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How one association is adding some PEP to their workplace.

In 2013, the NBANH was presented with a “Wellness at Heart” award, in recognition of their innovative workplace wellness initiatives.

A great workplace wellness program energizes people. And the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes (NBANH) realized that they needed just this kind of program after a 2010 employee survey revealed that employees needed support in some areas. Incidentally, Mélanie Martin came on board in 2012 as a Wellness Coordinator to help build a program.

“In 2010, a few years before I began, there was research done across the sector to get a sense of the needs, challenges, and concerns that Nursing Home employees were facing,” says Mélanie. “What came out of this research gave us a really good idea of where to start with the program.”

A contest was launched to give the new wellness program a name that would work in both French and English. The winning entry was PEP, which stands for Priority, Engagement, Possibility. The name captured the goals of the program beautifully:

  • Priority: that employees need to prioritize their own health and take care of themselves so they can take care of the residents but also of their own families.
  • Engagement: be engaged with the program.
  • Possibility: that the program is flexible and gives employees different ways to participate.

In order to have a program that would align with employee needs, they looked at the four areas identified in the 2010 survey:

  1. Mental Health
  2. Musculoskeletal Injuries
  3. Cardiovascular Heath
  4. Diabetes/Cancer – and other chronic conditions

“Basing ourselves on the results of this survey, we started building a wellness program to address these areas of need in the sector.” It was no small task. “We have 65 nursing homes across the province that represent approximately 6,000 employees,” says Mélanie. “Everyone does things a little differently. Each nursing home is unique.”

But change was in the air – the NBANH really wanted to make sure they were supporting the wellbeing of their employees and addressing the areas identified in the survey.

The program is now structured so four different activities are proposed for each trimester that align with the four priority areas. The expectation is that the participating nursing homes do at least two of these four activities (although some nursing homes go above and beyond).

Leading the programming is Mélanie. “How it works is I prepare the activities, the information, promotional materials, and then, at the beginning of the new trimester, I send the info to the participating nursing homes. We have Wellness Champions there who are in charge of organizing the activities in their home during the trimester. All the activities can be personalized, but it’s all prepared for them so they can take it and run with it.”

The combination of support at the administration level combined with the passion of the Wellness Champions is what makes the program so successful across such a broad network.

They have undertaken a wide range of activities including: certificates for over 50 employees congratulating them for having successfully quit smoking, Lunch and Learns, and icebreaker activities to destigmatize mental health issues, just to name a few. There are also awards to recognize the nursing homes that have excelled in their wellness programming and employee awards for those who are wellness leaders at work or in their communities.

While the program did face obstacles in the beginning, mostly with getting the individual (very busy) nursing homes to see the value of the program and the benefits to employees and residents, it has grown steadily with over 40 nursing homes participating in 2015. Today, the program is facing different challenges, but the NBANH intends to keep on supporting the health of their employees, with a collaborative effort from all stakeholders.

While it can be a challenge to show direct, concrete, results from this type of program because results are seen over the long term, Mélanie knows it’s having an effect.

“I often receive calls from administrators or champions who tell me they did a wellness activity and how it helped the employees. It’s not an easy job they do, and we are seeing positive change.”

Over the past four years, she’s heard really great success stories of how people started exercising, lost weight, stopped smoking, and how these changes have had a positive impact on their relationships with their family, friends, colleagues and community.

“I get calls from people who tell me, ‘Listen, I stopped smoking and I want to help my colleague quit as well. Do you have resources that can help me?’” Melanie loves these calls. “When you see people participating and not just attending activities because they feel they have to, and you see them encouraging a colleague’s wellness, it gives you an idea of the potential that exists in the province. When you see results like that, it encourages me to keep going.”

Over the course of the program, employee satisfaction and levels of participation have been measured and have shown a positive trend. On average, 31.7% of the nursing homes’ employees participate per quarter with an overall satisfaction level of 98.7%. For the NBANH, the next step to consider would be to perform an in-depth benchmark analysis and measure the program’s overall performance. This would also help decide directions for the future–a future Mélanie is already thinking about.

“There’s still tons we can do. Over the next few years we really want to focus on mental health as well as broaden the program’s scope by touching on other specific focus areas. I’d like to do more partnerships as there are really great resources throughout the province.” She’s excited for the future and for how far they’ve already come. “I must say that I am excited to see results and see a program like this bear fruit. Even though there is still much to do, it always makes my day.”

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