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Healthcare integration is a key pillar in workforce, community development 

December 14, 2023
Jennifer Nolan

Work Matters Column by Jennifer Nolan 

The importance of quality healthcare in shaping not only employee well-being and workplace productivity, but also the quality of the regional workforce cannot be overstated. As president and interim president of Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown and Saint Joseph East in Lexington respectively, and as a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board, I am often at the intersection of healthcare and workforce development. 

In healthcare, we understand that easy access to quality care is not just about physical and mental health; it directly influences attendance, job performance and the overall well-being of employees. We must consider not just the individual, but also their family and support system. Access to nearby healthcare services means employees don't have to struggle with long commutes for their loved ones' medical needs, reducing stress and absenteeism.

Preventative healthcare measures are a crucial focus. Encouraging regular wellness exams and fostering a culture of preventive care within workplaces not only helps catch health issues early, it also instills the importance of maintaining one's health. 

Promoting these practices can greatly improve morale and engagement among employees. It can also provide employers with a return on investment. In fact, in a 2010 study published in Health Affairs, researchers found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. Moreover, as per data cited in a 2018 Forbes article, 67% of employees engaged in organizations offering wellness programs express higher job satisfaction, and this same percentage is inclined to highly recommend their employer to others.

At CHI Saint Joseph Health and Flaget, we offer a variety of wellness programs such as an incentive program to stay active, virtual fitness, nutrition and mindfulness classes and a pain management program that focuses on exercises for the body and mind. We also added a new mental health benefit this year which connects our caregivers and their eligible dependents with mental and emotional health care, from short-term therapy and coaching to mental wellness tools.

Our commitment extends to promoting healthy lifestyles through a dedicated wellness program, where caregivers have the opportunity to earn rewards by embracing healthier choices in their daily lives.

It is our belief that when employees have access to wellness resources, they are healthier in mind, body and spirit. Providing resources to address time management, healthy living, access to behavioral health therapy and even financial planning can help to reduce stressors individuals may be facing. We want our caregivers to know that we are there for them, and these resources are one way to illustrate that. 

The impact of healthcare infrastructure in rural communities on talent retention and attraction and health equity is also a major consideration. By bringing quality healthcare closer to these areas, healthcare systems help attract skilled professionals and bolster community growth. The healthcare industry is also a priority job sector in the Lincoln Trail region, representing approximately 12 percent of the total workforce.

Flaget Memorial Hospital, a Bardstown area fixture since 1951, boasts a leading rural cancer care center. Our expanded facility, equipped with five infusion rooms, a resource center, and cutting-edge technology such as 3D mammography and a state-of-the-art LINAC for radiation therapy, prioritizes top-tier care for local cancer patients. 

We also recently acquired a pediatric therapy practice, celebrated a decade of outpatient rehabilitation and plan to introduce two orthopedic surgeons, further enhancing care at Flaget, and by extension, patients throughout the Bardstown area, many of whom would have to travel great lengths otherwise.

In essence, the amalgamation of accessible, quality healthcare and a thriving workforce forms the bedrock of community and economic development. The physical and mental health of a region provides a direct correlation with a healthier, more engaged workforce. 

Jennifer Nolan serves as president of Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown and as interim president at Saint Joseph East in Lexington. She also serves on the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. She can be reached at jennifer.nolan@chisaintjosephhealth.org.

The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.

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Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.