New wellness initiatives target physical, mental well-being at South County Health

ON YOUR MARKS: South County Health employees assemble in front of South County Hospital in South Kingstown as they prepare to begin the South County Health Centennial 5K in May 2019. 
COURTESY SOUTH COUNTY HEALTH
ON YOUR MARKS: South County Health employees assemble in front of South County Hospital in South Kingstown as they prepare to begin the South County Health Centennial 5K in May 2019. 
COURTESY SOUTH COUNTY HEALTH

PBN Healthiest Employers Awards 2022
500-1,499 EMPLOYEES
1. South County Health
CEO (or equivalent): Aaron Robinson, CEO and president
Number of employees: 937


When it comes to defining South County Health’s mission and goals, the answer is clear, said Maggie Thomas, vice president and chief human resources officer.

“South County Health’s focus is to make high-quality health care more accessible to all by investing in critical medical services, innovative technologies and market-leading experiences that continue to deliver on our mission to be Rhode Island’s most-trusted health partner,” Thomas said.

In addition to addressing the health and wellness of the communities it serves, the South Kingstown-based health organization puts a premium on making sure that the health and well-being of its employees is met.

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“SCH enhanced our wellness portal offering to Virgin Pulse as of Jan. 1, 2023,” Thomas said. “And included in the VP offering is their WHIL program that includes meditation, mindfulness and yoga webinars and videos.”

As part of the new healthy initiatives campaign, South County Health is renovating one of its rooms to turn it into a “rejuvenation room” for staff.

“This will be a respite area where staff can relax by themselves or meet in small groups,” Thomas said. “We will also offer wellness classes such as yoga and meditation in the room.”

The health system will also provide self-service massage chairs to staff so they can relax and rejuvenate themselves. The chairs will be placed in the rejuvenation room when it opens in the fall, and one will also be available in the staff wellness kiosk.

To address the mental health crisis associated with COVID-19, South County Health took a multifaceted approach in addressing the mental health needs of its staff during the pandemic.

For example, when in-person wellness classes were suspended during the height of the pandemic, staff were allowed to self-report any activity of their choosing to earn wellness rewards.

“This was done to encourage staff to continue their wellness activities, when possible,” Thomas said. “Included in the self-reporting, we encouraged staff to report their walking/steps. We see the continuing benefit of this to this day, as we see many staff walking during their breaks.”

Among the initiatives South County Health implemented to help improve a healthy work culture was increasing its communication efforts regarding the Coastline Employee Assistance Program options, which include many virtual programs.

South County Health also converted conference rooms into respite rooms and stocked them with bottled water, snacks, scented washcloths and information on meditation and mindfulness techniques.

In addition, the company prioritized the scheduling of vacation time for staff during the highly desirable summer period, despite workforce challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Thomas said living in Rhode Island, and especially working in the southern part of the state, provides a unique opportunity to enjoy the environs.

“We worked extremely hard to ensure all staff were given time away to enjoy their families and for rest, relaxation and resiliency,” she said.

The statistic that best captures the effectiveness of South County Health’s wellness program is the percentage of participation. In 2021, the health system had 831 participants, or nearly 70% of all eligible staff members.

Company officials point out that they are proud to offer a robust menu of programs through Well Beyond, which is designed to support staff and their families in achieving their goals to improve or maintain their personal well-being.

“As health care providers, we recognize the opportunity for impact in our community through leading by example and ensuring our personal resilience,” Thomas said. “Ensuring our physical and mental health enables us to provide the very best to our patients, families and colleagues.”

Thomas explained that supporting staff in their well-being during and after the COVID-19 lockdown enabled South County Health colleagues to experience the satisfaction and rewards that come from service to its patients and community.

“That satisfaction is important to staff retention and our long-term ability to best serve the patients and community of South County Health,” Thomas said.

A Healthy Thought: ‘We recognize the opportunity for impact in our community through leading by example and ensuring our personal resilience.’
MAGGIE THOMAS, South County Health vice president and chief human resources officer hought

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