Hospital Wellness Programs: Complete Guide for Healthcare Employers

Day in and day out, hospital workers subject themselves to countless health risks in the name of helping others. It's a high-stakes profession requiring a great deal of physical and emotional effort.

To keep doing their jobs, they need to prioritize their own health (in every sense of the word). Promoting that starts from within — you have to have a hospital wellness program.

What is a hospital wellness program?

Hospital wellness programs are employee wellness programs specifically designed to accommodate hospital workers' unique needs and lifestyles. They provide supportive measures and resources hospital employees need to manage their physical, mental, social, and financial well-being in their personal and professional lives.

A hospital wellness program typically includes some or all of the following:

  • Onsite fitness classes and physical activities
  • Mental health support such as counseling, group sessions, or online courses
  • Health and wellness stipends
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs) and health advocacy
  • Financial advice and assistance
  • Stress management resources
  • Workshops on nutrition, mindfulness, meditation, self-care, and sleep hygiene

What makes hospital employee wellness programs different?

While most of these offerings are important for employee well-being in general, hospital employee wellness programs emphasize the special factors that accompany hospital work.

These include issues like:

  • Long shifts, frequent night shifts, or unusual hours
  • Childcare while managing such a complicated schedule
  • Exposure to infectious diseases and hazardous materials
  • Isolation and burnout from working in a high-stakes environment
  • Stress due to the higher responsibility of life or death situations
  • Trauma and psychological strain from seeing daily suffering
  • Mountains of student loan debt

Healthcare employee retention and well-being are arguably more important than that of other professions, given the implications of the job. Low performance and a shortage of healthcare workers put human lives at serious risk. This isn't a desk job, where the main risks are company losses of a few thousand dollars.

Health and wellness programs are essential for our most essential workers.

Treating patients with painful and debilitating conditions is hugely demanding. Constant exposure to danger, stress, and suffering takes an immense toll on medical professionals.

That toll manifests itself in numerous different ways.

Healthcare workers have higher obesity rates than most other professions.

53% of healthcare workers are either overweight or obese, making them more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Since many have difficulty with a regular schedule, they often struggle to find time to take care of themselves by eating healthy meals and exercising regularly.

They also have higher levels of job stress and mental health issues...

According to research from Mental Health America:

  • 93% of healthcare workers report high stress levels.
  • 86% of them mention intense anxiety.
  • 77% have expressed frustration with their current situation.
  • 76% have reported experiencing exhaustion and burnout, highlighting their work's immense toll on their well-being.
  • 75% say they feel overwhelmed by the demands of their profession.

...And less than half have achieved work-life balance.

In a 2023 study, 56.55% of hospital employees indicated they have a work-life imbalance. This means they often struggle to find the time and energy to take care of themselves.

Fatigue, overwork, sleep deprivation, and burnout create a cycle where they are unable to function properly on the job, leading to even more stress and further health problems.

Student loan debt is an unfathomably large burden for most of them.

Asking hospital employees how much student loan debt they have has even become a TikTok trend.

The average med school graduate owes $250,990 — seven times that of the average college graduate. Nurses owe considerably less (between $40,000 and $54,900), but that's still an enormous burden.

For many, it's impossible to pay off these staggering debts in a reasonable amount of time while working full-time (often unpaid) shifts and taking care of their own health.

4 pillars of health and wellness for hospital employees

Hospital wellness programs are incomplete unless they address the four pillars of employee health and wellness: physical, mental, social, and financial.

Physical wellness

Physical health is closely tied to job performance. It improves our mood, focus, and energy levels. A hospital wellness program should promote physical activity and a healthy lifestyle among employees.

The best ways to do this are:

  • Exercise classes (e.g., walking clubs or yoga)
  • Onsite gym memberships (for large facilities)
  • Gym reimbursement (for smaller ones, or those that don't have a gym)
  • Meal allowances for healthy food
  • Health screenings and checkups during work hours
  • Subsidized health insurance with a good coverage plan

As an employer, it's your responsibility to give your healthcare workers a reliable work schedule. When they're constantly on the go, it's hard for them to make a schedule they can stick to. That's where poor nutrition and a lack of exercise really become a problem.

Of course, there are always emergencies (especially for emergency room and ICU staff). But consistent working hours can help them make time for other activities.

Mental wellness

Mental health care is a particularly important aspect of healthcare employee wellness programs. Health insurance doesn't always cover it. And without insurance, the typical therapy session costs between $200 and $300.

There are several ways healthcare employers can support employees' mental health:

  • Mental health counseling services (in-person and telehealth)
  • A 24/7 helpline for crisis situations
  • EAPs that cover various mental health concerns
  • Stress management resources
  • Employee assistance programs to help them navigate the system
  • "Mental health days"
  • Meditation apps

To promote health all around, scheduling is important here, too. In addition to worksite wellness programs, it's best to schedule employees in such a way that they can take adequate time to unwind. This may be a four-day workweek with slightly longer days or longer shifts on alternating days.

Social wellness

Social wellness covers your employees' relationships with their peers, superiors, patients, and family. Intentional team-building fosters a strong and supportive community within your organization.

In hospitals, employee recognition goes a long way. A healthcare employee recognition program that includes awards, spot bonuses, peer-to-peer recognition, and social recognition in front of the entire community can make a big difference.

Creating a sense of community and camaraderie also helps, especially for those who come from different departments or backgrounds. Holding social gatherings (e.g., picnics, field trips, potlucks) is one way to get everyone together and have some fun while getting to know each other.

Financial wellness

Healthcare is a high-paying field. But 50% of hospital nurses say their work stress directly relates to finances. Even extremely well-paid hospital employees experience financial distress if they're going through a divorce or simply don't manage their money well.

Financial health is closely related to physical and emotional health as well, which is why financial wellness is an important aspect of your program.

Many hospitals financially support their employees in the following ways:

  • Student loan repayment assistance (which is tax-deductible)
  • Student loan reimbursement for ongoing education (which is also tax-deductible)
  • Retirement planning (pension plans, 401Ks)
  • Tax preparation resources
  • Investment counseling sessions
  • On-demand pay to cover immediate bills

Implementing your own hospital wellness program

Most hospitals offer health and wellness services. And it doesn't need to be difficult, either.

Follow these five steps to get started:

1. Understand your employees' lives inside and outside the hospital.

Designing a hospital wellness program means addressing the needs of your entire staff, many of whom work in different departments, make different amounts of money, work different hours, and have different job requirements.

Talk to employees from the emergency room, ICU, labor and delivery, operating room, medical records, billing department — every sector of your hospital.

2. Find out which benefits matter most to your employees.

Across the board, most healthcare employees care about the same things. 88% report health-related benefits as the most meaningful, prioritizing them above family, education, transportation, and retirement.

That said, you still need to know for sure what they'd benefit from if you want your program to have an impact. Once you understand your employees' lives a bit better, run a confidential employee benefits survey to determine what should be included in your program.

3. Design your wellness program around those needs.

You'll probably realize employees in different departments lead very different lifestyles. There will be plenty of overlap, but those behind a desk will certainly prioritize different benefits than hospital nurses who are bedside.

The easiest way to offer inclusive benefits is to offer a health and wellness stipend or Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA), which employees can use on the wellness activities and products they see fit.

The easiest way to offer flexible health and wellness perks is to use Compt. You can set up a health and wellness stipend your employees can use on their own terms, or you can offer an LSA, which employees can use for healthcare costs, gym memberships, or just about anything else you can imagine.

4. Launch the program.

Once you have your program set up, you need to communicate it to all your employees and set them up with accounts. It's a good idea to set up a wellness committee that outlines the eligibility criteria and instructions for enrollment/use.

Compt has an intuitive and user-friendly platform that makes it easy for you to build a custom program, launch it, and get everyone onboarded. It's why our customers report 90% employee engagement!

6. Track satisfaction and engagement.

Even after surveying your employees and setting them up, there's no guarantee you've hit the nail on the head.

Use your benefits platform to track engagement. And survey employees after the six-month mark to get their feedback.

Set up your hospital wellness program using Compt.

Even in small hospitals, deploying wellness programs is a huge challenge.

  • Some health and wellness benefits are tax-deductible. Others aren't.
  • Compliance rules vary from state to state.
  • Accounting for individual elements of your program is a back-office nightmare.

Hospital wellness programs require several types of benefits. Some employees will submit requests for student loan reimbursement. For your whole workforce, you'll specify a certain amount for an LSA, and reimburse for qualified expenses in your payroll cycle.

You'll need a platform that does it all. Click here to see it in action.

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