GHS encourages culture of wellness within facilities and in the community

  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shore

At Georgetown Hospital System, our wellness mantra is evolution -- not revolution.

Every day, we’re working to expand a culture of wellness not only within our hospitals, but also into our communities.

So what sort of changes are we talking about? We’re referring to small changes in behavior that encourage people to follow a healthy diet, increase physical activity and adopt healthy habits – all with the goal of having a healthier population, both within our hospitals and across the region.

But first things first.

We understand change is slow and that it must be nurtured. And we also know it has to start somewhere.

In Georgetown and Horry counties, that “somewhere” is Georgetown Hospital System, where we have made a long-term investment in programs that make our employees healthier, more fit and, ultimately, better care providers. I am proud to say our efforts are making a difference – and that we have been recognized for our successes.

Just recently, GHS earned a national Excellence Recognition award for meeting the highest standards of excellence in workplace wellness and for fostering an environment that promotes healthy behaviors. This follows three prestigious awards from the S.C. Hospital Association, including the Gold Star for tobacco-free people and places, the Gold Apple for delicious and affordable healthy food environments and the Gold Medal for a workplace where physical activity is the easy norm.

The nutrition award recognizes our hospitals’ efforts to serve employees, visitors and patients the most nutritious and healthy foods that we can -- tasty dishes that are low in sodium, fat and sugar and high in fiber. If you’ve visited our hospitals recently, you probably have noticed the nutrition labels that help people choose wisely, and perhaps you have enjoyed a bowl of low-sodium soup or a crisp, green salad from the fresh salad bar.

Our Gold Medal recognizes physical activity at work. Our employees attend classes on-site and at HealthPoint in everything from yoga and line dancing to Pilates and kickboxing. Our campuses also feature walking trails, wellness stairwells and bicycle racks.

We invite visitors to take advantage of the .6-mile trail at Georgetown Memorial Hospital and the .8-mile walking path at Waccamaw Community Hospital. They’re an ideal way to get some fresh air and lower stress, and both can be completed in 15 minutes. At Waccamaw, we have just added a Bridge of Peace where employees and visitors can take a stroll through a wooded area overlooking a lagoon and spend a few minutes relaxing along the bridge or in the gazebo.

Our Gold Star recognizes GHS for creating a tobacco-free environment with the best possible support for employees to live a tobacco-free life. This includes having a tobacco-free campus, a no-smoking policy for employees and visitors and free smoking cessation classes for employees and the community.

So why should this matter to residents of our community? Healthy, energized employees are better, more engaged workers. They have less absenteeism and more stamina, and anyone who has spent time in a health care facility knows the work is often physically demanding. When we feel better, we have a more positive attitude, and that affects our interactions with patients and colleagues. A wellness program makes good business sense, and it fosters a better work environment. But our culture of wellness is about so much more than the bottom line.

At GHS, we choose to lead by example. And let’s face it. A dietitian who eats healthy or a cardiac nurse who follows an exercise regimen is going to be more credible when advising a patient on the benefits of making healthy choices. Likewise, the employee who decides to eat more fresh vegetables and include a walk after dinner is more likely to take that message home and influence family members to do the same. The possibilities are exponential.

But even exponential success begins with small changes. So that’s what we choose to celebrate each day – the patient who has resolved to quit smoking, the physician who opts for the stairs instead of the elevator, the confirmed vegetable-hater who drinks a vegetable smoothie at lunch.

By starting small, but thinking big, we are creating not only a healthier workplace but also a healthier community.

Renee Shore is wellness coordinator for Georgetown Hospital System.

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