Members of the St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center team at the 2010 Chase Corporate Challenge in Syracuse rented out The Barking Gull restaurant in the village of Liverpool for a team-building post-race party. In the lower left photo, Mark Murphy (left) and Mike Shaffer pause for a quick picture. Building "a stronger team" at the busy hospital is an important benefit of the race, say hospital officials.
Chase Corporate Challenge helps St. Joseph's
stay at leading edge of wellness, health
Timothy Brayman, a carpenter at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center, smiles during one of the team's recent post-race parties.
SYRACUSE, June 8, 2011 — In 1869, five Sisters of St. Francis transformed a dance hall and bar into a 15-bed hospital atop Prospect Hill in Syracuse. In the 142 years since, that small hospital has become a community institution. Today, St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center is a 431-bed comprehensive medical care network dedicated to providing quality health care to the residents of 16 counties in Central New York.
As St. Joseph's prepares its 2011 team for the 29th running of the Chase Corporate Challenge in Syracuse on June 21 (registration closes on Friday, June 10), its human resources director, Frank Panzetta, is keenly aware that his institution is something people look to not only because of its prominent geographic position in the city, but because of its commitment to health.
"Remember how the professional athletes debated on whether they are or are not role models?" Panzetta asked. "Well the fact is, that in many ways, they are! It's the same with us. We are a network, dedicated to providing the clinical solutions to the community we serve. That has to include being a champion for healthiness, and wellness. And it has to go beyond our patients and include the staff that serves the needs of those patients as well."
That health-focused leadership role annually features participation in the Corporate Challenge, whose mission is to improve health and fitness in the workplace, and which attracted 6,791 entrants from 259 companies last year.
"St. Joseph's has participated in the Corporate Challenge for approximately 20 years," said company captain Kathy Mueller, director of volunteer services. "Employee participation on average is approximately 135 per year. Many of our runners/walkers have finished with excellent times and St. Joseph's is very proud of their accomplishments."
Mueller leads a team-building effort that begins about a month before the Corporate Challenge.
"Employees who participated in the previous year are sent registration forms for this year's event," she said. "We also send to each department blank registration forms to be completed by prospective team members. Our final recruitment effort is actual presence in a high traffic area where we answer questions and accept completed registration forms."
The effort to build a team for the Corporate Challenge is well worth it, said Panzetta.
"It's a perfect match," he said. "It gives us a beacon, or focus to look forward to every year. Of course people can go out and run or walk or exercise any day of the year, or every day of the year, and we hope they are. But the Challenge helps us come together as a hospital community to celebrate and participate not only within our own organizational community, but connected beyond, to the community as a whole. Being a 24/7/365 organization, there is no shut-down. No perfect one day where we can have a company picnic, and allow everyone to attend. It's just the nature of our work. So therefore we need multiple events, and the Chase Corporate Challenge is one of the best!"
St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center members gather for a Chase Corporate Challenge team photo.
The match with the Corporate Challenge works well on many levels for St. Joseph's, whose core commitment to health and fitness has been the catalyst for a series of leading-edge programs.
"There is no one idea or program that makes or keeps people well or healthy," said Panzetta. "You have to make sure you are covering the basics and exploring leading edge ideas. Obviously you need a comprehensive medical plan to help people manage their lives and their families' lives. Beyond that, we certainly want to keep our employees accident free, so to that end, we have our Safe Patient Handling Program — which brings equipment and ideas to the workplace to help keep staff as healthy at work as they were when they arrived.
"We have a Wellness program which encourages staff who are healthy to stay healthy, and tries to engage staff who may not be, to get more involved. It involves a Health Risk Assessment, Biometric Screening, and financial incentives such as premium discounts off of the medical insurance, and re-imbursement for gym membership, to encourage participation. The screenings generate a personalized report card, to help staff plot the right path for them. We are getting more involved in Integrative Medicine, so staff can reduce stress and maintain a healthy mind. We have an internal weight management program to help staff with weight control. And we continue to explore creative partnerships, such as one with the YMCA for example, to encourage even more physical activity."
The focus on employee wellness is not only the right way to treat people, Panzetta said, it's also good for business, helping it sustain success.
"Every person is unique, and every person is special," he said. "We should be trying to help each person, on the one hand, attain their fitness goals, and on the other, simply keep them as healthy as we can, so they can lead happy, productive lives. We all deserve to grow older healthy! Attain personal milestones! See our children and grandchildren grow and learn and maybe one day start families of their own. We tell our staff they deserve to give themselves the best chance possible to make that happen."
Beyond that, however, a busy hospital needs to be concerned about what Panzetta terms "sustainability."
"We need staff to do what we do," he said. "We are extremely busy as an organization. And we can expect that trend to continue for years to come. We have made a tremendous initial investment in our staff, and continue to invest in their growth and educational development. It sounds selfish, but we want them as physically and mentally fit as they possibly can be as well."
And, he added, wellness plays directly into the financial sustainability of St. Joseph's – as well as virtually every business.
"Let's be honest. Healthcare is not cheap, to both an individual and their employer," Panzetta said. "We know that. Keeping the healthy — healthy — and getting the not-so-healthy healthier, managing as best we can any chronic conditions that may exist, and doing what we can to minimize or eliminate any acute or catastrophic events, are the three basics keys to cost reductions. Our programs help with all three!"
One other aspect of the Corporate Challenge also serves St. Joseph's well, said Panzetta.
"People spend as much time with their work families as they do their real families," he pointed out. "People want to participate outside of work in fun events, because often times your co-workers are also your friends. The literature tells us that people will join an organization, but decide to stay or leave because of the team. What that means is that when people leave an organization, it is often because they were unable to make a deeper connection with at least one or a few of their co-workers. The Chase Corporate Challenge gives us one more chance to build that stronger team!"
With its new construction project having an impact on the north side of Syracuse, St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center incorporated the project into the design of its 2011 T-shirts for the Chase Corporate Challenge.
At St. Joseph's, that all adds up to a Corporate Challenge team that includes "nurses, doctors, other allied health professionals, clerical staff, support staff, administrative professionals, right up through the management team, to the C-suite, and the president," Panzetta said.
St. Joseph's President Kathryn Ruscitto is again participating this year.
"As an employer, we are stressing personal responsibility for health more and more," Ruscitto said. "We are offering our employees reimbursement for gym memberships, health coaching through a program called MyHealth, weight reduction through Take Shape SJH, and smoking cessation programs. The Corporate Challenge is a great event that has supported our health goals for many years. It is important for me to also reflect a healthier lifestyle so I am working on exercise, weight reduction and stress management."
So, like the others on the St. Joseph's team, Ruscitto will don an employee-designed T-shirt created to send a message to the community.
"Our new construction project, which is building a brand new emergency department, co-located psychiatric emergency program, patient tower, new operating rooms and a new data center, is helping to revitalize the north side neighborhood in Syracuse," said Kerri Ganci, director of public relations and marketing for St. Joseph's. "Our t-shirts this year say 'proud to pound pavement for our patients.' The play on the word pound is related to that project.
"Just as it's important for Chase to illustrate the many ways in which the Corporate Challenge helps to give back to the communities, it is also important for us to show the many ways in which St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center supports our community," Ganci said. "What better way to illustrate our commitment to the North side than by wearing it proudly before thousands of runners/walkers/spectators in this year's race?"