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.”
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.
At Northwell Health, we already stand out as one of the Best Workplaces™ in Health Care and Biopharma. Now we’re aiming to be the healthiest. Our leadership is focused on food and nutrition as well as fitness and mental wellbeing initiatives to build a healthier workplace for all our employees.
“In the past few years, we’ve been able to do more in food and nutrition to create a better, more effective infrastructure for wellness at work and it’s because we’ve had a lot of great support from leadership.”
–Michelle Milgrim, Employee Wellness Manager
It all starts with the ingredients. Over the past two years, we’ve worked to ensure that our chicken, turkey and beef burgers are 100 percent antibiotic free. Our fish is sustainably sourced and harvested and we work, as much as possible, with local farms across Long Island, NJ and the Hudson Valley to source local produce. Through Community Supported Agriculture, employees are given the opportunity to get local produce – freshly harvested that morning — delivered weekly to their offices.
With great ingredients, we need great chefs. Northwell Health has four Michelin Star chefs that are driving chef talent development including our new AVP, system food services Bruno Tison. Our new partnership with the Culinary Institute of America’s fellowship program is going to bring culinary students into our pipeline of talent.
Now that we have put wellness on our plates and in our kitchens, we’re focusing on wellness in other areas. For starters? We want employees to be eating well at home. So, we’ve invested in teaching kitchens and work in close collaboration with chefs and registered dietitian teams to create hands-on demonstrations that have become a popular, accessible tool for staff. And we’re supporting these initiatives by providing healthier options throughout our facilities, not just the patient and cafeteria menu. We’re updating our coffee shops, gift shops, and vending machines so that the default options at our facilities will be healthy ones.
Though these changes are already making an impact to our employees’ wellness, they’re not the only lifestyle initiatives that we’re putting in place to support the wellbeing of our people. We’re putting our best foot forward through on-site stairwell and fitness campaigns and corporate walking challenges like our Walk to Dublin contest. As we pursue promoting wellness for our bodies, we also seek wellness for our mental health. We offer opportunities for stress management at our sites through guided meditation and reiki, and simply giving our employees time to unwind. We’re also making our facilities mom-friendly. By August, all of our sites will be equipped with dedicated lactation rooms to make pumping at work more accessible and comfortable for mothers.
At Northwell, every role matters, every person matters and every healthy moment matters. We’re invested in our employees’ health, inside and out and we continuously strive toward making our facilities a more nutritious, fit-friendly and welcoming place to work.
Be part of this transformation. See where you fit in here.
At Northwell Health, we’re always up for a challenge and our innovative 2018 employee step challenge, Walk to Dublin, is no small feat. Teams of 10 will compete in a virtual journey from New York City to Dublin (approx. 3.7 million steps!) by tracking their real physical activity and unlocking remarkable virtual destinations throughout Ireland all along the way. All teams to virtually reach Dublin together will qualify to win an ACTUAL trip to Ireland. The inspiration for our Walk to Dublin comes from our Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, who has instilled a passion for wellness throughout our organization.
We asked the manager of Employee Wellness Niha Malcomson for her take on Northwell Health’s employee wellness goals: “This is something that our leadership emphasizes and we practice and share it: we want employees to say they’re healthy because they work here, and that they can improve their health because Northwell Health supports their goals.”
We’re so passionate about the health of our patients, but their success depends on the health and well-being of our people. That’s why we’re so excited to see 1100 teams as of today ready to focus on their own wellness while challenging themselves, working as a team, and having fun! AND there’s that grand prize…
Just as we rely on each other to do our best work for our patients, we are Truly Together in our goal to be a Healthiest Place to Work by 2022. Wellness is a team effort, and from our Walk to Dublin step challenge to creating healthier environments for all, we can only accomplish these goals together. Sure, some of us are focused on weight loss or running marathons, but as a team, we’re focused on engagement and fun for all employees!
We’re excited to take the first steps on our walk to Dublin! Stay tuned to meet our winners and see what we accomplish when we all work together to reach our wellness goals!
When our employees or their family members are sick and unsure of the next steps, it’s a comfort to know someone is there to help, someone who can answer questions and give important assistance, any time of the day or night. If you’re a Northwell Health employee covered by one of the United Healthcare benefit plans, the Clinical Call Center is a new benefit that will provide that assistance. And it’s just one of the benefits that we provide to help our employees feel their best.
“Our highly-trained nurses are available to help 24/7. They are dedicated and caring professionals who provide the highest quality telephonic nursing care when our callers need it most.”
–Karen Abrashkin, MD, Medical Director, Clinical Call Center
When a Northwell Health employee or their covered dependent calls the Clinical Call Center, they will be directly connected with an experienced Northwell Health RN who is certified in emergency care. The best part is our Clinical Call Center is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Be assured that all communications are confidential.
“The Clinical Call Center nurses utilize evidence-based protocols to determine a recommended level of care for our callers. Our call center is the second Accredited Center of Excellence for Emergency Communication Nursing in the world awarded by the International Academy of Emergency Dispatch.”
–Debra Tomassetti, Program Director, Clinical Call Center
What kinds of situations can the Clinical Call Center address?
Urgent health questions or concerns
Changes in health condition
Whether or not a trip to the emergency room is needed
Questions or concerns regarding medication
“At Northwell Health, we are continuously looking for opportunities to take better care of our employees and their families. The Clinical Call Center is a great example of that.”
–Greg Bennett, Senior Director, Strategic Planning & Business Development
Our employees are. If you’re up to date with what’s happening at Northwell, than you’d know that we recently updated our myWellness platform – and our wellness team hasn’t stopped there. They have been working hard to create new programs, challenges, and partnerships to make sure our employees have the best tools and stay motivated in their wellness journey. These tools are available to them at any time through our desktop platform, or if they’re on the go, on the Virgin Pulse mobile app. Here are the top resources our employees have access to support them throughout their journey:
1. SelfHelp WorksLIVINGLEAN – This video coaching program was designed to help our employees beat cravings and change their habits. We’re challenging them to open their minds to something new so they begin to feel control — over what, when, and how much they eat! Several Northwell employees who completed Living Lean report a shift in how they are eating as well as successful weight loss and maintenance. (And this comes at no cost to our employees!)
2. Virgin Pulse Nutrition Guide – If our employees create a nutrition profile using the Nutrition Guide, they’ll receive free health tips and a recipes enewsletter from Zipongo. Through the Nutrition Guide, our employees maximize features in myWellness that track calories, healthy habits and weight – plus, they will have access to hundreds of healthy recipes. (Another great tool that is free for our employees!)
3. Weight Watchers – Have you heard about the new Weight Watchers Freestyle Program? Looking for a Weight Watchers At-Work program? Our employees receive a discounted rate and 50% reimbursement for a covered Weight Watchers program when they meet the attendance requirements.
4. The Center for Weight Management – Northwell Health offers a multi-disciplinary approach involving medical, psychological and nutritional assessments followed by an individualized treatment plan. Our team consists of a physician, psychologist, and nutritionists who work with each patient to teach goal setting, medically-supervised weight/behavioral management, planning skills, and problem-solving. (Employee insurance plans are accepted.)
All of these resources are accessible to our employees through the new myWellness program, where they can also explore other tools and programs! Are you ready to crush your fitness goals this year?
An Appointment With: Orthopedic Physician Assistant Rachel Zawodzinski
Welcome to An Appointment With, where we sit down one-on-one with our Northwell Health colleagues. Today we’re meeting Orthopedic Physician Assistant (PA) and marathoner, Rachel Zawodzinski.
Why did you choose a career at Northwell Health?
I’m from Buffalo and I wanted to move to the city. I had heard that Northwell Health was a great place to work and that they provide great education to the staff and PAs. Everybody’s happy here because Northwell Health really supports you. Being a Physician Assistant, you learn a lot on the job and since it’s a learning institution with residents and fellows, there’s always an opportunity to learn.
Tell us about your role as an Orthopedic Physician Assistant.
I work with Dr. Hepinstall in adult reconstruction. I started a year ago last April and it was my first job out of PA school! I alternate days between the office and the OR, and in the office I see patients alongside the doctor as well as my own patients. We have an elderly population, as our focus is in total hip and knee replacements. I assist in the OR, which I love. When you are in surgery, you get to see exactly what you’re doing so when patients ask you questions, you can answer them more clearly because you were there — you know what happened. It’s a great environment to experience and learn the best practices.
What should people know about working at Lenox Hill Hospital?
It’s a very close-knit team that we work with regularly which allows us to work together very well. We enjoy each other’s company which also means that we try to make the job as fun as it can be.
How does your job affect your ability to stay active and how does this translate into your work?
One of the hardest things in this field is time management, so it can be hard to maintain an active lifestyle outside of work. I am a runner, so I try to run or work out in the morning before work. When you’re in surgery, you never know how late the day will go. But exercise is something I enjoy and I feel better after doing it — I am a more productive person when I am active, so I prioritize it.
In our field, everyone always wants to achieve something and likes to train for something, whether it be a marathon or to be better in their career. Everyone wants to be the best version of themselves and likes to work toward a goal. We see the complications every day that people can have if they’re not healthy, and that makes you want to be healthy and promote a healthy lifestyle to your patients.
Are you training for a marathon right now?
I continue to run to stay active and plan to do a half marathon in the spring and hope to do another marathon next fall.
What kind of person would be great at being an Orthopedic PA?
Someone who is motivated. A lot of people in ortho are active people and they like the variety between the office and the OR. You have to be flexible and work with change because you can always uncover something unexpected in the OR!
Do you have any advice for people who are looking to become an Orthopedic PA?
It’s a great field to work in and I really love what I do. It’s a great career being a PA in general, so if you want to go down that path, then just work hard and have that goal in mind. When you have the opportunity to learn from the people around you – doctors, techs, nurses – take advantage of it.
We have exciting Orthopedic PA opportunities in new, state-of-the-art facilities in Greenwich Village and Long Island. Like achieving success in a marathon, it starts with one step. Take it here.
The top 3 things you need to know about our new Wellness program.
1. We have a new partner
Virgin Pulse purchased ShapeUp in 2016. As the new partner for myWellness, they have numerous enhanced functions compared to the previous platform and are the leading vendor in their class. Northwell Health is passionate about keeping our employees and the communities we serve, safe and well. The new myWellness program is an excellent tool to support total well-being based on upgrades to content and resource accessibility. The best part about registering for the new platform? A free personal activity tracker along with a robust mobile app for easy access to tracking on personal devices.
“We believe that caring for our patients begins with caring for our people. We strive to offer resources such as myWellness to support our vision of the healthiest workforce in healthcare.”
-Niha Malcomson, Manager, Employee Wellness
2. It provides so much more
The new myWellness platform is highly interactive. Each day, members earn rewards points daily for tracking healthy habits like hours slept, steps, drinking water and much more. The refreshed program incorporates three basic steps to support behavior change to help employees reach their wellness goals. Step 1: Get specific. Step 2: Make it easy. Step 3: Trigger the behavior. When we focus on building tiny habits, we increase the likelihood of making lasting change. All of our employees are encouraged to take the 100% confidential, voluntary Health Risk Assessment to receive feedback on their current well-being status and to drive the creation of personalized content in the myWellness program. Personal challenges – ranging from getting more steps to tracking sleep with friends on the platform – are easy to create and yield additional ways to earn reward points. The PROGRAMS page on myWellness is a valuable tool for employees to centrally access a wide range of health and well-being resources available to them throughout Northwell Health.
3. And our employees are pumped
Since the launch of the upgraded myWellness program on August 1, there are nearly 25,000 Northwell Health employees registered, and the number continues to grow each day. Approximately 45% of the registered users were registered in the previous platform, the remainder are new users of myWellness. The interactivity and gamification, customized content, individual and enterprise-wide challenges, will all play a role in keeping employees engaged with their health through this program. Our partner, Virgin Pulse, also provides content updates periodically throughout the year to keep the content fresh.
Keeping our employees happy and healthy is one of our top priorities. We understand that the balance between work, life, wellness, and everything else is a tricky one, and we want our employees to feel support within each area. That’s why our employee wellness team continues to enhance our programs and will be on the road visiting sites throughout September and October encouraging our employees to take the next step in their health and to join our newly refreshed platform.
Take a look at how we’ve helped our employees so far:
Motivated to stay healthy – how our annual Wellness Challenges have benefited our employees
A healthy employee is a happy employee. Did you know that each year we have Wellness Challenges for our employees to keep track of their personal health? These challenges involve tracking your healthy and unhealthy habits, reducing stress, or simply encouraging you to move around more. Last year at our annual employee barbeque our President and CEO, Michael J. Dowling, awarded prizes to the challenge winners who were all secretly hoping to win the grand prize, a trip to any one of our seven destination options, ranging from Peru to China to Thailand.
Last year alone, Mr. Dowling handed out 14 prizes to employees who completed all 3 challenges. One winner, Imee Sarmiento, recently took her trip to Rome with her husband. Wanting to get in on the fun, Imee’s sister Lulette (who also works for the health system) decided to plan a trip at the same time.
Throughout their trip, they got to visit many famous cities such as Florence and Siena, but one sight they didn’t expect to see under the Tuscan sun was former United States President Barak Obama and the Air Force One Leaving the Rome Airport.
“Winning this trip was an incredible experience! It was an enticing incentive for employees to promote health and wellness as well as encourage camaraderie amongst its employees,” said Imee. These sisters have been a part of our nursing family for 14 and 20 years respectively.
“We don’t really know any company that granted their employees any wellness challenges and incentives such as the experience we just had. It’s amazing and totally reinforced Northwell Health’s dedication to be a forefront in leading and promoting employee satisfaction,” said Lulette.
Here at Northwell Health, we are always looking out for the health of our employees. Our wellness initiatives not only allow our employees to maintain their health outside the workplace, but while working as well. Over the past few years, we have continued to put the health of our employees first by providing healthy food options at the cafeterias throughout our facilities and snack options in our vending machines. So far these challenges have helped hundreds of employees lose weight and change their lifestyle.
It is the policy of Northwell Health to provide equal employment opportunity and treat all employees equally regardless of age, race, creed/religion, color, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, sex/gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, generic information or genetic predisposition or carrier status, marital status, partnership status, victim of domestic violence, or other characteristics protected by applicable law. Northwell Health leaders, including the CEO, are committed to the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action.