New wellness initiatives target physical and mental health in Southern County Health

ON YOUR SIGNS: South County health workers gather in front of South County Hospital in South Kingstown as they prepare to kick off South County's 5th health centenary 5K in May 2019. Courtesy South County Health
ON YOUR SIGNS: South County health workers gather in front of South County Hospital in South Kingstown as they prepare to kick off South County’s 5th health centenary 5K in May 2019. Courtesy South County Health

PBN Healthiest Employers Awards 2022
500-1,499 employees
1. Southern District Health
CEO (or equivalent): Aaron Robinson, CEO and President
Number of employees: 937


When it comes to defining the mission and goals of South County Health, the answer is clear, said Maggie Thomas, vice president and director of human resources.

“South County Health’s focus is on making high-quality health care accessible to all by investing in critical medical services, innovative technologies, and market-leading experiences that continue to advance our mission of being the most trusted health partner in Rhode Island,” Thomas said.

In addition to addressing the health and wellness of the communities it serves, the South Kingstown Health Organization places a premium on making sure the health and well-being of its employees is met.

“SCH has enhanced our health portal offering to Virgin Pulse effective January 1, 2023,” Thomas said. “VP’s offering includes WHIL which includes meditation, mindfulness, yoga, webinars and videos.”

As part of the New Health Initiatives campaign, South County Health is renovating one of its rooms to convert it into a “regeneration room” for employees.

“This will be a rest area where employees can relax on their own or meet in small groups,” Thomas said. “We will also offer wellness classes like yoga and meditation in the room.”

The health system will also provide self-service massage chairs for employees so that they can relax and rejuvenate. Chairs will be placed in the renovation room when it opens in the fall, and one of them will also be available in the staff wellness kiosk.

To address the mental health crisis associated with COVID-19, South County Health has taken a multifaceted approach to addressing the mental health needs of its employees during the pandemic.

For example, when in-person wellness classes were suspended during the height of the pandemic, employees were allowed to self-report any activity they chose to earn wellness rewards.

“This was done to encourage employees to continue their healthy activities, when possible,” Thomas said. “Included in the self-reports, we have encouraged employees to report their walking/stepping. We see the continuing benefit of this to this day, as we see many employees walking during breaks.”

Among the initiatives undertaken at South County Health to help improve a healthy work culture has been to increase its communication efforts regarding Coastline Employee Assistance Program options, which include several virtual programs.

South County Health has also converted meeting rooms into rest rooms, providing them with bottled water, snacks, scented towels, and information on meditation and mindfulness techniques.

Additionally, the company has prioritized scheduling vacation time for employees during the highly desirable summer period, despite workforce challenges caused by the pandemic.

Thomas said that living in Rhode Island, especially working in the southern part of the state, provides a unique opportunity to enjoy the surrounding areas.

“We have worked hard to ensure that all employees are given time away to enjoy their families and for rest, relaxation and flexibility,” she said.

The statistic that best captures the effectiveness of South County Health’s health program is the percentage of participation. In 2021, the health system had 831 participants, or approximately 70% of all eligible employees.

Company officials note that they are proud to offer a strong list of programs through Well Beyond, which are designed to support employees and their families in achieving their goals to improve or maintain their personal well-being.

“As healthcare providers, we recognize the opportunity to impact our community by leading by example and ensuring our own personal resilience,” Thomas said. “Ensuring our physical and mental health allows us to provide the best for our patients, families and colleagues.”

Thomas explained that supporting employees in their well-being during and after the COVID-19 shutdown has enabled colleagues of South County Health to experience the satisfaction and rewards that come from service to its patients and community.

“This satisfaction is important to employee retention and our long-term ability to provide the best service to patients and the South County Health community,” Thomas said.

Good thought: “We recognize the opportunity to influence our community by leading by example and ensuring our personal resilience.”
Maggie Thomas, Southern District Vice President of Health and Senior Human Resources Officer

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