Saint Peter’s wins national award for reducing workplace injuries, addressing employees’ mental well-being

Health system is 1 of 4 companies recognized for workers’ comp, disability management efforts

Saint Peter’s Healthcare System was one of four national honorees selected to receive the Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award.

The honor, known as the Teddy Award, was established in 1994 and is named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who introduced the first piece of significant workers’ compensation legislation in the U.S.

The winning companies were said to have several core characteristics in common, including doing everything possible to protect their most valuable asset — their people — and striving daily to reduce workplace risks.

Saint Peter’s was recognized along with Jet Blue Airways Corp., General Mills and the city of Philadelphia.

Saint Peter’s CEO Les Hirsch said the system is passionate about creating a best-practices workers’ compensation program that is second to none.

Saint Peter’s enhanced its employee injury prevention program, greatly expanded employee health and wellness initiatives, and implemented a workers’ compensation program with an employee advocacy approach. The health care system was recognized with the Teddy Award for its all-encompassing workplace safety program, which significantly reduced employee injuries over a four-year period and for its dynamic return-to-work program and support of employees’ mental well-being.

“It has always been our utmost priority to ensure the physical, mental and emotional well-being of our employees,” Hirsch said. “Receiving this national honor reinforces the results of our efforts to keep our workforce safe, and to have been recognized in a year wrought with additional challenges brought on by the pandemic makes the award even more meaningful.”

The organization’s return-to-work program allows injured workers to take on modified assignments, even outside of their departments, until they are ready to return to their normal responsibilities. In addition to this engaging and creative return-to-work program, the health care system developed a workplace safety program focusing on preventing common hospital injuries, such as strains and slip-and-fall injuries, and fatigue from the challenges resulting from the pandemic.

Linda Vance, manager of employee health at Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, said creating the right work environment is a top priority.

“Our return-to-work program laid the groundwork for successfully reassigning our employees to fill new, temporary roles created during the pandemic,” she said. “For example, we reassigned nurses from units throughout the hospital or outpatient areas to care for an increased number of patients on COVID units or administer COVID vaccines to our community through our COVID vaccine clinics.

“The philosophy behind our return-to-work program enabled our employees to easily, and safely, transition to new work environments until we were able to return them to their unit or department. This proved to be a benefit not only to our employees, but to our patients and community during unprecedented times.”

At the height of the pandemic, Saint Peter’s mobilized an incident response team that met daily, rapidly implementing new safety protocols and disseminating information on maintaining a healthy and safe environment and reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

During this time, Saint Peter’s nurses launched a support group called “Masks Off” to help manage the emotional toll of the pandemic. In addition, the organization’s employee assistance program offered unlimited, private counseling sessions for employees. “Sanctuary” spaces were also created, providing employees with a respite from the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and allowing them to reenergize in a relaxing environment.

“Small actions and a commitment to understanding how to prevent employee injuries while reinforcing employee resiliency can lead to a successful workers’ compensation program,” Vance said. “Start with one employee at a time; one injury or circumstance at a time. That’s what we did, and our employees and our patients are continuing to benefit from these efforts.”