By Beth Leermakers
Employee Health Coach
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center and Methodist Charlton Medical Center
Want to shed some pounds? Ready to start an exercise program? These are great intentions, but what I’ve discovered is that when employees initially come to me to discuss weight loss or exercise, within five minutes the conversation invariably turns to stress. That’s why we decided to survey the clinical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center about stress and the impact it is having on their lives and their jobs.
The 10-question survey asked the clinical staff to rate their responses on a scale of one (low) to 10 (high). The questions included topics such as what caused their stress, what kinds of stress were they experiencing, and what could we do to help them manage their stress. We distributed the survey in January, then compiled the results and produced a report. Respondents rated work, home, and financial as the top-three stressors in their lives. We have used the results and feedback from the survey to develop an overall stress management program to better meet their needs.
We weren’t surprised by the results. A large percentage of respondents said that their stress level was fairly high. The real value of the survey came from some of the insightful suggestions the clinicians made about how we could better support them in managing their stress. As a result, the responses helped us develop the components for a new stress management program.
We recently launched a new wellness site where employees can access stress management tools whenever and from wherever they need them. In addition, here are the survey’s top three suggestions:
- 31.4 percent suggested creating a quiet place to relax during the day. As a result, we are working to establish individual or small group quiet time areas in the break rooms.
- 19 percent suggested having more humor and laughter in staff meetings as appropriate. As a result, we are working with leaders on ways to make their meetings more fun.
- 23.8 percent suggested improving the work-life balance. As a result, we are creating a series of stress management classes that I have begun to teach. The class topics focus on self-care, work-life balance, and changing the thoughts that contribute to stress.
The self-care class emphasizes the importance of clinicians’ well-being — giving themselves permission to take care of themselves so they can care for others. This is especially important for women who are often hardwired and socialized to care for their spouse and children before they care for themselves. That means identifying what they need to focus on and then setting boundaries.
The work-life balance class encourages participants to make time to recharge.
We are programmed to respond to urgent needs. What’s more, some things take on the sense of urgency when they are not really urgent. The reality is we end up using what little time is left over for the activities that we really enjoy. Don’t we deserve to spend our high-energy time on things we enjoy? We teach participants to start out small, carving out 15 to 20 minutes a day, then gradually working to increase the amount of time they devote to themselves.
The changing-thoughts class examines how situations do not cause stress. Instead, it’s how we respond to the situation that causes stress. What if you took a short break from the work or task that is causing you stress? The work will still be there, but you’ll be in a better place mentally to handle the situation.
I’m looking forward to implementing the stress management program we’ve created at Methodist Mansfield, and more important, reducing the stress day to day.
If you’re ready to tackle your stress head on with an organization that cares about your well-being, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Visit Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.
© Methodist Health System