Friday, September 27, 2013

CoxHealth increases employee wellness efforts with renewed focus on employee tobacco use

For immediate release 
Sept. 27, 2013 

Joining a growing list of hospitals and health systems around the country, CoxHealth announced today it will become the first health system in the Ozarks to add nicotine screening to the list of tests potential employees must pass once an offer of employment has been made. 

The change, effective Thursday, Nov. 21, to coincide with the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout event, is designed to further the organization’s efforts to provide a healthy, healing working environment. 

“Every year 443,000 Americans die due to smoking related illness,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth president and CEO. “We could no longer reconcile the fact that our mission is to improve the health of our community, and we were not taking an assertive stand against tobacco products.” 

In recent years the organization has taken several steps to help employees live healthier lives, from changing the menus in the cafeterias to offering walking clubs and a successful Wellness program. CoxHealth leaders say increasing their efforts to help employees stop using tobacco, and including nicotine testing as part of the organization’s required pre-employment testing, is the next logical step. 

Job applicants will be notified of the policy when they apply for a position. Those who do not pass the post-offer, pre-employment nicotine screening will be offered CoxHealth-sponsored tobacco cessation classes at no charge, and encouraged to reapply for employment with the organization once they have been tobacco-free for 90 days. 

“Tobacco is a deadly addictive poison that dismantles the lives of its victims and their families. We want our work force to be role models, to be leaders in a push inspiring our community to become a healthy place to live. We are taking a stand,” said Edwards. 

The hazards of tobacco use have been well-documented. Studies have shown that smoking reduces a woman’s life expectancy by 11 years and a man’s by 12, and costs companies more than $5800 a year per tobacco user in lost productivity, absenteeism and increased health plan expenses. With this policy change, CoxHealth joins Cleveland Clinic, Baylor Health Care System, the World Health Organization and more than 6,000 other organizations across the country who have made the decision to put health and wellness first. 

“Smoking is the worst self-inflicted damage a human being can do to themselves. As a cancer specialist, I see the devastating consequences of smoking on a daily basis, not only on the victims of this terrible habit but also their families and loved ones,” said Dr. Abe Abdalla, medical director of Oncology Services and Radiation Oncology for CoxHealth. “As health care providers we should lead by example. Our community expects us to take the lead on important issues like this one. I am very proud of CoxHealth for taking this crucial step and hope other health systems in the area – and in the entire country – follow suit.” 

Employees hired before Nov. 21, 2013, will be grandfathered in under the new policy, but are also encouraged to “kick the habit.” The organization will offer these employees and their health plan dependents free tobacco cessation classes, and waive the co-pay for Chantix, a prescription medication that helps individuals stop smoking. These resources will be available at no cost to current CoxHealth employees until Nov. 21. 

Said Edwards: “We are the only hospital in the state, to our knowledge, that will offer free smoking cessation to people who are offered a job and fail the tobacco screen, and then a chance to reapply in 90 days. We are resolute in fulfilling our mission.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breaking ground on Branson's next chapter

CoxHealth and community leaders joined employees on Wednesday at Cox Medical Center Branson to break ground on a 60,000 square foot construction and renovation project. Once complete, the project will provide patients and staff with access to a new Emergency Department, expanded CCU and more.

“This will help us meet the growing needs of those who need us,” says William Mahoney, CEO of Cox Medical Center Branson. “It’s a statement of stability and confidence in our community.”

Crews will demolish the existing Medical Plaza Two building to make way for the new three floor, 42,000 square foot addition to the hospital, and renovate 18,000 square feet of space within the existing structure. Once complete, the construction will include, in addition to the Emergency Department and expanded intensive care area, a third floor of shell space to allow for future expansion.

The 31,000 square foot Emergency Department will include 32 private exam and treatment rooms as well as eight observation beds. It will also offer easy access to the existing imaging and laboratory departments at Cox Medical Center Branson.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cox College names new president

For immediate release 
Sept. 13, 2013 

Today, Cox College announced that Dr. Lance Ratcliff has been named as the next president of the college. 

Dr. Ratcliff has served as interim president since Aug. 1, following the retirement of Dr. Anne Brett. He joined Cox College as vice president of Academic Affairs earlier this year, after previously serving as dean of Business and Science at Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell, and as chair of the University of Central Missouri’s Department of Nutrition. 

“We conducted a national search for this position, and considered candidates from throughout the region. After extensive interviews, Dr. Ratcliff emerged as the clear and overwhelming choice. The Cox College board of directors unanimously approved his appointment as president,” said Dr. John Duff, CoxHealth senior vice president and chief hospital officer. 

Dr. Ratcliff attended Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wis., graduating with degrees in biology and chemistry. He earned his MS and PhD in Nutrition and Food Science at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., completed a dietetic internship at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is a registered dietitian. 

About Cox College: Cox College is a single purpose college, affiliated with CoxHealth in Springfield, Mo. More than 800 students are enrolled in the college’s undergraduate and graduate nursing and health science programs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Survivor's saga reveals hope in dark times

Suzy Farbman has had her share of trials in life.

She first gained national recognition when she appeared on “Oprah” to talk about her first book, “Back From Betrayal.” The book was a deeply personal story of how she and her husband had struggled to save their marriage after Suzy learned of his infidelity. Writing helped her sort her thoughts as she struggled to cope with a situation no one could be prepared for. She hoped her words could provide comfort to others.

Her marriage was renewed and she was enjoying the success of her book in the summer of 2004, when a twinge of pain sent her to her doctor. A series of tests revealed her next trial: uterine cancer so advanced it had spread to her bones.

She spent the next year undergoing the full range of treatment – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. To cope with the stress, she asked her husband to keep track of the medical details with her physicians and caregivers. Meanwhile, she focused on her spiritual health.

She prayed. She read religious texts. She wrote in her own journal. As she faced an uncertain future and fear of the unknown, her efforts to “live in the moment” made her more sensitive to the details of her everyday life. She began to see things she would have dismissed in the past – from people she met to pieces of good fortune – not as coincidences, but as signs.

“I experienced a series of miracles and it felt like God cheering me on,” she says. She dubbed those miracles, large and small, “Godsigns,” and they became the basis of her second book, released in the fall of 2012. Now, she’s nine years out from her diagnosis and she’s made it her mission to share what she’s learned from the experience.

In October, Suzy will join us for a series of presentations during Customer Service Week. We were able to catch up with her to get a preview of her inspirational message.

Q: What is it like to share the very personal story of your battle with cancer with new audiences? 

A: It’s been rewarding to see the responses I get. People have their own interpretation and their own needs and they see it as a story of surviving challenges. It’s really rewarding to see them “get it” and to see heads nodding. If I’ve had a chance to interact with the audience beforehand and know there are some survivors and patients there, it’s great to give a voice to their concerns.

Q: What has this experience taught you about the mindset one needs to endure tough times? 

A: A cancer patient has little control. Cancer takes over everything: your schedule, your plans, your hopes for the future. I knew the one area I could have influence over was to pursue spiritual strength and encouragement. I had prayed years before, during my mom’s health problems. I prayed for half an hour one night. I felt physically lighter the next morning. I learned the value and possibility of turning things over to a higher power.

Q: What lessons do you hope people take away from your presentation?

First, trust the universe. Second, be willing to turn it over. Be open to whatever possibilities are out there. Trust in the outcome, some things are meant to happen. Finally, be more in the moment. Don’t spin out with fear of the future. You may tend to focus on big, global fears, but do what you can to focus on the moment. Think about, right this minute, how do you feel? That makes it easier to get through a medical crisis.

Q: What can those of us who work in health care learn from your experience?

Patients are people, too. Show your patients that you’re a person and you value them as a person as well. The care I’ve had has been amazing. As brutal as what they did to me was, my doctors and nurses were heroes to me. In chemotherapy, the staff members were always gentle and upbeat.

It’s very important that doctors and nurses take time to tell you what they’re going to do. If there’s going to be pain, they should acknowledge it. Those few extra seconds explaining things make a huge difference.

Q: How has writing helped you during this experience?

I’ve journaled my whole life, but much more often in tough times than in good times. As a patient, you have fears, but you don’t want to drag everyone through that. The journal is an objective friend that accepts what I say, period. I recommend it for everyone. If you never look back and read it, fine. But you may say, “Look at what I worried about and it didn’t happen.”

Q: How can people be better at seeing signs in their own lives?

Stop and notice when you feel a jolt, a surprise or a “wow.” Be open to it. Think about “can I construct a story around this?” Take the time to think about it, appreciate it and write to Suzy Farbman about it! (Suzy is currently working on a follow-up book compiling the Godsigns stories people share with her). Pay attention. When you’re more vulnerable, you’re more open to that kind of support. Before this experience, I had no idea the universe can be as talented as it is.

Meet the author 
Suzy Farbman will be speaking to CoxHealth employees at Cox South (Oct. 8), Branson and Monett (both on Oct. 9) as part of Customer Service Week. She will also appear at a public event Thursday evening:

When: Thursday, October 10, at 6 p.m. 

Where: Magnolia Room, 4th Floor, Hulston Cancer Center 

This program is open to anyone in the public. The first 50 registrants will receive a free copy of "Godsigns," courtesy of GYN Cancers Alliance and CoxHealth. Heavy appetizers will be served. No fee, but please register by calling 269-5224.

‘Grow Your Own’ grant will help CoxHealth enhance health care workforce

CoxHealth has been awarded a “Grow Your Own” grant from the Missouri Hospital Association to help retain and enhance the leadership talent of the health system’s health care workforce. The grant of $42,750 will be used to establish a system-wide workforce development program to identify and develop managerial talent and provide educational opportunities for future leaders at all levels of the health system.

The aging population, growing number of individuals with chronic conditions and expanded access to health insurance have led to increasing demands on the health care system. These factors and others have generated an urgent need for additional hospital caregivers. In addition, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which includes significant changes to payments and health care delivery systems, coupled with new technology, such as electronic health records, has increased demand for workers with highly specialized skills.

“Talent development is probably my most important job. We understand that with the aging population much of our workforce may be leaving. A lot of our senior leaders are baby boomers, and they are getting ready to retire,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth President and CEO. “We have hundreds of managers in the organization, and so I know one of my chief jobs is making sure we have the processes in place to help train and develop people.”

At CoxHealth, Grow Your Own funds will be used to purchase HealthcareSource’s Leadership Assessment tool, endorsed by the American Hospital Association, which will enable the organization to identify and measure improvement in the leadership competencies of 500-600 leaders across the entire hospital, physician group, health plan and home health organizations. The Leadership Assessment tool applies behavioral science to leader identification, selection, development and succession planning. The tool prescribes individualized development plans and group reports showing organizational strengths and developmental opportunities for specific groups of leaders.

“The workforce challenge for Missouri hospitals is two-fold,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA president and CEO. “First, hospitals must address the shortage of educated health care workers, including primary care physicians, nurses, therapists and imaging technicians, to meet the expanding demand for care. Second, hospital leaders also must recruit and retain talented individuals to manage increasingly complex health care organizations. The Grow Your Own program allows hospitals to address these challenges with plans that are tailored to the needs of their organizations and the communities they serve.”

Applications for the Grow Your Own Hospital Grant Program were submitted in July. The applications were reviewed and selected by an independent committee composed of representatives from health care, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations with experience in health care grant development and funding processes.