Rome, Italy.
Teams inspire each other to get moving by planning walks during lunch, encouraging each other to take the stairs, and hosting even more walking activities outside of work hours. With a new interactive chat feature and friendly virtual competition against rival teams, there are plenty of ways to stay motivated during the challenge.
Last year’s Walk to Dublin challenge totaled more than 7.4 billion steps by the end of the eight weeks. An amazing 1,200+ teams completed the challenge and were eligible for the grand prize raffle.
Employees reported that because of the Walk to Dublin challenge, they had more energy, lost weight, engaged in teamwork, felt healthier and remained highly motivated to continue taking care of their health after the challenge was over.
And the benefits go beyond physical wellness! “The Walk to Dublin challenge was a great chance for me to become a part of the community at Northwell,” says Jonathan Bateman, an ED associate, “I was a new employee when it started and getting to be on a team helped me build relationships with my co-workers faster than I might have otherwise.”
With even more teams competing this year, Northwell employees are excited to ‘step’ it up to win big—and maybe even celebrate with some well-earned pasta and gelato in Rome.
Recipe for Success: Northwell’s teaching kitchens provide nutrition education for employees
At Northwell Health, we’re committed to the health and wellness of not only our patients and the communities we serve, but our team members as well.
Food is a foundation for maintaining good health, preventing sickness and maximizing clinical benefit. To help our staff learn the power of healthy food, Northwell has established free teaching kitchens across our healthcare system.
Making Nutrition Fun
Teaching kitchens combine culinary instruction with education to help participants learn which foods they should be eating more or less of and the best techniques for cooking them. Our nutrition education covers various topics including heart health, low refined sugar and high fiber. Team members are encouraged to use the same healthy and whole ingredients that Northwell chefs are using in our hospitals’ kitchens.
Employees who attend receive hands-on instruction from Northwell chefs and have the opportunity to sample a variety of nutritious food. These chefs partner closely with Northwell’s registered dietitians to host events that are not only informative but also fun. Samantha Gitlin, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital, says: “Northwell’s teaching kitchens provide the staff and community with exciting and interesting ways to include fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients and new cooking techniques into their daily lives.”
And these aren’t your typical meals! Recipes include everything from one pot Italian quinoa to Asian lettuce wraps with avocado cilantro slaw.
Bringing People Together
“We receive a lot of positive feedback,” says Katrina Hartog, MPH, RD, CDN, CHES, clinical nutrition manager, “but the most satisfying is when a participant says they’ve never tried the featured food or item, then walks away with the recipe to make it at home and sends their colleagues to participate!” The teaching kitchens have grown in popularity, and are also leveraged for for internal team building events as well as community outreach.
These lessons are just one of the education tools organized by the Food & Nutrition teams to expand cooking confidence and nutrition education for Northwell employees. Other initiatives include recruiting and developing chef and dietitians, implementing Northwell Healthy Choice nutrition criteria and staff education.
“My favorite thing is seeing how it brings everyone in the hospital together. We get participation from doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, dietitians, food service workers, and various ancillary staff,” says Bethany O’Dea, RD, CDN, CNSC, assistant clinical nutrition manager, “it is fun seeing everyone get excited about nutrition.”
What Makes us Human Makes us Made for This: How Northwell Health is helping battle burnout with the Schwartz Rounds Program
The discussion of burnout is a hot topic in today’s career landscape and this is especially true in healthcare. Operating in a high-stress and emotional work environment, healthcare professionals give so much to patients. At the same time, patients need professionals who deliver high-quality, personalized experiences from the staff that treats them. At Northwell Health, this is what our Culture of Care is built upon. We spoke with Pam Klatman, Director of Social Work, Cohen Childrens Medical Center about what our Patient Experience Team is doing to find the balance between great patient care and avoiding caregiver burnout.
As Caregivers in a large hospital system, our Culture of Care speaks to the way we provide care and go above and beyond for our patients and their families. We are taught to ‘find the yes’ and always use ‘LAST’ and ‘CONNECT’” says Pam, “This is easy when we have patients and families who are willing to allow us in but many times we have families and patients, especially in hospitals, that are angry, upset or frustrated.”
Patients and their families come to us in their most vulnerable state and often that evokes all kinds of feelings for those who treat them. Those emotions can have a serious effect on a health care professional’s mental wellbeing as well as their quality of work which is why our patient experience team is focused on the mental wellbeing, burnout, and resilience of every one of our valued employees. So what are we doing about it? Enter The Schwartz Rounds.
“Schwartz Rounds provides a confidential space for all caregivers to talk about the way a patient and their family made the caregiver feel or how a particular situation made them feel,” explains Pam, “It is important that when we have these feelings we process them and work through them so that we are able to handle the next obstacle that comes our way.”
This system-wide program gives our employees a regularly scheduled time during their fast-paced work lives to openly and honestly discuss these issues, to feel supported, and to properly process. Through this sharing, caregivers are better able to make personal connections with patients and colleagues when they have greater insight into their own responses and feelings. It’s a place to be themselves and to take care of their own emotional needs so they can go and continue to deliver excellent care to our patients.
And Pam knows that the effect of the Schwartz Rounds program doesn’t end there, “by showing compassion to our colleagues and supporting one another we take care of each other and in turn, take care of ourselves. It is a way to ‘recharge our batteries’ and feel more equipped to handle the challenges of the coming days.”
At Northwell Health, we believe that when we can share our experiences with each other and thus become better caregivers, coworkers, and people. What makes us human, is what makes us Made for this.
We’re helping employees to understand the facts about their own health — and improve it!
Every day, Northwell Health employees work to improve the health of our patients and communities. But who is looking out for their health? The Northwell Health Employee Wellness team is spreading the word about myWellness, an online platform for employees (also available on the Virgin Pulse mobile app). The tools on myWellness help employees build personal healthy habits, manage stress, sleep better, plan care for long-term illness, and so much more… Here’s a snapshot of this robust tool that’s Made for supporting our employees’ well-being:
Health Risk Assessment Tool
The Health Risk Assessment (HRA) is open to every Northwell Health employee who joins myWellness, not just those with the company’s health insurance plan. The HRA asks about current mental and physical health, family history, habits, and nutrition to determine a lifestyle score and heart age. The assessment is then broken down to show where someone is doing well, where caution is needed, and where it is time to take action. There’s real value in taking this assessment, since both the lifestyle score and heart age provide a snapshot of overall health, a snapshot that can help determine what kind of health plan works best, what lifestyle changes should be made, and what can be done to seize control of personal health and wellness.
A Personal Experience with Northwell Health’s Stress Management Tool
Stress can be a major driver of how we make day-to-day decisions that ultimately impact our health. Often, we develop unhealthy habits as a way to cope, such as overeating or excessively worrying. That’s why we incorporated stress management tools into our health benefits. This includes a guided meditation program, where employees can create a playlist, save favorite sessions, and set goals. Sessions on Mindfulness 101, Emotional intelligence 101, and Yoga 101 can also be taken through this platform.
Here’s AR Clerk, Patient Accounts China Lankford on her experience with one of our stress management tools, guided meditation:
“First, let me say that I have never done meditation in my life. I needed to find a way to release elements of stress and anxiety hurting my body and mind, and the meditation class helped me. I felt so relaxed and my body was at ease. In other words, I felt like a new person. We go through so much on the job and meditation helps me to get through my day — I feel more relaxed than ever at my desk doing my work.”
Employees* enrolled in the Value, Buy-Up or High Deductible employee medical plans have access to:
Wellness Credit Program
Northwell Health Solutions
In-system providers, services and facilities at a low cost
And the benefits are always growing! In 2019, several new well-bring programs will be launched for medical plan participants to support physical and emotional growth.
Learn more about what else we’re doing in wellness at Northwell Health here.
*Union employees will receive benefits based on their CBA.
The Picture of Health: Chef Russ Ficke talks about a passion for healthy food
Syosset Hospital Chef Russ Ficke has had a transformational healthcare journey as part of our team. He’s lost 50 pounds by exercising and looking at food in a different way. His drive to make healthy lifestyle changes and better food choices have also helped him become even more passionate about his work as a hospital chef. That’s why we couldn’t wait to share his perspective on our wellness initiatives, get the scoop on the quality of chefs Northwell Health is looking to hire, and hear his advice for those starting out in the culinary industry.
What’s it like to be Chef at Syosset Hospital?
It is a real honor to be able to care for people who are giving you the opportunity to make them healthier. Most of our patients at Syosset Hospital choose to come here for a procedure. They selected us over many other facilities. We must rise to the occasion in service and hospitality in every instance.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in a career in your field?
Work hard and learn every aspect of the culinary industry — beyond dining, travel and tourism. I have worked in fine dining, catering halls, country clubs and hotels. I also taught Culinary Arts at a vocational school. There are many institutional facets of this industry. By accumulating knowledge of these various business lines, I am a more rounded chef.
What should people know about your team? How does this speak to the quality of chefs that Northwell Health is looking to hire?
I am grateful to work with a group of professionals who share the same focus: providing world-class service to our patients, visitors, and coworkers. I partner with my leadership team, as well as with the clinical nutrition team, to assure we are delivering the best service. I spend a lot of time with my culinary team teaching them new techniques, trends, and skills. I even learn things from them.
What is Northwell’s Ultimate Chef Competition?
Chefs from 17 of Northwell Health hospitals have competed in the Ultimate Chef Healthy Cooking Competition for the past seven years at Glen Cove Hospital. Chefs are challenged with serving up delicious, restaurant-quality meals, but without the added high fat, calories or sodium. I have three first-place finishes and a third-place finish. For the past two years, I’ve helped run the event instead of competing in it.
Each appetizer and dessert had to be less than 250 calories with no more than 250 milligrams of sodium and less than 35 percent total calories from fat. Entrees needed to be under 450 calories, with no more than 500 milligrams of sodium and 35 percent of total calories from fat. Teams are also sometimes given a mystery ingredient to incorporate into their original three-course meal.
How do you as a Chef promote Northwell Health’s commitment to wellness?
Northwell health is committed to providing healthy meals and options to our 66,000+ employees. This focus on wellness extends from our patients to our cafeterias and internal catering, all the way to our vending machines. We also provide educational sessions and cooking classes around these initiatives to promote healthier nutrition.
What is something that people should know about Northwell Health as an employer that they might not know already?
Northwell Health values and promotes many different training opportunities to assist us in our career growth. I am fortunate to work for an organization that invests in me.
Director Cindy Ryan and Project C.A.R.E. Bring Wellness to New Heights!
Director Cindy Ryan started at South Oaks Hospital 25 years ago, and says there has always been a focus and emphasis on wellness for its staff and the surrounding community. Now as part of Northwell Health, Cindy has found amazing opportunities for her team at South Oaks to bring Northwell Health’s dedication to wellness to the great outdoors through Project C.A.R.E. (Cooperative Activities Ropes Experience) and to South Oaks employees as a Wellness Liaison.
Since 1994, Project C.A.R.E. has been offering adventure-based workshops, facilitating groups to work, think, and learn together! These programs involve a variety of activities including group cooperative challenge problems, outdoor adventure low and high ropes course elements, and other physical elements. The level of participation is, at all times, up to the individual. “We refer to this as Challenge by Choice,’” Cindy explains. “Project C.A.R.E. offers a non-traditional experiential opportunity for participants to problem solve, learn to trust themselves and each other, understand strengths and weaknesses they possess within a group and how to succeed by working as a team.”
So how does Project C.A.R.E. do it? Let’s say a Northwell Health team is struggling with effective leadership or communication and is looking to schedule a program day at Project C.A.R.E. A Project C.A.R.E. team member begins the process by completing an assessment of their needs. Some questions we ask include – What is the familiarity amongst the participants with each other? Do they work directly together? What are the goals the client hopes to achieve? What are the strengths of the team? What are the opportunities for growth and development? The information we get from this assessment allows our C.A.R.E. team to create a customized experience. This experience includes selected initiatives/activities that foster opportunities for tools and strategies of effective teamwork to present themselves. The learning occurs through group briefings, metaphors and evaluative reflection to make concrete connections between the participants’ experience and the application to other aspects of their lives. “Aha” moments can present themselves for the individuals and the team as a whole.
The wellness initiatives don’t stop with Northwell Health employees. Project C.A.R.E. extends its outreach to other corporations, non-profit organizations, schools, youth programs, church groups, and camps. “Northwell Health’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of the individuals within the communities we serve,” Cindy added. Northwell Health has made wellness a priority for the entire health system, and that emphasis starts at the top. “Whether it be the Virgin Pulse platform that we’re using to help staff establish a level of sustainability for wellness goals, to the connection and support from corporate wellness,” Cindy said. “I really do feel, especially recently, our current internal infrastructure has been very proactive and supportive of promoting opportunity for employees to work on their personal wellness. They are 100 percent behind those initiatives. I feel I have a significant amount of support from executive leadership.”
Though there’s tremendous institutional support, Cindy believes that it’s up to individuals to utilize the resources at their fingertips and contact their onsite liaison — each Northwell Health site has one — with their wellness needs. “There is great opportunity for someone coming into the system from a wellness perspective. The Northwell Health system makes a number of resources available whether you need to focus on wellness in spirituality, fitness, nutrition, and even finance. Northwell Health has afforded its employees many opportunities and resources to make effective change.”
Administrative Manager and Wellness Liaison Janet Schaetzle has been with Northwell Health for 12 years managing Northwell Health Physician Partners, Neurosurgery and Spine at Great Neck and Lynbrook. But don’t think she’s managing from afar as Janet’s on the floor with her staff and she doesn’t want to leave. In order to keep her staff in top shape, wellness is a major focus. For Janet, Northwell’s culture and wellness is connected to many aspects of her life — inside her office and outside in her community.
Inside the office, Janet’s staff members focus on wellness through healthy lunches and Zumba. Janet’s staff also participated in the Walk To Dublin. They embraced their love of competition and formed a team. “We monitored each other and we still do weekly step-offs and weekend rumbles. I’ve met people and made friends in other departments through the wellness challenges,” says Janet.
That emphasis on wellness and the impact of Northwell’s culture extends from her office doors out into her community. Janet is a part of the Northwell Life Facebook group that connects employees throughout Northwell Health. From Suffolk County, to Westchester, to New York City, employees are using social media to work together on community service projects in their spare time. For example, Janet’s office donates to Meals on Wheels with four other departments. In addition, the staff will take time on a weekend to serve families at the Ronald McDonald house and share a day creating a dinner for over 80 people every year for the past 3 years. “Northwell does so much with communities to raise money for brain aneurysms, breast cancer, and more problems that affect my patients. There’s a sense that you belong to an organization that really does care,” she adds.
Janet has personally benefited from Northwell Health’s focus on employee wellness. And that begins with leadership. “Northwell brings people in from the wellness department and the EAP works with us in dealing with stress, sleep, and staying energized,” says Janet. “The staff is so into it and I’ve joined a gym since this wellness program started.” That dedication to wellness includes providing resources to help employees grow professionally. “We have so many opportunities to advance. Through the Center for Learning Innovations (CLI), we can take classes, and Northwell Health will help pay for you to continue your education.” From Dealing with Stress Management to Emotional Intelligence for Leaders to Business Writing and Computer courses, Northwell Health provides employees with classes that help them advance and nurture their professional careers.
The emphasis of community has allowed Janet to see her staff at Northwell Health as family. Many of them have been working with her for 5-10 years, with one staff member who has been with her for 23! Now, Janet’s actual family has joined her Northwell Health family. Janet’s son Josef works for LIJ Hospital. “I am so proud of his contributions that he has given in only his first year with Northwell. At Northwell Health, you’re recognized for doing great things. There really is a culture of care here and shows that we are all Made for This.”
Under the bold and delicious vision of Northwell Health’s VP of System Food Services Corporate Michelin Chef, Bruno Tison, the recipe for hospital food as you once knew it has changed. Michelin Chef Tison, along with other award-winning Michelin chefs like Andrew Cain, is helping Northwell Health redefine the culinary experience for patients, their families, and Northwell employees.
“I want to help cook better food for people who really need it,” says Chef Tison, “Northwell Health is a pioneer for redefining hospital food for 23 hospitals.”
A recipe for culinary success.
A native of northern France, Chef Bruno Tison began his culinary education at Belgium’s prestigious Institut Technique Des Metiers De L’Alimentation, where he graduated with highest honors and was awarded first prize for excellence in culinary achievement. His more than 30 years of experience includes serving as Executive Chef of the legendary Plaza Hotel in New York City. Chef Tison’s nouvelle cuisine has earned critical acclaim. Most recently, his leadership enabled the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa in California to receive the celebrated Michelin Star recognition for three consecutive years.
Chef Andrew Cain started working under an executive chef at the age of 15, received a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Restaurant Management and went to work at the Fairmont with Chef Tison 10 years ago. They’ve made a great team ever since. This relationship is now helping to dramatically elevate Northwell Health’s food experience.
The two believe that crafting delicious meals shouldn’t change by location. “Whether it’s a patient in a bed, or a person in the restaurant,” says Chef Cain, “when it comes to cooking great food, you truly have to care about it.”
Redefining the culinary experience.
Having reached the pinnacle of the culinary profession, Chefs Tison and Cain were looking for a new challenge and the opportunity to bring the highest level of culinary expression not just to people who could “afford it” but to people who truly needed it, people whose lives could be changed by a world-class food experience.
That’s why Chef Tison joined Northwell Health and later brought Chef Cain onboard, with Chef Tison stating, “I came to Northwell because they are very serious about making this shift in the healthcare food industry happen.”
Chef Tison has championed a number of important initiatives for Northwell’s culinary efforts:
Bring outstanding talent from the outside and retrain existing chefs.
Having worked with Chef Tison for 10+ years, Chef Andrew Cain shared his passion for elevating the food experience for people who genuinely need it. With a background in Four- and Five-Star restaurants in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., Chef Cain is helping Chef Tison bring a Michelin-inspired sensibility to Northwell Health. Northwell is also partnering with the Culinary Institute of America to attract the next generation of great chefs.
Knowing that Northwell is a place known for the most innovative clinical technology, Chef Tison is bringing this same commitment to modernizing the food service area.
Higher quality food.
This includes fresh, locally-sourced food instead of frozen, replacing instant coffee with fresh coffee, getting rid of candies/sugar and eliminating processed food.
Chef Tison’s ultimate goal is to deliver restaurant-quality food to patients, families and staff. “It’s a new frontier,” says Chef Tison, “and that’s exciting for new and tenured chefs alike.” He even has an eye on applying for inclusion in the Michelin Guide!
Employee Spotlight: Melinda Nasti on wellness and caring for the caregivers
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.