Giving healthcare HR pros well-deserved accolades

As an industry observer who has interviewed hundreds of human resource professionals in focus group sessions across the country, it seems to me the contributions made by HR folks often go unrecognized, especially in smaller organizations where they are required to wear a pile of hats.

The typical HR professional has to be a combination of compensation and benefits manager, training expert and coach, quasi-attorney, psychologist, performance evaluator, disciplinarian, labor relations specialist, and occupational health and safety guidance counselor. Their versatility is particularly put to the test in hospitals, where a diverse workforce is exposed to numerous hazards while confronting life-and-death situations.

To recognize the contributions of human resource professionals in healthcare, the American Society for Health Care Human Resources Administration has designated this week as the first annual Health Care HR Week – and today as Hospital Wellness Day. The HR society is a personal membership group of the American Hospital Association.

“This celebration is for health care human resource professionals who work in hospitals, health systems, clinics, long‐term care and hospice facilities, and any other health care organization. ASHHRA created this event to recognize the contributions they make to their organization’s success,” said Stephanie Drake, executive director.

Human resource professionals in hospitals typically work behind the scenes to ensure the health and well-being of all staff members. They often are instrumental in planning wellness-related activities such as vaccination campaigns, health risk assessments and targeted interventions (e.g., personal protection, nutrition, fitness, smoking cessation, stress management programs).

Equally as important, they remain vigilant long after the health fair balloons have lost their helium. For example, should an employee become ill, disabled or suffer a work-related injury, the HR team is prepared with policies and protocols to help facilitate appropriate care and safe return to work.

One model organization among many that come to mind in connection with Hospital Wellness Day is the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Health System. The system employs more than 34,000 full-time faculty and staff, making it one of Maryland’s major private employers and comprising Baltimore’s largest workforce. That means a lot of people are touched by its Human Resource Department, whose motto Live. Work. Learn. Grow. promotes wellness by encouraging employees to:

  • manage personal/family needs and quality of life;
  • create positive work relationships and productive, safe and comfortable work environments;
  • obtain education to stimulate career development and;
  • “explore who you are” and support the community.

This venerable institution is well known for effective management of occupational injuries and illnesses, and it has widely published workers’ compensation-related research conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Division of Occupational Medicine under the direction of Edward Bernacki, M.D., M.P.H.

In addition, Johns Hopkins Human Resources has been recognized for innovations such as a dedicated Employee Health and Wellness Center where employees can obtain free care for minor complaints such as colds, coughs, sinus trouble, stomachaches, rashes and non-work-related strains and sprains. The center reduces work absences by helping employees recover quickly and remain productive. Employees are required to report to duty and have their supervisor sign an authorization slip before visiting the center.

Other noteworthy HR-driven initiatives include a calendar of events celebrating multi-cultural diversity in the Johns Hopkins workforce and an ambitious blood drive (the 2012 goal is 2,500 units) directly promoted by JHH President Ron Peterson, who has given blood for the past 35 years.

This pretty much says it all: Workforce wellness begins at the top. The word spreads thanks to HR and other professionals within the organization. And in the end, what matters most is the degree to which we each embrace the wellness message.

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