As we’ve participated in Wellness Month this August, I’ve had a great opportunity to reflect on UAB Medicine’s Office of Wellness journey thus far—ascertaining both where we are and where we’re hoping to be. As I look back on the last 18 months since I came into this leadership role, one of the most gratifying experiences has been to discover that there’s a community of people at UAB who have been working diligently in this area for quite some time. Many excellent programs and wellness leaders already existed through UAB Employee Wellness, UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center, as well as the UAB Medicine Professional Development Office. Additionally, other efforts have risen concurrently with the UAB Medicine Office of Wellness to include, among others, Dr. John Kennedy who has taken on the wellness champion role in the Department of Medicine. These individuals have become a part of a coalition of individuals committed to improving wellness in UAB Medicine.
Research shows that individuals working in academic medical centers have extra stress because of the nature of their jobs, and my office is working diligently to find ways to reduce those stressors to the greatest extent possible. As healthcare and research continues to evolve, we will have to remain attentive and proactive in order to address new and existing wellness concerns and to keep building a culture of wellness at UAB Medicine. By instituting the use of the Well-Being Index, we’ve been able to gather high-level data to help us pinpoint and better understand the wellness issues that various groups are facing. In fact, we’ve already begun utilizing that data to collaborate with UAB Medicine leaders to make positive changes.
As the largest healthcare provider in the state, I feel that it is important for us to be an exemplar in the community when it comes to wellness. My hope is that more and more people will point to UAB Medicine as an organization where taking care of ourselves and our colleagues is an essential part of our “Always Care” value. I believe that we have an ethical duty in UAB Medicine and in our community to lead the way in our dedication to wellness in the workplace.
Currently, UAB Medicine is in the progress of establishing a physical space for the Office of Wellness that will be an exciting opportunity to create new programming, as well as improve access to existing programs. It will be located next to the Office of Patient Experience, which is significant because the research literature is quite clear that in order for the patient experience to be optimal, you must have a workforce that’s engaged and cared for. We’re hoping that renovations will be completed sometime this coming fall and that it will become a place where employees can come to explore ways to be more resilient and engaged.
This has been a great month for getting people involved in the wellness conversation at UAB Medicine. Our gratitude wall in North Pavilion, in particular, was an inspired way to get some creative individuals from the Arts in Medicine program involved with our efforts. I think that it’s important to bring many minds together as we seek new ways to improve wellness, and I welcome ideas from all of you at any time. As we move out of Wellness Month, let us remember that wellness is a year-round ambition and one that UAB Medicine is dedicated to bettering.