Nursing can be a physically demanding career. Between manually lifting patients and being on their feet for long shifts, nurses require stamina and strength to stay the course. Add in the emotional and psychological demands of caring for the sick and injured, and it becomes apparent that nurses need to take time to focus on their own health. Employer-sponsored wellness programs offer one way for nurses to practice self-care so that they can continue to give their patients the best care.
What Benefits Do Wellness Programs Offer?
Wellness programs are beneficial for several reasons. Program participants frequently complete an online health risk assessment which asks questions related to lifestyle, diet, exercise and mental health. This provides a baseline of the individual’s overall health and identifies areas in which they can improve. The assessments are easy to understand and serve as a handy reference for goal-setting and tracking progress. Plus, some employers even offer a reduction in the employee’s portion of healthcare premiums for participating.
The range of services wellness programs offer can be extensive, making it easier for participants to find helpful resources all in one place. Wellness initiatives frequently include information about smoking cessation, dietary and meal planning, exercise and physical health, and mental and emotional health. The programs also offer biometric screenings to check body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and other risk factors.
Wellness programs also offer ongoing support and encouragement, which is particularly valuable for those who have no support systems in place. Wellness programs coordinated via the internet — typically through a dedicated website, portal, and/or app — can automatically send updates and reminders by email or text message, prompting participants to follow the steps necessary to meet their health goals. An online health coach, usually assigned at the beginning of the program, can communicate through secure messaging with no appointment or travel necessary. This type of support model shows promise. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that people enrolled in a community-based weight loss program — one that used support groups, mobile apps and online tools — had significantly more success than those who tried to lose weight on their
Should Nurses Participate?
Wellness programs have become increasingly popular in recent years as employers attempt to reduce healthcare costs and improve employee health. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 76 percent of employers offered some type of employee wellness benefits in 2014. Therefore, nurses already employed or who are seeking employment upon completion of a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program may have the option to join a wellness program.
With the wide variety of initiatives covered by these programs, most nurses can benefit. From a financial perspective, participation can equal lower insurance premiums, reduced copays, and in some instances, cashback incentives for completing certain requirements like biometric screening.
The true payoff though is in improved physical, mental and emotional health. Due to the demands of the profession, nurses are at higher risk for work-related stress, depression and musculoskeletal injuries. A 2011 American Nurses Association (ANA) survey found that 74 percent of nurses worry about the effects of stress and overwork, and 62 percent fear a disabling musculoskeletal injury. Another 2012 study published in Clinical Nurse Specialist indicated that nurses experience depression at twice the rate of the general public. While wellness programs cannot stave off all of these worries, they may help mitigate the number of occurrences by providing physical and emotional guidance and support.
Wellness programs have many benefits. For nurses who are interested in living a healthier lifestyle — whether that means weight loss, stress management or smoking cessation — joining an employer-sponsored wellness program can improve the likelihood of success. With a built-in support system and financial incentives, wellness programs provide another form of self-care for nurses, allowing them to provide quality care to patients as well.
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