Gulf Coast VA opens Employee Wellbeing Centers

Gulf Coast VA recently opened an Employee Wellbeing Center at the Biloxi and Mobile campuses. Additionally, it deployed 16 employee wellbeing mobile carts. The Office of Innovation and Employee Whole Health teams partnered on the project using a SPREAD Investment from Orlando VA. It was funded by VA’s Innovators Network, the Office of Patient Centered Care, and Cultural Transformation for Employee Whole Health.

The Orlando VA Medical Center Employee Wellness Center project originated during the COVID-19 pandemic as a response to reduce the extremely high employee stress and anxiety during the unprecedented era.

Leadership takes the position that their employee’s overall health and wellness should be a top priority. When employee wellness is optimized, they feel appreciated and empowered, which equips them to provide the best possible care to the Veterans we care for, contributing to a culture of high reliability.

Improves the safety of Veteran patients

“Providing a space and resources for employees to recharge directly confronts issues such as burnout, stress, anxiety and so much more,” said Melanya Kushla, Employee Whole Health coordinator.

Evidence demonstrates that when health care organizations make a commitment to improving employee wellbeing, it not only impacts the employees’ mental and physical health, but it also can significantly improve the safety and satisfaction of patients receiving care at VA.

The employee wellbeing centers and carts offer private spaces that include a wide variety of sensory-driven experiences, including relaxing music, aromatherapy, soft lighting, massage therapy and more.

The rooms have state-of-the art massage chairs that help to relieve tension and pain, as well as virtual reality headsets that allow employees to escape to a menu of scenic vistas and vacation experiences, complete with sounds and interactive environments.

Employees can take a break from reality and visit a tropical beach, lay under the stars, or even travel to a destination abroad. The centers can be used individually or in small groups.

Employees cutting a ribbon

Opening an Employee Wellbeing Center

A culture of support and encouragement

“When small groups of employees share the center, their experience sparks conversation surrounding their preferences, which also helps to build a sense of connection and relationships among each other. This facilitates a culture of support, encouragement and camaraderie within the workplace,” said Kushla.

In 2021, the VA All Employee Survey reported approximately 25 percent of employees felt at least one symptom of burnout on a weekly basis; 20 percent felt two symptoms of burnout on a weekly basis; and 5 percent reported three symptoms per week.

The results from 2020 to 2021 are concerning, notably from the rise in COVID-related stress and burnout, which led to a national health care initiative in 2021.

That initiative is known as the Reduce Employee Burnout and Optimize Organizational Thriving (REBOOT) Task Force. REBOOT’s national mission is to address burnout and promote professional fulfillment among employees. Gulf Coast VA is doing precisely that, initiating the Employee Wellbeing Centers and Carts to support employee self-care as well as support employee retention with the optimal goal to benefit holistic, patient-centered care to the Veterans we serve.

100% experienced reduction in stress

Employees are experiencing multiple benefits after spending 15 minutes in the Employee Wellbeing Centers and utilizing the amenities provided on the mobile carts. Feedback has been positive and 100% of respondents have experienced a reduction in stress, as well as improvement in feeling valued as an employee as a result of the wellness center and carts.

“This is a wonderful thing to have for employees, and several people in the office love to go. Thank you for caring for the employees,“ said one employee.

The Employee Wellbeing Centers and Carts innovative project is featured in the VHA Innovation Ecosystem Diffusion of Excellence Marketplace. Gulf Coast VA is one of 13 facilities nationwide recognizing the need to have a healthy workforce to provide top notch care to our Veterans.

If you would like to learn more, read more about the Diffusion Marketplace (va.gov).

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