BY JO, RN
We all have moments in which the stress of our jobs threatens to make our heads spin around 360 degrees. Moments like that are fine, but if there’s a trend toward constant head-spinning, then you, my friend, need an intervention.
Tip One: Make sure your personal space is as stress-free as possible.
When you come home at night or in the morning, are you faced with stacks of dishes in the sink and cat hair everywhere? You need to start taking care of that stuff on your days off. Your home is a haven. Even with roommates or kids, you can have one space that’s inviolable and neat and clean. That one thing will make such a difference in your mental health, it’s amazing.
Tip Two: Treat your body well.
Fast food is good once in a while, but for tip-top functioning, you really need to pay attention to how you feed your body. Good, clean food will help your body and brain work well and will lessen your stress levels immensely. Batch-cooking things you can stand to eat during and after your shifts will make you so much happier than a burger from Big Bob’s Burger Barn.
Tip Three: Simplify.
I have six of the exact same uniform, four bras that I know fit perfectly and eight pairs of socks that are identical. I have a zippered makeup bag that I got for a buck at Target that holds all my work stuff, from pens to stethoscope to ID. I have set jewelry to wear to work, and a set time in the morning by which certain things have to be accomplished. This makes my life so much easier, I can’t even tell you.
Integral to this plan is a coffeemaker with a timer. If you don’t own one, go get one.
Tip Four: Know which stress relievers are good in the long run.
I’m a big fan of carefully applied general anesthetic in the form of ETOH (as my mother says), but not after every shift. A glass of wine or other Adult Beverage of your choice can be helpful when you’re too wound up to sleep or if your brain simply won’t shut up…but don’t make a habit of it. Exercise is better (and I’ve never found that getting good and sweaty an hour before bed will make me insomniac), venting to a friend is good (especially if she’s not also a nurse), playing catch with your pup or the neighbor’s kids can work. Know what’s healthy (movement, talk, art, music) and what’s not (alcohol, too much food, drugs), and plan accordingly.
Tip Five: Get a massage. Seriously.
Touch is amazing for making you feel better. Find yourself a good massage therapist and get the two-hour rubdown. Don’t plan anything at all for the rest of the day. You’d be amazed at how small niggling problems and constant stressors seem when you can barely walk to the car. If you can afford it, do it once or twice a month: It’ll give you something to look forward to, and you’ll feel amazing for at least a day or so.
Source: Scrubs Mag
In an era in when hospitals compete for patients by boasting the latest clinical technology, the most prestigious physicians and impressive amenities, patient satisfaction is most influenced by human factors, especially superior service-related communication skills between hospital staff and patients, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 National Patient Experience Study released today.
The study measures patient satisfaction across all areas of the inpatient and outpatient hospital experience, including: interactions with healthcare professionals; tests and procedures; admission and discharge; and facility environment. It serves as a benchmark for the J.D. Power and Associates Distinguished Hospital Program. This distinction program acknowledges high levels of performance by a hospital in achieving an “outstanding” inpatient, emergency department, cardiac, maternity or outpatient experience.
The study finds that recently-hospitalized patients have high levels of overall satisfaction. Overall patient satisfaction with their inpatient hospitalization averages 825 index points on a 1,000-point scale, similar to that of guests at luxury hotels, among whom satisfaction averages 822. In outpatient settings, overall patient satisfaction is higher, averaging 863. However, patient satisfaction dips to 788 for emergency department visits.
“Hospitals may attempt to attract patients and staff by adding equipment or sprucing up their facilities,” says Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “From the perspective of patients, it might be more worthwhile to invest in finding and keeping staff with superior interpersonal skills.”
Investments in staff can be overlooked, as Millard notes many hospitals have spent a lot of money in recent years to make their facilities look and feel more like hotels. Yet, facility characteristics are more important for hotels than for hospitals. For upscale hotels, the facility accounts for nearly one-half (48 percent) of guests’ overall satisfaction, while in an inpatient setting the hospital facility represents just 19 percent of patients’ overall satisfaction.
“Having an appealing hospital facility matters, but an experienced and socially skilled staff has a greater impact on patient satisfaction,” says Millard. “Personal interactions with the staff have a profound impact in both inpatient and outpatient settings.”
Doctors and nurses account for 34 percent of the overall experience ratings for inpatients, and their influence is even higher (43 percent) among patients in emergency settings. Among outpatients, doctors and other healthcare professionals represent 50 percent of their overall experience.
Solid interpersonal skills are especially necessary for handling the types of problems that may arise during hospitalization. When problems do occur, they may jeopardize patient satisfaction. According to the study, staff service and staff attitude are the most common types of problems that patients experience. Patients who say they had any problem with their room or hospital staff rate their overall experience a 5.3 a 10-point scale, compared with 8.7 among patients that did experience any problems.
“When problems occur, they produce opportunities to demonstrate a genuine interest in the patient’s needs,” says Millard. “Resolving problems is clearly associated with higher ratings by patients. This has become more important as hospital reimbursement is now linked to patient satisfaction as measured by the government through the HCAHPS [Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems] survey.”
Millard notes that one area where hospitals can learn from hotels is how transitions occur. The admission and discharge process in hospitals is analogous to check-in and check-out in the hotel industry. Among inpatients, 35 percent of the overall patient experience is predicted by the admission and discharge process; yet the impact is much less in emergency and outpatient settings, where it is 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
“The first and last impressions are very important for a patient, much like they are for hotel guests,” says Millard. “Getting a patient into a room quickly at the start of their hospital stay, and ensuring a smooth process during discharge, along with a follow-up call once the patient gets home to make sure they’re doing okay, goes a long way toward achieving high satisfaction.”
Nongovernmental, acute-care hospitals throughout the nation are eligible for the J.D. Power and Associates Distinguished Hospital recognition program. Recognition is valid for one year, after which time the hospital may reapply. The service excellence distinction is determined by surveying recently discharged patients regarding their perceptions of their hospital experience and comparing the results to the national benchmarks established in the National Patient Experience Study.
The 2012 National Patient Experience Study is based on responses gathered between December 2011 and March 2012 from more than 10,275 patients who received care in inpatient, emergency or outpatient facilities in the United States.
Source: Infection Control Today
As a resource for Nurses across the country, DiversityNursing.com wants to be sure our community is aware of the following site: The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action
The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, patient-centered health care, with nurses contributing to the full extent of their capabilities. Action Coalitions work with the campaign to implement the recommendations of the landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The coalitions are comprised of nursing, other health care, business, consumer and other leaders across the country. 48 states have Action Coalitions involved in this initiative.
The Campaign for Action is a collaborative effort to implement solutions to the challenges facing the nursing profession, and to build upon nurse-based approaches to improving quality and transforming the way Americans receive health care.
Action Coalitions are the driving force of the campaign at the local and state levels. These groups capture best practices, determine research needs, track lessons learned and identify replicable models. Examples of accomplishments to date include:
Texas is collaborating with nursing education leaders to adopt a common menu of core required classes across 106 schools in the state.
New Jersey is advancing practice by disseminating best practice models that demonstrate the benefits of staff nurses working to the full extent of their education and training.
Indiana is working within Indiana University to include inter-professional education into the newly designed curriculum to be used by a number of its health profession programs, including the schools of medicine and nursing.
Virginia is advancing nursing leadership by recognizing and mentoring 40 Virginia registered nurses younger than 40 who positively represent and lead their profession.
To get involved and find out more http://www.thefutureofnursing.org/
From WorkingNurse.com By Elizabeth Hanink
Work-life balance is more than good time management. It means having a professional life and personal life that are integrated so well that each part enhances the other. That takes self-knowledge and self-discipline—two traits that we need to cultivate if we ever hope to achieve the balance that brings enjoyment along with achievement. It is a life-long process that requires daily fine-tuning.
All sorts of people have trouble with work-life balance. What makes nurses especially vulnerable is that so much of our professional life is beyond our control. We can’t change the fact that most nursing jobs involve tricky schedules, heavy work-loads, and tons of variables that can shift by the hour, yes, even by the minute. Most of us are additionally burdened by wanting to give good care.
But not having the power to manage many aspects of our jobs doesn’t mean we have no control. Nurses can be like the sleeping elephant, unaware of its strength. If you want to make your dreams come true, wake up to your own power, to the role you play in your own life. Taking control is the key. If you live in a constant state of reaction, you give control to someone else. Time management only enters the equation when you use it as your tool to gain control: over a day, a month, a life-time.
Remember Nursing 101
Where to start? You don’t need a new system of thought. What you learned in nursing 101 about nursing process will serve quite well here. Remember how assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate worked for all nursing problems. It works for the big picture of your life, too and helps you get the minute by minute obstacles out of the way so the bigger pieces fall into place. It does you no good to manage a perfect work day, every day even, if there is nothing left for family or fun or personal growth.
Let’s start with assessment. What do you want—what is important to you? Knowing that, and it can take some time to figure it out, makes all the difference. Do you want, in the next hour, to have all your charting completed or do you want to be sure that all your patients have a clean, neat room with trash picked up and tray tables cleared? Do you want in five years to have an advanced practice degree or do you want weekends free for hobbies? Do you want to own a home or vacation every year in a different country? All of these are commendable goals but which are yours? Only you really know.
The second step is diagnosis. What is keeping you from achieving your ambitions? Are you stuck in the land of “after this happens?” as in I’ll get to my charting after I have rechecked all the rooms. Or I’ll start school after I feel more settled at work? Or could you be like the man in the Chinese proverb waiting for roasted duck to fly into his mouth? You will wait a very, very long time. The important ingredient is taking responsibility for what is lacking. This step does not allow placing blame anywhere but on you.
No time to linger. Now that you know what you want and why you don’t have it, move onto the third step, planning. This involves setting priorities. Out of all the things you want, what is most important? It might be different every day, it might vary by what age you are at a given time, or it might vary by what is realistically possible given your circumstances. If you already have three young children, then the Peace Corps is not feasible.
Your self-knowledge that came through assessment is critical in this step. And because you are employed as a nurse, again, you might not have total control minute by minute. But taking your theoretical goal for today as wanting to get all the charting done on time, how are you going to achieve that with a last minute admission? Take the time to assess where you are and plan. Write it down, even if jotting down will delay you, what 15 seconds. Maybe the new goal will have to be leaving only 15 minutes late instead of the usual hour that a last minute admission would ordinarily require.
Now it’s time to implement and here is where some time management skills can play a part. If you are lacking these, get some. Study the nurses around you who do manage to get it all to happen, because some tricks do not come naturally. Not every experienced nurse is savvy in these skills but most who last in a hectic hospital environment have a clue, and you can learn from them.
There’s a ton of specific information out there.
Kathy Quan, RN, has written a book on time management just for nurses, Tips and Strategies for Effective Time Management for Nurses. You can download it as an ebook. If you are a new graduate, try The Everything New Nurse Book also by Kathy Quan(www. kathyquan.com). Her website and those of others are full of suggestions. If you can get work under control, you will have much more energy left for the rest of life. And don’t wait to get started on that. Life doesn’t wait.
Don’t forget, there are nurses who manage to have long careers meeting interesting challenges and still live interesting lives outside of work. What is the secret, you might ask.
It isn’t a secret says Tilda Shaloff, RN. You have to set priorities (remember planning?). She uses a daily written list (no Blackberry for her) that she often formulates while walking her dog. It contains, every day, day in and day out, 17 items. The number 17 has private significance for her. Your number could be different. The act of writing the list helps her organize what has priority and what can wait.
She also delegates. Her children have always been paid to help around the house and her husband has always been willing to participate fully in chores. She also, and this is key, arranges her clinical work schedule to suit the other important things in her life—her writing and public speaking. Being the author of several books and a very popular motivational speaker, Shaloff says, takes tremendous energy. But these activities are important to her and so she makes the effort to have the time and strength. It is a conscious choice. She can do speaking and writing and work in an ICU but not other things. You need to make the same choices. It might mean saying no to being room mother or working the polls on election day. Or it might mean having a clean as opposed to an immaculate house. Make your life and your job work for you.
Kathleen Singleton, RN, MSN, also makes choices. As the president of the American Association of Medical Surgical Nurses she has a serious obligation on a national stage plus the obligations of her “day job.” For her the secret is, of course, organization, and she is very dependent, she says, on any electronic help she can get. But the real key for her is negotiation and flexibility. Singleton makes her day job work for her.
She has had scads of practice at this; she worked over the years from nursing attendant to MSN all while working full-time. She thinks any nurse can do it. Instead of moaning about them, make the weekend and shift obligations work for you, she says. Take advantage of your ability to trade shifts. Work with your fellow employees and supervisors to have everyone gain. Negotiate your holiday obligations in such a way that the schedule then allows you to do what is vital to your happiness. In Singleton’s case, her employer, an affiliate of the Cleveland Clinics, allows her maximum flexibility in scheduling in exchange for her willingness to be quite flexible in what is required of her.
Keep in mind: achievement without enjoyment is not the way to balance. Taking control is. Plan, choose, and readjust. Balance is achieved both daily and over the long haul and can be different for each of us each day. Adjust as needed, both the goal, and the implementation because there is more than one way to success.
A Jar Full of Rocks
Here’s a strategy to visualize how, without planning and taking control, you can work very hard all day or even all your life and still have no accomplishments and no satisfaction. Picture a large jar like one that old-fashioned delis kept pickles in. Or the type that holds pretzels from Costco. Fill it as full as you can with large rocks. Now fill in the other spaces with small pebbles. Next add sand. Isn’t it amazing how much sand fits into all the nooks and crannies between the rocks and pebbles? Last fill with water. Quite a bit goes in, doesn’t it, despite all those rocks.
But stop. What if you had poured the water in first? It would be impossible to get even one large rock in without spilling everywhere. Now think of all the things you want to do, today and in life. Make sure the large goals, the large rocks, are what you really want from life — to have more education, to write a book, to own a house, to run a business. You choose. Then fill in with the small pebbles. Do they support the rocks? If you took away three pebbles---a ho-hum hobby, a favorite TV show, or say time on Facebook, would you have room for another large rock? And what about the sand in your life? Is it helping you toward your goal or is it just getting between your toes? Are you drowning in all the water that fills up your life? Is the water keeping you from getting any large rocks into the jar?
As for those nurses like Singleton or Shaloff who work, have a rich personal life, and still have time to pursue advanced degrees or run side businesses? Look at what they don’t do. You will probably find they have eliminated those things that don’t move them toward their goals. They don’t know about the latest episode of American Idol. Maybe they don’t have the latest French tips from the manicurist. They dare to bring store-bought to the potluck. They have made the choice that these things matter less than achieving their goals.
You need to do the same. Just remember. To avoid the pickle jar trap or the “as soon as” trap or any other trap that is robbing you of a good work-life balance, you need to take time now to decide what is important (assess),what is keeping me from it (diagnose) how do I get it from here (plan) and execute. Reassess frequently and adjust as needed. Now you have balance.
Nurses are as diverse as the patients they treat.
But that diversity will become grayer for the next few years as more middle-age people are going into nursing as a second career.
That trend can be seen in the class that will graduate May 18 from Heartland Community College's two-year nursing program in Normal. Students graduate with an associate's degree in nursing and then may take the registered nurse licensing exam.
Non-traditional students — those who don't begin college right after high school — are the norm in Heartland's nursing program. But, in this class, none of the 40 students is a traditional student.
“I was pretty surprised when I started,” said second-year nursing student John Cook, 47, of Normal. “There was virtually no one right out of high school. I remember thinking that I'd be the oldest one in there by far and that's not the case.
“It's a huge cross-section of people with bachelor's degrees in other fields, including a lot of moms.”
Students begin clinical rotations at area hospitals and long-term care facilities during their first semester, said professor of nursing Barb McLaughlin-Olson. For every hour that they are in the classroom, in the lab and at clinical sites, they are expected to spend three hours on course work.
The nursing-as-a-second-career trend has been in place for several years, said Deb Smith, vice president and chief nursing officer of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington.
Some people who pursue nursing as a second career take advantage of accelerated, one-year nursing programs for people who already have a bachelor's degree, Smith said. For example, Illinois State University's Mennonite College of Nursing in Normal has an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program.
Laurie Round, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing executive at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, said the recession has driven some people from their original careers into nursing. Both ISU-Mennonite and Illinois Wesleyan University's School of Nursing in Bloomington reported an increase in enrollment last fall.
There is a demand for nurses because nurses work in hospitals, doctors' offices, businesses, insurance companies, long-term care facilities and churches. But second-career nurses also are drawn to the field for altruistic reasons, Smith and Round said.
“They want to do something that's meaningful,” Round said. “They want to touch peoples' lives.”
Middle-age adults going into nursing need to learn a career quickly and need to keep their energy level up.
Some middle-age adults are challenged by all the technology involved with patient care, Round and Smith said.
But the maturity and experience of second-career nurses generally makes up for any challenges.
“I love the energy, the intensity, the maturity and the decision-making skills that they bring to the field,” Round said. “These people are choosing nursing while raising a family and working at the same time and that shows perseverance, commitment and discipline.”
Second-career nurses not only come in with the experience of previous employment and raising a family. They also have social skills and because they are close in age to nurses already in the field — the average age of nurses is 47 — they fit in with other nurses quickly, Smith said.
McLaughlin-Olson said, “They can use their life experiences to help them become better nurses. Because they've lived through life's challenges, they've learned how to critically think when issues come up, and they have empathy and can relate to people having problems.”
But Smith and Round also are impressed with traditional nursing students, who graduate to enter nursing in their early 20s. They are intelligent, energetic and learn quickly, they said.
For that reason, both Round and Smith said middle-age, second-career nurses are not necessarily the new face of nursing.
“I see a great mix across generations,” Round said.
Adds Smith: “It's good to have people entering nursing with a variety of life experiences. That further enriches our profession.”
Many researchers have studied patient--provider communication and documented the tensions and misunderstandings often seen in this important process. But these concerns are far greater when the patients are minorities or don't understand English well, and when healthcare providers aren't equipped to explain the intricacies of care to people whose cultural beliefs may make American medicine a mystery.
Award-winning filmmakers Maren Grainger-Monsen, M.D., and Julia Haslett explore these issues in a series of films called Worlds Apart, which document the experiences of minority Americans and patients from other countries in the U.S. health care system. This unique project, made with partial support from The Commonwealth Fund, dramatizes communication between patients and their doctors, tensions between modern medicine and cultural beliefs, and the ongoing burdens of racial and ethnic discrimination.
In this film, Alicia Mercado, a 60-year-old Puerto Rican woman, struggles to keep up with her chronic diabetes, hypertension, and asthma after being evicted from her apartment and suffering depression.
For more information on these films, please visit The Commonwealth Fund website at www.cmwf.org
Four Innovative Initiatives to Attract and Retain Diverse Women
By Tina Vasquez for Evolved Employer
Recently, Working Mother Magazine released its 2011 list of the best places to work for multicultural women – essentially, a survey of the availability and usage of diversity programs, as well as the accountability of the managers who oversee them at top corporations. For the fifth year in a row, Pepsico has been named number one, along with with 23 other companies, all of which are committed to supporting women of color with strong diversity, leadership, and education programs. Here are four of the most innovative initiatives included on 2011 list, that help advance and retain diverse women.
IBM’s cutting edge Reverse Mentoring pilot program turned mentoring on its head. Ten senior executives were given the opportunity to choose a culture they wanted to learn more about and for 10 months, and multicultural women (who were primarily non-executives) from these cultures acted as their mentors, helping them better understand cultural differences. The need for the program was identified as a key initiative of the Multicultural Women’s Group at the company, whose mission it is to attract, retain, and develop women through mentoring, networking, fostering a sense of community, and exchanging information.
According to Angela Archon, IBM’s VP of systems and technology, the program promoted cultural sensitivity and adaptability and demonstrated the impact of globalization and why culture matters.
“The hallmark of the program was to increase knowledge and sensitivity around cultural differences and continuously improve global collaboration. It helped dispel myths; it provided clarity to issues related to stereotyping; and it increased cultural awareness,” Archon said. “Executive mentees gained knowledge about their mentor’s culture and how business is done in that culture and the multicultural women who served as mentors had the opportunity to build a relationship with an IBM executive and enhance their leadership capabilities.”
It should come as no surprise that the ever impressive Deloitte was featured on Mother’s list for the sixth year in a row.
This year, two of Deloitte’s programs were spotlighted on the list: Navigation to Excellence and the Leadership Acceleration Program. After an internal survey of almost 4,000 multicultural employees, the firm found that multicultural women desired more formal sponsorship, so Deloitte launched its Navigation to Excellence pilot program, a one-year program that matches female managers and senior managers of color with leaders who help them orchestrate a career plan, gain access to key assignments, and enhance their knowledge of what it takes to advance. The 18-month Leadership Acceleration Program even allows female partners and principals to shadow their sponsors on the job, receiving intensive mentoring and coaching.
To continue moving these types of initiatives forward, the firm has quietly invested $300 million towards the creation of a state-of-the-art learning and leadership development center that will open its doors this fall after two years of construction.
According to Barbara Adachi, the National Managing Principal for Deloitte’s award-winning Women’s Initiative, it was never the firm’s intention to be a leader, but awards and recognition such as those given by Working Mother, inspires them to keep moving forward.
“We’re our biggest critics and we’re our biggest motivators. We don’t do this for the publicity. Diversity is a business imperative here. I recently read that half the population will be comprised of minorities in 2050 and I strongly believe that by being diverse, we attract the top talent in the market and we better serve our clients,” Adachi said. “We’re not doing this because it’s the right thing to do, but because this is the way business should be done.”
Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
This is the third time Chubb has been featured on Working Mother’s list, but the company has a long-standing commitment to promoting diversity with decades old programs and initiatives in place. According to Trevor Gandy, Chubb’s chief diversity officer, in order to form lasting business relationships with customers and become a true global leader in the industry, the company must understand its customer’s “diverse cultures and decisional processes- and not merely their languages.” To do so, the company strives to create a diverse workplace through programs such as their Count Me In: A Culture of Inclusion micro inequities program. The program began over 10 years ago and aims to help the company educate their workforce on the often small details and behaviors that help build an atmosphere in which all employees feel they have a voice.
Chubb also has a 29-year-old Minority Development Council whose mission is to advance the company’s business objectives by fostering the career development of people of color into leadership roles. Even more impressive, the company’s Women of Color strategy strengthens the bonds between women of color and their managers by providing them with meaningful feedback and structured development plans. The overriding goal, according to Gandy, is to prepare the company’s female multicultural employees to compete for leadership positions.
Like Chubb, CA Technologies firmly believes that their business relationships in more than 140 countries drives their commitment to workplace diversity and it enables them to create, support, and sell the best IT management software.
The company’s Women in Technology Mentoring program is geared towards female employees that are in technical and quasi-technical roles within the company’s technology and development organization. The program was established to ensure that female employees are provided with the appropriate environment, knowledge, and sponsorship to achieve their full potential within the company. The company also supports the pursuit of higher education and provides up to $5,250 a year in financial assistance to eligible employees completing undergraduate and graduate level courses. CA Technologies also offers 15,000 online courses that employees can access. An adoption assistance program includes reimbursement of adoption-related expenses up to a maximum of $5,000 per child and $10,000 per family within a two-year period.
CA Technologies also aims to help working parents, so nearly 30 percent of the company’s North American employees participate in a full-time telecommuting or work from home program. The company also has Global Marketing and Finance associate rotation programs that were developed as a way to attract and develop entry level candidates and enable them to jump start their professional career with structured training programs, job shadowing, and access to mentors.
According to CA Technology’s VP of human resources, Beth Conway, the company is focused on fostering diversity both inside and outside the company.
“In addition to our efforts within the company, we’re also an active partner of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the impact of women on all aspects of technology,” Conway said. “We also sponsor ABI’s annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in the U.S. and India. We’re dedicated to helping the leaders of tomorrow develop their talents and career paths by providing and encouraging a collaborative working environment.”
from Jacob Braude is vice president for strategic planning and director of the Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness Lab at the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness for Forbes.com
Health and wellness are becoming big all across marketing. Even carmakers are getting into the act. Ford, for instance, just announced plans to partner with WellDoc to build mobile health sensors into its cars. In the future your Focus won’t just get you from here to there; it will also monitor your glucose levels, adapt to a high pollen count, and even remind you to take your medicine.
But in the rush to make the most of health and wellness, there is a danger that companies will miss one of the most important aspects of wellness. It’s not technology, or supplemental ingredients, or even medicine. It’s friends.
In a talk he gave at the TED conference in 2006, Dr. Dean Ornish, who first became well known for talking up the benefits of diet and exercise in fighting heart disease, told a story about a year he spent studying under a well-known swami. As Dr. Ornish recalled it, the two of them were speaking to a room full of medical students when someone asked the swami to talk about the difference between illness and wellness. The swami went to the board at the front of the room and wrote “Illness” and “Wellness.” Then he circled the I in “Illness” and the We in “Wellness.”
It was a simple and profound way to make a point, and a recent series of studies have proven him right. Researchers have shown that what I call “we-ness” affects all aspects of our health and wellness, from how likely we are to survive killer diseases to how likely we are to carry some extra weight and how generally satisfied we are with our lives.
In one survey of almost 3,000 nurses diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers discovered that women who had fewer than 10 close friends were four times more likely to die of the disease than women with 10 or more close friends. That’s an increase in survival rate that any pharmaceutical company would be thrilled with. In another study, of men in Sweden, researchers discovered that the leading risk factor for heart attack after smoking was having only a few friends. More recent research has demonstrated that people living with a lifelong condition like heart disease do better if they share their experiences with others going through the same thing—even if those people aren’t their friends.
Having friends isn’t just about long life. It’s also about quality of life. Highly publicized work by James Fowler and Dr. Nicholas Christakis found that having a friend who became obese made you 57% more likely to become obese as well. Researchers are discovering that both good and bad habits spread socially—not just weight issues but all aspects of health and wellness, including dietary and exercise habits and stress levels. The importance of friends to a person’s health and wellness has become so accepted that in a March 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. surgeon general said, “We can’t look at health in isolation. It’s not just in the doctor’s office. If you have a healthy community, you have a healthy individual.”
Given all that, it’s not surprising that a study by the RAND Center for the Study of Aging identified “social contacts and family” as the No. 1 factor affecting life satisfaction. This was a robust study, conducted in both the U.S. and the Netherlands. There were differences between the two countries in other life satisfaction elements, such as job, income, and daily activities, but the people of both countries agreed that social contacts and family had the greatest effect on how satisfied they felt.
Fiat’s new eco:Drive system makes the most of the feel-good aspect of we-ness. It began with a wellness product that lets you in put your driving habits to a program that will teach you to blow less carbon into the environment by changing the way you drive. It became a we-ness product when Fiat created Eco:Ville, a virtual town modeled on the company’s hometown of Turin. Software permits you to join Eco:Ville, but only if you’ve changed the way you drive and improved your carbon footprint.
Another marketing-related innovation that builds on the connection between we-ness and everyday health and wellness is the Nike+ system. Nike took a health product—smart running shoes that can record your distance and pace and sync the data to your iPod—and made it a we-ness product by incorporating massive social integration in the form of running teams, geographic challenges and automatic posting of runs to social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
Asthmapolis, an organization that is just getting off the ground, connects we-ness to improving health for chronically ill patients by attaching a small GPS-enabled device to rescue inhalers. With today’s medications, asthma can often be well controlled but isn’t, because people rely too much on their rescue inhalers. Using Asthmapolis technology, whenever someone uses their inhaler, the time and location of use are recorded, creating a searchable map and timeline of their treatment habits that can be shared with friends, family, and physicians.
All these innovations make use of social technologies to weave we-ness into products that have a flavor of health or wellness. But we-ness doesn’t mean just plugging social media into whatever you’re selling. Coke recently rolled out special vending machines in Argentina to promote International Friendship Day. Most of us don’t associate Coke with health and wellness (sorry, Coke), but the company’s smart use of we-ness deserves to be recognized. The vending machines in Argentina were so tall that only by getting a boost from a friend could you put money in. When you did, you were rewarded with two Cokes—one for you and one for your partner.
We-ness is a part of all of our lives, so much a part that we sometimes take for granted just how good connecting with other people feels. Research proves that it doesn’t just feel good; it’s good for us. If you’re in the health and wellness market, or you’re ready to take the plunge, you will do well to include some aspect of it into what you’re selling.