Category: Healthy Habits at Work

New Year, New Opportunity

By Carrie Camin

Assistant Vice President, Wellness
Methodist Health System

Before you think this is another “I resolve to eat better, exercise more, and lose weight” New Year’s resolution blog, stay with me. This is about making changes to get healthier using the tools that actually help you do it. 2013 brings Methodist Health System employees a new, comprehensive approach to managing their personal well-being with the soon-to-launch, one-stop wellness web platform, Live Well, Shine Bright.

Rather than going to different websites to access information and resources, the Live Well, Shine Bright web platform will provide Methodist employees with daily health tips, wellness workshops, activity challenges, food and exercise trackers, health library, health coach support, personal health dashboard, and so much more. This secure, confidential site will also provide quick links to additional Methodist wellness services, like gym discounts, employee assistance programs, and special events. In addition, the Live Well Shine Bright site will offer behavioral management programs such as smoking cessation, diabetes management, weight management, and stress management at employees’ fingertips instantly, when and where they need it.

Methodist’s commitment to our employees’ wellness is entering its fourth year. Introduced by our president and CEO, Stephen L. Mansfield, PhD, FACHE, the system’s vision is to have the healthiest workforce by 2016. His vision and total commitment have guided our efforts to provide as many tools and resources as possible to our employees so they can take care of themselves and be able to continue to improve and

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save lives.

While we say we are dedicated to achieving and maintaining the healthiest workforce, we want to put our words into action, demonstrating the value of our commitment to each and every employee. That’s why we are launching a truly unique initiative in 2013 — I Am Methodist Health. We’ve asked 12 members of our Methodist family to tell us their wellness goals for the year. Then, through individual blogs, they will keep us updated on their journey to better health. These Methodist wellness ambassadors will be using all of the resources I’ve mentioned previously. We’ll be able to celebrate their achievements and learn from their tips for success. Their blogs are being posted at under the Wellness tab.

As someone who has made a career of helping others achieve their optimal state of wellness, here are some tips for the new year:

  • Set short-term, achievable goals that will produce personal wins. It’s a lot easier to say “I want to lose 10 pounds in the next three months” than “I want to lose 40 pounds this year.” Staying motivated and moving forward are important to the overall success of your wellness efforts.
  • Pat yourself on the back for making healthy choices, such as drinking an extra glass of water, getting eight hours of sleep, taking time out of your day to take care of yourself, exchanging fruit for chips, and climbing the stairs rather than climbing onto an elevator.
  • Make the changes you’re ready to make. Remember, change is hard and old habits are tough to break. Set up a support system to help you on your wellness quest. Maybe it’s just one person, a buddy, or maybe it’s a network of friends who can hold you accountable and provide positive feedback. A great way to get started is to keep a food log and compare notes to see what’s working for each person so you can help each other out.
  • Get back on track immediately. If you falter along your wellness journey, don’t beat yourself up. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward. Don’t wait a week or a month. If you have an unhealthy breakfast, think of the afternoon as a new day. Take the stairs and eat a healthy lunch.

Remember, you never get kicked out of your own life. The fact is we make choices that affect our health all day long. I applaud anyone who makes healthy choices, whatever that entails.

If you’re ready to start your journey to wellness and need support to help you along the way, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

© Methodist Health System


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Roll Up Your Sleeve! Time to Get Your Flu Shot

Karen Barrett

Mary Fulton


By Karen Barrett, RN, COHN-S
Director of Employee Health
Methodist Health System
Mary A. Fulton, RN, BSN, CIC
Infection Prevention Practitioner
Methodist Charlton Medical Center

It’s fall! That means cooler temperatures, the State Fair of Texas is in full swing, and it’s time for the annual pilgrimage to get your flu vaccination.

Why is fall the season for flu? There are several factors. The arrival of cold weather tends to keep us indoors. Breathing recirculated air is an ideal environment for germs, which challenges our respiratory system. When kids go back to school, they carry germs to and from their homes, accounting for the higher number of sick children both before and after the holidays. What’s more, traveling to visit family during the holidays may also mean new virus strains are transported to different geographic regions. All together, this creates the perfect flu storm.

Throughout the year, epidemiologists closely watch the disease patterns in Asia, knowing that the strains of flu that appear there will eventually make their way to the U.S. With this insight, they work in tandem with pharmaceutical companies to produce the annual supply of flu vaccine. For instance, remember the 2009 H1N1 pandemic outbreak? This year’s flu vaccine includes the new H3N2 strain, but in July 2012, there have been outbreaks of H3N2 variant viruses.

The best way to protect yourself and your family from developing the flu is to get a flu shot. It’s that simple. We strongly encourage everyone to get the vaccination. In fact, we think it is so important that we’ve developed a new vaccination policy at Methodist Health System that makes flu vaccination mandatory for our staff and volunteers unless they obtain a medical or religious exemption.

Why? Statistics tell the story. More than 226,000 annual hospitalizations are attributed to the flu and flu-related complications. Even more startling, approximately 36,000 people die annually from the flu and flu-related illnesses. Those at highest risk to develop the flu include pregnant women, the elderly, infants, and individuals with compromised immune systems.

In addition to the vaccination, health care employees and volunteers should remember these tips on how to avoid getting the flu:

  • Wear masks when caring for coughing patients.
  • Wash your hands and follow the hand-washing protocol closely. Hand washing before and after caring for a patient can prevent the spread of the flu virus.
  • Stay away from crowds as much as possible during flu season.
  • Educate patients and their families about the importance of covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze and washing their hands. Studies show if everyone did these two simple things, it would drastically reduce the spread and incidence of the flu.
  • Stay home when you’re sick. If you experience these symptoms — cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, aches and pains, and general malaise — chances are good you have the flu.

Ready to give your career a shot in the arm? Then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

© Methodist Health System


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Bring on Fall. Bring on the New You.

By Beth Leermakers
Employee Health Coach
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center and Methodist Charlton Medical Center

We all remember the story of the little engine that could from our childhood. The tiny engine repeated the mantra, “I think I can. I think I can.” to climb up a steep mountain. Many of us are in the same situation as that little engine when it comes to maintaining and improving our health and well-being.

When it comes to our health, there really aren’t any mysteries. We know what we need to do — eat right, get eight hours of sleep, exercise regularly, and reduce stress. Knowing what to do is one thing, but doing it — that’s the tricky part. And with the kids back in school and fall right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to make some changes.

So, how do you move from “I can’t” to “I could”? Small steps and victories are important. First, you have to want to start

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the journey. Not only do you have to want the health benefits resulting from change, you have to be willing to do the work. A cost/benefit analysis might help you weigh the pros and cons.

  • What are the day-to-day benefits? Be specific and write them down. In terms of wellness and quality of life, examples might include:
    • I want to be able to sit on the floor and play with my grandchildren.
    • I want to be able to tie my shoes.
    • I want to carry in my groceries or walk upstairs without getting winded.
    • I want to go on a bike ride with my friends.
  • What are the barriers that are keeping you from making the needed changes? You must be honest with yourself. Perhaps you’re thinking, “I don’t have time.” If that’s the case, not having time really means it’s not a priority to you. Motivated people find a way to make changes to reach their goals.
  • Do the benefits outweigh the barriers? Can you remove the barriers? As long as you perceive that the changes are more costly to make than the benefits you will receive, you won’t change. It’s that simple.

OK, so how do I move from “I could” to “I can”? In psychology, we use the term shaping. Shaping refers to making small steps, getting small wins, and building on them toward the desired goal. Weight loss provides a perfect example. Losing weight is about 80 percent food and 20 percent exercise. One pound equals 3,500 calories. So, to lose a pound a week, you need to eliminate 500 calories per day. Broken into small steps, here are a few ways to reach that goal.

  • A can of soda contains about 240 calories. Cutting out two cans of soda per day for a week equals one less pound.
  • Rather than enjoying a fried chicken sandwich with supersized fries and a small soda, save about 580 calories by eating a grilled chicken sandwich, small fries, and a diet soda. Following this routine daily will cut one pound per week.

Finally, how do I move from “I can” to “I did”! In terms of diet, view a temporary slip as a one-day occurrence. Get back on track right away, that day if possible, and realize you haven’t done that much damage. The key to success is consistency. When you reach your goal, celebrate with tangible rewards and reinforce your new behavior. “I did it! Congratulations to me!” Then enjoy your healthy reward to yourself.

If you’re ready to make positive, healthy changes in your life, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

© Methodist Health System


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Shouldering the Responsibility of Caring Without
 Breaking Your Back

By Karen Barrett, RN, COHN-S, CHSP
Director of Employee Health Services
Methodist Health System

I may have one of the most challenging jobs in Methodist Health System. As director of Employee Health Services, I am responsible for caring for those whose job is caring for others. Keeping our employees healthy is critical to the successful completion of our mission of caring for the communities we serve.

Nurses have been taught to be unselfish and tend to devote themselves to their patients. As a result, my team continually reminds them of the importance of taking care of themselves.

Our employee health clinics see a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. From strains to sprains, we see it all. It’s not surprising that our area is so busy, considering working in health care can be more hazardous than a construction job. Why? For a number of reasons.

  • Not all of the rules that apply to safely lifting a heavy box apply to lifting a patient.
  • Patients don’t have handles, so safely maneuvering them is difficult and challenging.
  • Patients can’t be held as close to the lifter’s body, so they can’t be lifted in the same way we would normally approach lifting a heavy load.
  • You never know if a patient can or cannot help themselves to stand up or get out of bed. You have to assess every patient every time.
  • Taking care of a patient is unpredictable.

Nurses and other caregivers who are at the bedside or involved in moving the patient risk injury due to several factors, which often lead to back and shoulder sprains and strains.

  • Awkward postures. Clinicians may have to bend over or stoop more often to help patients, creating positions more susceptible to potential injury.
  • Lifting increasingly heavy loads. It’s no secret, the population is getting bigger and heavier.
  • Excessive pushing and pulling. Even the seemingly simple task of giving a patient a bath in his or her bed can be physically challenging.
  • Frequent, repeated moving and lifting. All day long.

How do you prevent or mitigate back injuries from occurring?

  1. Assess the patient’s weight, level of cognizance, and his or her ability to help with the lift before ever attempting to move the patient.
  2. Use the buddy system. Ask a co-worker for help lifting the patient, and plan the lift before you attempt it.
  3. Push rather than pull. It’s ergonomically easier on the body to push rather than pull, and it’s easier to successfully manage an uneven surface pushing rather than pulling. Always take advantage of support options including gait belts that help provide the caregiver something to hold onto, which makes for a safer transfer.

If you suffer a sprain or strain, remember the acronym RICE — Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Ice stops muscle spasms, which occur because of tiny tears in the muscles. If the injury has lasted longer than a week, heat may be a course of treatment. Over-the-counter nonsteroidals such as Advil®, Excedrin®, and Aleve® can also be effective.

I love taking care of the Methodist family. From the first time I came here a year ago, I have found them to be the friendliest people I have ever met. I think Methodist as a whole still genuinely feels like a real family.

If you’re ready to join a family, then it’s time to choose Methodist. Learn more by visiting

© Methodist Health System

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 Breaking Your Back

Setting Healthy Boundaries

By Althea Aubrey, RN, BSN
Director, Medical-Surgical Nursing, Methodist Dallas Medical Center

Life’s exciting when you’re a new graduate nurse. The possibilities are limitless and your zest for your career and your patients is boundless. Sometimes, when I’m working with new nurses, it is a challenge to nurture their positive spirit and instill the importance of setting healthy boundaries. Grasping the concept of healthy boundaries at the beginning of a career can pay off when clinicians hit the occasional bumps in the road.

I first experienced the need for healthy boundaries early in my career when I was an oncology nurse. After six years of caring for cancer patients, I reached the point where I knew I couldn’t do it forever. John was a leukemia patient for whom I cared during his hospitalization until he died. About six weeks later, my supervisor asked me how I was doing. “Fine,” I told her. But, being the wise, veteran nurse she was, she asked me stop by her office after my shift was over.

“Al,” she said, “your light is not shining anymore.” I burst into tears. I knew I was grieving for John. Thanks to her support and that of the hospital chaplain, I was able to process what I was feeling, see why I became a nurse in the first place, and understand how I could continue my career.

We all carry invisible buckets which hold feelings. Every patient we have puts a little into our buckets. Those feelings can be good and not so good. When we lose a patient, that emotion goes into the bucket as well. If we don’t have a good work/life balance, the bucket will overflow at the most inopportune moment.

Setting healthy boundaries not only establishes a barrier against built-up stress which ultimately leads to burn out, it also provides an appropriate emotional attachment between the nurse and his or her patients.

Here are four tips I’ve found useful in setting healthy boundaries for myself.

When there are clear boundaries, the results benefit everyone. If you’re ready for a brilliant move, consider Methodist. Visit


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New Year’s Resolutions: How to Make Them Stick

By Melanie Algermissen, Assistant Vice President, Wellness, Methodist Health System

New Years ResolutionsChristmas day has come and gone. Now it’s time to start that diet, exercise more, quit smoking, or spend less money. Or maybe you’ve given up on resolutions since your great intentions seem to fizzle out a couple of weeks into the new year.

Many of us fail at New Year’s resolutions because we choose goals that are unattainable and unrealistic, we don’t have a plan in place to sustain them, or we don’t hold ourselves accountable. The fact is, it’s hard to make significant lifestyle changes because change involves much more than willpower.

The good news is if you make resolutions, you are 10 times more likely to attain the lifestyle changes you desire compared to those who don’t set goals. Regardless

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of your experience with resolutions, it is possible to set a realistic goal and achieve it.

Here are five tips to help you achieve your 2012 resolutions:

1. Set a specific goal and list the incremental stepping stones that are required to help you achieve your goal. Make the steps measurable and realistic, and include an “achieve by” date.

2. Focus on motivation. Why do you want to achieve this goal? What is your real motivation? Beside your goal, list the benefits of achieving it — what are you really going to gain? My goal, for example, is to lose 20 pounds. One of the benefits of losing this weight is I’ll be better able to keep up with my grandchildren. The other benefit is I’m going to my 20-year high school reunion and will feel more confident seeing old friends.

3. Provide accountability in the form of a support system. This is critical. To whom are you going to answer — a friend, relative, physician, or combination of these? Then schedule ways to be accountable with your support system, such as walking with a friend three days a week.

4. Reward yourself appropriately when you achieve a stepping stone, but make sure the reward doesn’t contradict your overall goal. If weight loss is your goal, for example, don’t reward yourself with a hot fudge sundae. Instead, pick a reward such as going to a movie, buying new workout gear, registering for a 5K, treating yourself to an afternoon with your kids, etc. And make sure it feels like a pat on the back.

5. Most important, self-monitor your progress. If you’re working out, track the length of your workout and what you did. Can you convert the exercise to calorie burn? If your objective is to quit smoking, track the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and monitor the decreasing number of cigarettes so you can see how you’re improving.

You can also see if your current employer has programs available to improve employee health. At Methodist Health System, our Live Well, Shine Bright wellness program offers a variety of low- or no-cost tools for employees such as health coaching with individual or group support. We also participate in Live Healthy North Texas, a 100-day challenge where employees form teams and track their collective weight loss and physical activities. In 2011, Methodist employees lost 4,000 pounds and logged 7.6 million activity minutes. Other support services focus on weight management, tobacco cessation, stress management, and one-on-one physician support.

Additionally, employees who participate in our wellness program and show improvements in their health will be eligible for medical insurance discounts if they’re on the Methodist health plan. We anticipate

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adding new benefits for healthy habits year after year to keep the momentum going.

So what are you waiting for? It’s a new year. There’s no better time to set your priorities and plan for your success!

Methodist Health System is committed to being named the healthiest health system in America by 2016. To be part of a team that takes employee health seriously, visit


© Methodist Health System

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You’re a Nurse. How’s Your Heart Health?

Nurses and Heart HealthBy Bernnie Kennedy, RN, Director, Cardiology Nursing Supervision, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center

Nurses and Heart HealthBeing a nurse has its share of occupational challenges, but did you know nurses are at great risk for heart attacks? And if you work the night shift, that could mean even more trouble for your health.

Several studies have documented that nurses struggling with work pressures have double the risk of heart attacks. Nurses who work more than 10 hours a day are especially at risk. This is frightening news, since most nurses work more than seven hours a day.

As for night shift employees, research shows one in five middle-aged women had at least three of the following risk factors for heart attacks, including:

  • Abdominal obesity (higher waist circumference)
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood glucose
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol

In spite of this news, many hospital leaders recognize the importance of creating a positive work environment to support its nursing staff. Wellness programs, preventive care, and work/life balance help staff members lead healthier lives and positively manage stress.

At Methodist Health System, we support our nurses and encourage them to lower stress levels in these ways:

  • Maintain good physical health. Stay healthy by monitoring weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, and overall cholesterol. Long-term, a healthy nurse is healthier for patients as well.
  • Find balance. It’s impossible to work long shifts day after day without some downtime. Find time for relaxation after work and if you need a break, ask for one.
  • Eat right. Nutritious foods keep the body fueled and boost the immune system.
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Our brains need this to learn and retain new information, improve efficiency and attentiveness, and decrease fatigue-related emotional overreaction. (Source: Center for BrainHealth)
  • Exercise. Walking, running, cycling, or whatever gets us moving releases endorphins, which combat the negative effects of stress.

With the holidays upon us, it’s crucial to manage stress at work and at home. According to a Circulation study, fatal heart attacks in the general population peak on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Here are some common-sense steps to guard your heart during the holidays:

  • Think ahead and act. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Get your flu and/or pneumonia shot if you haven’t already. Infection and fever add stress to the heart.
  • Eat for heart health. Reduce salt intake, limit high-calorie meals and party foods, and limit alcohol. Too much alcohol can lead to atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
  • Don’t exert yourself beyond your ability. Too much physical exertion that you’re not accustomed to (like running the White Rock Marathon if you haven’t been training), anger, and emotional stress are heart stressors.
  • Dress for the season. That means warmly, if temperatures dive. Try to avoid exposure to cold temperatures.
  • Listen to your heart. If you experience chest pain, don’t put off having it checked out. Call 911 for help. Many people think they’ll wait until the holidays are over, but time is critical.

It’s time to take stress seriously. Working in an organization that supports its staff is the first step toward maintaining your physical and emotional health. Preventive education, understanding and processing critical incidents (traumatic stress), and talking with family members or peers are other ways to shore yourself up against the emotional costs of being a nurse.

To work at Methodist Health System, where your heart matters, visit


© Methodist Health System

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On-the-Job Stretches


Stephen L. Mansfield, PhD, FACHE, President and CEO of Methodist Health System and Karen

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Taylor, Employee Health Coach at Methodist Health System highlight a few on the job stretches to help employees reduce stress and maintain overall health and well-being

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De-stressing Your Life: How to Juggle it All

By Karen Taylor, Employee Health Coach, Methodist Health System

Ask any hospital employee what their No. 1 challenge is, and most likely they’ll say “stress.” Whether it’s at the bedside or behind the scenes, stress is part of the job in a hospital, even in a positive work environment.

Unfortunately, stress doesn’t just stop once we leave the hospital. The day’s events, financial stress, relationships, kids,  and aging parents are just a few of the many stresses we’re all juggling. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to balance all that life throws our way.

Methodist Health System recognizes that stress can take its toll on employees, not only in work performance but also in our own health. Stress actually lowers our immune system response, causing us to be more susceptible to illness. Since stress isn’t likely to go away, our goal at Methodist is to help employees take care of themselves, every day.

Here are some ways to build stress management into your daily life:

  1. Take a deep breath. Inhale deeply, hold for 5 seconds, then exhale through your mouth. This helps us refocus and reorganize our thoughts, and it can be very calming.
  2. Take time for yourself. Spend 5 minutes to regroup or separate yourself from your worries. Read a book, take a short walk, or get away from your desk or the break room.
  3. Stay active. Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
  4. Treat your body right. Don’t rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. Instead, eat right, get adequate sleep, and exercise.
  5. Get support from friends and family. You may find benefit in verbalizing what you’re feeling. Sometimes we carry stress and don’t realize it because we’re working so hard to take care of others. Simply stepping back to assess the dynamics and verbally identify the stressor can be therapeutic.
  6. Have a good laugh. When’s the last time you watched a really funny movie? Think about the times you laughed uncontrollably and how you felt afterward.
  7. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Sometimes we let our own stresses take on a life of their own.
  8. Separate yourself from stressors. Take a break. Take your vacation time. It’s for your own good.
  9. Remove the clutter in your life. Reorganize your work space or areas at home for added organization and calmness. This allows for more creativity and energy, which is sure to boost your spirit.
  10. Get help if you need it. Check to see if your health care facility offers resources such as an employee assistance program (EAP) that may cover financial counseling to help with psychological issues. At Methodist, we provide such a program as a benefit to employees. It is confidential and can help get our employees back on track.

Remember, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. Taking care of yourself is something you can do for you, your family, and your patients. In reality, stress probably isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s how you manage stress that matters.

To be part of the Methodist Health System team, where we help you see the light at the end of the tunnel, visit

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The Healthiest Health Care System by 2016

By Stephen L. Mansfield, PhD, FACHE, President and CEO, Methodist Health System

Health care reform is a buzzword these days. It can mean different things to different people and organizations. But at the end of the day, health care reform must result in a fundamental change to the way we deliver health care. We currently treat patients who are already ill. That system is no longer effective. We must shift our focus to one of prevention and wellness rather than treatment of acute illness.

In my view, President Obama missed an opportunity during the health care reform debate to say, “We are unhealthy as a nation, and we’re doing it to ourselves through diet and lack of exercise.” It would have been incredibly powerful for him to set a goal for our nation and say, “We’re going to be the healthiest nation on the globe by 2020 and here is how we are going to get there.”

This type of radical change requires a national momentum around personal accountability for health. If Methodist Health System is responsible for the health of the population around us, and the population has no accountability for their health, we will not be successful. We have to shift our focus further upstream. That probably starts with children: We are producing a generation of obese kids with the highest incidence of diabetes the nation has ever experienced. It’s like our ancestors used to say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The cost of prevention is minuscule; the cost of treatment is enormous. We’ve got to get Americans focused on individual accountability of health.

At Methodist Health System, that personal accountability begins with our own employees. If we are in the business of health care, we have to become a healthy example for our patients and our community. A couple of years ago, I shared with our Board, leadership, and employees my goal that Methodist become the healthiest health system in America by 2016. It is a goal that is frankly easier for some than for others. But it is something we need to do and should do for ourselves and for one another.

Many of us chose our career paths to help others. So I have asked our entire Methodist team – over 6000 employees – to turn our attention to our own health and wellness. After all, it is Methodist’s mission to improve and save lives – in this case the lives of our employees.

How will we do it? For starters, we must each be accountable for our personal health. The costs for poor health are high, both in dollars and quality of life. But in a world where the new normal is to be overweight, out of shape, and out of breath, it is my vision that Methodist can be the shining exception.

It will take work, dedication, creativity, and persistence. Our paths to health may differ, but Methodist is willing to invest in each of our employees and help them along the way. From a pilot project for a medical home for our employees at greatest risk, to a personal wellness coach available to all employees, and incentives for us all to reach our health and wellness goals – Methodist is committed to becoming the gold standard for a healthy workplace. It is an investment we are glad to make, as I know it will pay dividends for our employees, our patients, and our community.


© Methodist Health System

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