Blog | Thursday, January 30, 2020

'My organization has a really big push for wellness among our senior staff'

I was recently talking to a senior executive at a very big organization who was telling me about all the initiatives their company was rolling out for their senior staff, to ensure they were on the right track for health and longevity. He described to me regular check-ins to make sure they were staying as healthy as possible, and an upcoming long retreat to focus on this entirely (paid for by the organization). This mimics countless stories I've heard from people in a number of different industries—from information technology to financial services. It's rightly becoming a core philosophy in many of the big name companies, even for the most junior staff.

I've heard stories of encouraging friendly competition among staff with “steps walked” and bonuses for hitting certain lifestyle goals. Healthy delicious gourmet food delivered to office staff every day (when it's in a health care setting, we get pizza and muffins!). It's a subject I've written about previously and without sounding like a broken record, this point cannot be hammered home enough: health care is a huge employer with some of the biggest well-known corporate names generating vast sums of money. Yet why do we (ironically) put almost zero effort into employee wellness? I am baffled every time I think about this in depth, because it makes no sense.

I've worked in dozens of hospitals and observed the attitude that administrators take towards their frontline staffs' well-being—doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. I'm not talking about the odd “stay happy and well email” sent by the latest corporate C-suite wellness officer. But a real effort to address the physical and mental well-being of dedicated and seasoned frontline health care workers. If we're going to live in this new corporate medicine world, we may as well be treated like other corporations treat their experienced professional staff.

Why does an attending with 10 years of experience not get to sit down regularly and discuss their own health, well-being and daily stress levels? And then get some great lifestyle tips on things they could change. Why does the nurse with 25 years of experience not get taken on a yearly wellness retreat with other colleagues to recharge their batteries? Why does the senior pharmacist who has been managing the whole department for 20 years not get coached on a healthy lifestyle as he's contemplating retirement? Is it just assumed that because someone works in health care, they already know all these things? Because I can tell you with certainty that medical professionals are often the worst at this!

Time is always at a premium in any busy profession, but sometimes things just need to be made a priority. And absolutely nothing comes before your physical and mental well-being. Health care needs this more than ever for its own.

Suneel Dhand is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. He is the founder of DocSpeak Communications and co-founder at DocsDox. He blogs at his self-titled site, where this post first appeared.