ANA on the FrontlineHealthy Nurse

Healthy workplaces, healthy nurses

By: American Nurses Association

Two healthcare systems take the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation mission to heart.

Penn Medicine Princeton Health and Orlando VA Health Care System (OVAHCS) are making nurses wellness a priority with programs that incorporate physical and mental health.

Penn Medicine Princeton Health

Making staff wellness a part of a hospitals strategic plan ensures it becomes a priority for the organization. Thats the current situation at Penn Medicine Princeton Health in Plainsboro, NJ, which joined Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation at the beginning of 2023.

As a hospital, nurse wellness is a priority for us, said Ellen Winkle, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, EBP-CH, nursing professional development specialist and a Pennsylvania State Nurses Association member. We want to make sure nurses have access to resources that we offer, as well as those from Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation.

Penn Medicine Princeton Health CEO James Demetriades kickstarted the health systems multipronged wellness program. He wanted to engage and connect with staff on the front lines who had experienced so much hardship during the pandemic. One result was the CEO Step Club.

Open to everyone, this club provides events and opportunities for people of all activity levels to get moving. It includes the following:

  • Walks around campus during which employees can chat with the CEO.
  • Fun runs at local, scenic spots.
  • Step challenges.
  • Walking events for night shift employees.

The clubs biggest event so far was the One Million Steps Challenge. We had 52 teams participate in the challenge with a total of 55.6 million steps, and it was a really fun and engaging event, Winkle said.

Another wellness effort began during the pandemic. A handful of nursing units created their own Oasis Rooms, which included massage chairs, aromatherapy, adult coloring books, soft music, and other tools to help nurses and other providers unwind. Due to the positive feedback and success of the initial Oasis Rooms, the wellness committee plans to add Oasis Rooms to every unit in the facility.

Orlando VA Health Care System

Everyone thinks of innovation as cutting-edge ideas that are big and dramatic, said Candace McNulty, MSN, RN, float pool and screening nurse manager at OVAHCS. But sometimes we lose sight of how little changes can add up. They can impact our everyday and our ability to provide meaningful care.

Executive leadership at OVAHCS, which is part of theVeterans Health Association Innovators Network, encourages frontline employees to come forward with ideas, programs, and solutions to daily challenges. That encouragement, and the support of their innovation and improvement team, led McNulty to design and pilot an inventive wellness program called Fit a Bit of Wellness.

McNulty worked closely with the OVAHCS innovation specialist to outline elements of the program, which includes:

  • A wellness peer leaderwho completed mind-body skills training and dedicates 4 hours per month to coordinating wellness opportunities and encouraging team engagement.
  • Whole health tools and equipment,including items for relaxation (such as handheld massagers, a tea kettle, aromatherapy, and coloring supplies) and fitness (yoga mats, treadmill desk, strengthening bands, and workout videos).
  • Wearable devicesto encourage fitness, mindfulness, and group exercise challenges.
  • Quarterly education and wellness days, which include 8 hours of protected time for each employee so they can attend the events and classes.
  • A team data dashboard,which highlights the teams wellness achievements.

Bringing all of these things together is what creates the culture of wellness, McNulty said. It cant just be having a leader talking about wellness or handing someone a Fitbit and hoping that it teaches them how to handle stress and secondary trauma. You need to have all the tools in your toolbox and a comprehensive plan in place.

Learn more about wellness initiatives at

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