Alicia Jones
Alicia Jones is a UHN Wellness Ambassador who says getting out for a walk, employing BRITE practices and participating in the Refresh Program on her unit are key parts of her healthy regimen. (Photo: UHN)

Alicia Jones believes workplace wellness begins with her.

A nurse educator in UHN's Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Transplant Centre, Alicia says keys for her are "a positive outlook on life" and knowing what she needs – physically and mentally – to stay healthy.

"Wellness will always be at the top of my list," she says. "And, my message to all is 'know your health.'"

Alicia, who joined UHN in 2015 and is excited to have recently become a Wellness Ambassador, adopts a holistic approach to her health, taking walks during lunch breaks as well as to and from Union Station. She also engages in spiritual and recreational activities in her community, and at work, including BRITE Practices and the Refresh Program, which comes to her unit to provide services.

"I am always motivated to help improve my work environment, my health and well-being, or support my colleagues," Alicia says. "The first step has to be awareness. Then, you have to own it."

October is Healthy Workplace Month across Canada. At UHN, the Wellness Team and its valued partners will engage in a variety of activities to highlight some of the many programs it offers.

"Health and wellness is key to building a resilient workforce at UHN," says Emma Pavlov, Executive Vice President HR and Organizational Development at UHN. "With the support and feedback of people all across UHN, we built a 'people strategy' and a 'wellness framework' to help our people on that journey.

"One of our priorities for the next five years is to foster an inclusive, healthy and engaging culture."

Heather Gordon, UHN Workplace Wellness Manager, says it's "a comprehensive approach" that the organization takes to improving the health and well-being of all team members.

"There is a wide variety of programs, partnerships, on-site services and discounts available to make managing your wellness easier," Heather says. Read a list of Wellness resources [Editor's Note: Link is no longer available].

Among the services offered through UHN Wellness are nutritional counselling, onsite registered massage therapy, which is a paid service, and free 15-minute massages and group exercise classes.

UHN also has an Employee and Family Assistance Program that provides TeamUHN members and family with immediate and confidential support to help resolve work, health and life challenges, including stress, financial, parenting and relationships.

In addition, UHN Wellness also runs the Wellness Ambassadors Program, which sees volunteers champion healthy workplace initiatives in units and departments across the organization. Among the many activities they have created over the years are walking meetings and picnic lunches, gratitude emails, daily jokes, mindful minutes, deep-breathing sessions and UHN Run/Walk Club.

"These activities are aimed at increasing physical and mental well-being, work-life harmony, teamwork and respect, and a positive culture at UHN," says Eric Beaudoin, Director, People, Strategy and Innovation. "It's aligned with UHN's focus on quality of work life as well as our 2019-2023 People Strategy."

UHN Run/Walk Club
Some members of the UHN Run/Walk Club before a recent outing. The group, which is spearheaded by Wellness Ambassador Sarah Laberge, meets every Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Oasis Wellness Centre at Toronto General Hospital, next to the Tim Horton’s. Beginner runners and walkers are welcome. Contact for more information. (Photo: Courtesy UHN Run/Walk Club)

This year, Wellness has also teamed up with UHN Patient Education and Engagement to promote healthy workplaces and health literacy. It will offer patients and visitors, as well as TeamUHN members, an opportunity to complete a self-directed health literacy measure on units and in Patient and Family Libraries, with an aim to helping them be more proactive about their health and wellness.

"Health literacy is a key function of wellness," says Farrah Schwartz, Manager, Patient Education and Engagement. "UHN is a leader in providing health literacy resources to patients, families and members of TeamUHN, so it's exciting to offer people more information to help take control of their health."

October is also Health Literacy Month.

Alicia completed a self-directed health literacy assessment and was not surprised to find that her scores on being proactive and navigating the health system were high. But, she says, that doesn't mean there isn't still lots for her to learn about workplace health, noting she's attended educational sessions and accessed through UHN Wellness tools on longer healthy living and improving cardiovascular health.

"As a nurse educator, I enjoy teaching others," Alicia says. "But I am always on a learning journey and that includes my own health and wellness, at work and across all aspects of my life."

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