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HEALTHIEST EMPLOYERS OF OREGON Healthiest Employers of Oregon: Northwest Permanente PC (#1, 500-1,499 employees) Northwest Permanente's team members focus on coming together and accomplishing something they could never do alone Aug 17, 2017, 4:03pm PDT
The doctor is in for Northwest Permanente PC’s wellness plan.
The motivated medical staff has moved beyond healing themselves and is actively working to prevent health issues. Fewer than 1 percent of Northwest Permanente’s 1,200 clinicians and 250 administrative staff smoke tobacco, and more than 90 percent keep current with recommended cancer screenings.
“We’re a very, very healthy workforce, and we’re very lucky,” said Justin Pfeifer, NW Permanente employee benefits account manager.
That “luck” is generated in part from frequent spinning of the “Wellness Wheel,” which stresses a holistic approach, including physical, emotional, occupational, financial, social, environmental, spiritual and intellectual health.
Each month the wellness program targets five of these areas, which often overlap in complex layers, Pfeifer said. Emotional wellness is especially important in the medical profession. “The statistics on physician burnout are no laughing matter. It’s scary,” he said.
In October, NW Permanente will hold an “Embracing Your Path to Mindfulness” seminar at the World Forestry Center. An optional one-hour yoga session precedes the 40-seat seminar, which is always full. The class teaches meditation and deep-breathing skills, as well as mindful walking and eating.
“Mindfulness is a relevant, evidence-based science,” Pfeifer said. Online resilience classes also have been effective in reducing stress.
NW Permanente offers advocacy resources for employees with marital, substance, work and other problems causing emotional distress and is working on an app that will help pinpoint and quantify major stressors in the employees’ lives.
A “Pathways to Proficiency” class is designed to make an employee’s day seem less chaotic by improving employee efficiency and communication. Half of NW Permanente’s facilities have workout centers, where yoga and tai chi are longtime favorites.
When it comes to feedback, physicians are pithy, Pfeifer said. “They’re great at giving appropriate feedback – ‘Nope, that doesn’t work.’”
Pfeifer also gets feedback from an annual survey and from a required email response for those participating in the Wellness Passport program. “We’re always looking to improve the survey, to see where we need to expand, and where we need to narrow the range,” Pfeifer said.
Another great feedback resource is the 50 or so Wellness Champs who are appointed in each of NW Permanente’s 34 departments. They provide the personal touch needed to boost participation and have been a great source for ideas on fun new activities. Participation in the Wellness Passport program has increased in each of the past eight quarters.
“The Wellness Champions aren’t always the chiefs in the department, but they are always someone who’s highly regarded, such as a senior physician,” Pfeifer said.
Pfeifer sometimes “feels silly” reminding medical professions to take breaks and not work through lunch, etc. “These are incredibly smart people, doing things like brain surgeries. I use the argument that you’re going to be a better physician if you take care of yourself first.” There have been a lot of great moments, like when a “very, very gracious” physician credited the Passport program with motivating him to shed 80 pounds, lowering his cholesterol from about 300 to 190 and “helping me get my life back on track.”
With such a large staff, it’s hard to get to know one another. Mixers patterned after speed dating have been popular.
Hypertension, which periodically spikes, and identifying better ways to measure performance of the four-year-old wellness programs are a couple of things on Pfeifer’s to-do list. “Just do it,” is Pfeifer’s advice to companies wanting to launch a wellness program. “You can’t succeed if you don’t try. There’s not one size that fits all. You’re never going to get to the peak in every wellness dimension. It’s a lifelong journey.”