The Wellness Bridge , one of the nation's top health and fitness organizations based in the Ohio Valley , is now playing an integral role in the daily lives of Valley Hospice employees while at the same time, opening a new chapter in the career of the program's founder, Judi Hladek.
With its focus on individual wellness based on education, Hladek's program at Valley Hospice is designed to help employees develop a healthy lifestyle that will translate into more energy as they serve the patients and families of those with life-limiting illnesses, a job that is often as stressful as it is rewarding.
Natalie Bolock, vice president of human resources at Valley Hospice, dreamed of doing something in the realm of wellness for the 160 employees, but didn't know where to begin.
Judy Hladek, standing, founder the The Wellness Bridge, meets with Valley Hospice CEO Cynthia Bougher, seated at left, and Natalie Bolock, vice-president of human resources, to discuss the new wellness program she had designed for employees of Valley Hospice.
Fate played a hand in bringing the Wellness Bridge and Valley Hospice together when Hladek's father Ted Benedett suddenly became ill last summer, resulting in his becoming a patient at Liza's Place, the Valley Hospice Care Center South in Wheeling . Shortly before his death, Hladek was asked to present a motivational program on wellness to a leadership team meeting at Liza's Place.
"I was so impressed with how my dad was cared for at Liza's Place by members of the hospice care team. They gave dignity, grace and peace not only to my father, but also to all of our family in how they cared for us as well. I was nervous about the idea of returning to Liza's Place to present my healthy living seminar but I felt it was one way in which to honor my father's memory," Hladek recalls, adding, "However, it ended up being a wonderful experience".
From that presentation, the Valley Hospice administration was so enthusiastic that they wanted Hladek to "bring that positive energy" through to its employees as well as the people they serve.
Hladek is now a member of the hospice organization as its wellness coordinator.
Bolock's excitement about the new program is evident as she notes, "It is so great to have Judi working with our staff to give them the greatest gift you can give anyone, the knowledge of truly being well. Employees are an organization's biggest investment and greatest resource so why not keep them on their game and keep them healthy?"
Employees are encouraged to take what they learn home to their families as well, Bolock notes, adding, "What a great way to help all of those whom you love the most. We want our employees to be able to do their best to support our mission and goals and we want to ensure access to care for those who need us. Judi teaches everything from basic physical fitness to total mental and spiritual well being."
From that and subsequent meetings with administrative officials, Hladek tailored a program for the Valley Hospice employees. She explains that "Everyone wears wellness differently. I believe those involved in hospice are born to do the work they do, to deal with end-of-life care and those with life-limiting illnesses. They have had a seed planted in them from birth to be the angels they are."
The Valley Hospice wellness program revolves around motivation, compassion, education, and belief that wellness can be "owned" by each person. Hladek initiated employees at her seminar "Connecting Health to Life." The seminar covered information about how the body works and what it needs to live with vitality.
Hladek said "Through education and motivation we can interrupt or preclude a lifestyle managing what were once avoidable conditions like psychological stress, obesity, adult onset diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. The key to success of any health promotion program is awareness, behavioral change within a supportive environment. By promoting healthy lifestyles in the workplace, the employers act as a bedrock upon which the employees' 'Wellness Bridge'must be built." All employees were given Hladek's relaxation and stress management CD.
Employees were invited to attend a second, more intensive seminar on wellness training that covered all aspects of developing a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.
They also received her educational and motivational DVD as well as one of Hladek's books on a wellness lifestyle.
Participation in the program was overwhelming for the initial seminars with 100 per cent attendance. More than 90 percent of the employees are participating in the follow-up program.
Since the program is individualized, Hladek explains that the competition to succeed is with yourself. "There is no failure. Sometimes life will toss you a curve ball that knocks you off your game, but you can always move forward again," she adds.
Because hospice employee wellness is a new facet of The Wellness Bridge, Hladek is graphing and refining the program to the needs of the types of work the staff does.
She notes that some crisis team members may be in the field for long hours visiting patients in their homes and other health care facilities, often without taking the time to have a meal during the day.
"I am teaching them how to take along an emergency food kit that has healthy food items that will sustain them during those long days and keep them at their best. Its simple things like this that makes a difference in how you feel physically and how you perform your daily tasks," Hladek notes.
Because individual contact is key to the success of the program for the employees, Hladek talks to each one every week, either in person, by telephone or emails and texts. She is available 24-7 and her phone rings frequently.
Hladek feels that the initial and long-term success of the Valley Hospice endeavor is based on the belief by VH CEO Cynthia Bougher that it will have a positive impact on employee health, well-being and morale. .
Bougher stated, "A part of the Valley Hospice mission is to enable our patients and their families to live every day as fully as they possible. I believe that goal is also important for our employees.
"It is my hope that our wellness program will help our employees improve their health and increase their overall well being, allowing them to live each day to the fullest and have ample energy to provide the best possible care to the individuals we serve."
In the near future, Hladek and Valley Hospice will host a four-hour long healthy living health fair at the Rayland headquarters for all employees and their families.
Information will be provided on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including how make healthy lunches to sustain employees each day, as well as general tips on food preparation, ergonomics, exercise, on-site blood profiles, and more. A salad bar will be available during the event.
Overall, Hladek says she is excited about this new door to wellness that has opened for her at a time when she was at a crossroads in her career.
"I am now at Valley Hospice every day getting to know the employees. I am seeing a new and exciting dynamic among them as they explore their individual healthy lifestyle habits while they serve and improve their common mission on behalf of patients and families throughout the community," she notes.