Nurse Wellness Program Celebrates 15 Years

Nurse Wellness Program Celebrates 15 Years Margie Gale, Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, highlights the Nurse Wellness Program that is celebrating 15 years of providing resources and programs to help nurses maintain a safe work/life balance. Learn more about the Nurse Wellness Program.

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Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections. I am here today with my colleague, Margie Gale. Margie is a mental health clinical nurse specialist with over 30 years of nursing experience. In May 2002, the Nurse Wellness Committee was organized, and during that time, Vanderbilt has emerged as a nationwide leader in nurse wellness. They are now celebrating 15 years of providing resources and programs that help nurses maintain a safe work/life wellness balance. Margie, would you tell our listeners about nurse wellness and what is available to nurses at Vanderbilt, and also, why would a nurse want to be involved with this committee?

Margie Gale: The Nurse Wellness Initiative is comprised of two parts at Vanderbilt, and it has developed the foundation that has been built for about the first five years, and then has launched many partnerships in the 10 years after that. In 2002, the Nurse Wellness Committee was formed as a group of leaders and the advisory board to a service program in a position within Work/Life Connections -Employee Assistance Program called the Nurse Wellness Program. That is the service program, and that is where I am employed. My position is there. I am a nurse, but I don't work for nursing. I work with the Employee Assistance Program and all the counselors and the staff who are here. So, basically, the committee keeps a pulse on what the needs of nurses are professionally - everything from where you park your car. Is it safe? We do a one-year annual safety walk with the police department to see, especially on weekends and nights, how safe nurses are and if a light bulb is out or a box needs to be fixed, and then they determine are there other needs? One of the big ones right now is we are facing a big change in Epic, so the Nurse Wellness Committee is advising and developing great programs to support our nurses before that time but also during that two-week period where it is going to be very intensive in the fall and many of the programs in between. So, that group thinks about what is important for nurses, shares ideas with EAP, Occupational Health, and then partners. We may partner with Health Plus. We may partner with Occupational Health for flu or Smooth Moves. We may partner with the nursing research group to offer burnout and compassion fatigue workshops. So, anything that is important for nurses, we have been pretty much on the cutting edge, including we pursued and changed the laws in the state of Tennessee to protect healthcare workers from assaults violently on healthcare workers in the workplace.

Rosemary Cope: Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Margie Gale: That was very interesting. In 2007, I got a call from the trauma unit where they saw the initial change in the country, and as I would go and talk with leaders in the Tennessee Nurses Association across the state, initially people would say, "Oh, we are not seeing that." We began gathering data and again, each of these projects has many people. It takes a village and a community and many partnerships, and each of us knows our one small part in it, and it is pretty exciting to be building a cathedral together of care for nurses, and as we gathered that information, then there was a group that was started called the Workplace Violence Prevention in Nursing Taskforce that was just a grassroots effort from the trauma unit, and was co-chaired by Sandra Brown and Pam Askew, trauma nurses at that time. They now work for the Radiology Critical Care Unit. That group has continued. It became such an important group that the Safety Committee for Vanderbilt University Medical Center asked them to be a subcommittee of that safety committee. We moved forward in educating people, and over a three-year period from 2011 to 2013, we developed a website, educated and ultimately worked with the Tennessee Nurses Association to pass a law through the Tennessee legislature that increases the penalties for people who assault healthcare workers and also developed the process where, through the District Attorney's office, it would be prosecuted much like domestic violence is. It has been hugely beneficial and protects not only nurses but every healthcare worker, licensed or unlicensed, in the entire state of Tennessee, from a pharmacist to a care partner to anyone who has contact with patients.

Rosemary Cope: And on a day-by-day basis, if I am a nurse here at Vanderbilt, how does the Nurse Wellness Initiative benefit me?

Margie Gale: You have a menu of services and you can decide which may be helpful to you. So, one of the things we have done is partnered with Health Plus and we take a seven-minute yoga break for nurses. We started on the Pediatric Critical Care Unit about three years ago. We teach them for seven minutes how to take a break, and we found most of our nurses have not even ever been to a yoga class. They learn how to do this on the days that they are at work and on other days. If you are going through something more difficult (say you have had a family member who died), a person can come in and come to the Employee Assistance Program and see one of our counselors here, get some brief assessment and support, and then if needed, a referral. For something like that, we refer out for grief services that uses your benefits, but we have many, many services, and we have a website that you can go to, the Nurse Wellness Committee website that talks about the broad view of things for nurses. Then, also, we have a website for the Employee Assistance Program, that has components of the Nurse Wellness Committee as well.

Rosemary Cope: So, if one our listeners would like to contact you or someone on the Nurse Wellness Committee, what is your number and the website, please?

Margie Gale: Our number is (615) 936-1327 to the Work/Life Connections EAP, and we are open 8:00 to 5:00, and welcome people to call, or to go to that website, which is under "Health and Wellness," and send us an email. We always contact people back. You could contact someone, Teresa Hobt-Bingham, on the Nurse Wellness Committee. There is a contact area on that website as well. Those Chairs do change every year, so you probably want to go to the website in case it changes if you are listening to this.

Rosemary Cope: And if I would like to be more involved; I am a nurse here on campus. I would like to be involved with this. What would I need to do?

Margie Gale: I am so glad you asked that question, because that brings us back to one of the most important things, which are the Nurse Wellness Commodores. Those are staff nurses who are representing any of our 200 units or clinics, who want to come and participate. It is very hard for nurses to get off and come to meetings, but we welcome people to be involved. We send out information. This is through Health Plus. They do a fabulous job of orienting and then pushing out information for you to take to your units and take to your meetings and to your bulletin boards. It is kind of all served up to you so you can become involved.

Rosemary Cope: That sounds excellent. Margie, thank you so much for giving that information to us today, and we are going to look forward to exploring the website and adding more balance into nursing life. Thank you for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the "Add New Comment" link at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or a suggestion, please email it to us at, or you can use the "Contact Us" link on our website at