Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto knows that to provide the best care to patients, it needs to take care of staff members as well. This focus led the organization to its win in the category of mental health at Benefits Canada‘s Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 20 in Toronto.

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“It was a natural evolution for us to move from a wellness program that focused on physical well-being and move it to a more holistic approach encompassing mental health and spiritual health in the workplace,” says Christine Devine, wellness specialist at Michael Garron Hospital.

“Our health-care workers, our frontline staff in particular, are constantly working in a trauma-exposed environment, so they’re seeing things that aren’t particularly nice to see and they’re dealing with people who, in most instances, are experiencing the most difficult moment of their lives. For us, it was really an imperative to look at those risks our staff are experiencing and come up with some in-house supports and some external partnering supports that can assist them.”

Read: Who are the winners of the 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards?

The hospital has established a variety of policies to encourage a psychologically health workplace, and offers several mental-health support programs for employees. Some are specific to health-care workers, including peer support for staff suffering secondary trauma after witnessing a difficult event, de-escalation training to help staff work with unstable patients and an educational program that helps staff combat compassion fatigue.

“We deliver awareness workshops that are predominantly focused on normalizing the idea that compassion fatigue is an occupational hazard for any caregiver in Canada, whether that be a layperson looking after an elderly parent or somebody in a health-care profession,” Devine says.

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“It’s very important for us to normalize it, to validate it, to say we understand what you’re experiencing. And to also provide them with some methods of dealing with the risk and perhaps mitigating it. So we work on resilience, we work on mindfulness, we focus a lot on self care.”

Other support programs focus on an overall healthy workplace, and include LGBTQ diversity training, emotional intelligence workshops, and skills training to help staff improve the quality and effectiveness of high stakes conversations.

Read: St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton wins health and wellness award

Since adopting the mental-health initiative in 2004, the hospital has seen happier patients and staff members. Patient satisfaction scores rose from 85 per cent in 2011 to 92 per cent in 2015. Employee engagement scores jumped from 53.1 per cent in 2004 to 72.1 per cent in 2015, and the staff were more likely to feel Michael Garron Hospital promotes health and wellness than the average employee at an Ontario Hospital Association organization (72.6 per cent versus 58.3 per cent).

The hospital has also seen financial benefits from adopting the initiative. Long-term disability claims related to psychological conditions dropped from 10.6 in 2011 to 5.1 in 2014. In the same time period, drug costs for psychological conditions dropped from $17,013 to $16,025, and the medications dropped from the top five prescription drug consumption costs.

Read more about the winners of the 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards

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Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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