DOVER-FOXCROFT - WorkWISE, the occupational health program at Mayo Regional Hospital, was launched in 1997 with the belief that healthy workplaces make healthy communities.
Now, after having worked with 500 large and small Maine businesses in the past decade -- ranging from major manufacturers with hundreds of employees to microbusinesses with only one or two -- WorkWISE staff are more convinced than ever that a healthy workforce also makes good business sense.
"Most employers have their biggest investment in their workers, and in today's workplace employee health and wellness impacts a business owner's bottom line," said Roxanne Nason, RN, a certified occupational health nurse who has been the WorkWISE program's manager since its inception.
"Employers are trying to cut their health insurance and workers' compensation costs. Our goal is to help them do that through primary prevention and by improving access to care when needed," said Nason. "It's much more cost-effective to identify health problems in the workplace and deal with them before they cause a worker to have a lost-time injury.
"Prevention is the key to providing healthy, productive workers, and this movement towards wellness also impacts our community at large, since work spills over into our personal lives," she said. "That's what WorkWISE is all about -- trying to be a partner with our area's employers, and helping them in supporting the health of their workers."
To mark its 10th anniversary, WorkWISE is inviting employers to an open house on Wednesday, June 27, from 4-6 p.m. at the program's office suite on the top floor of the Mayo Resource Center.
Nason said that while WorkWISE provides many of the same services available in a typical doctor's office, what sets the program apart is its focus on occupational health: promotion of employee health, prevention of illnesses and injuries caused by working conditions, and protection of workers from any workplace risk factors.
"We focus on employee health and wellness and we accomplish this by working closely with employers and insurance carriers," said Nason. "This team approach helps the employee get better faster following injuries, and provides an environment that allows the employee to return to work faster, benefiting all parties."
A dual focus on worker and workplace is evident in the preplacement screenings conducted by WorkWISE. They are much more comprehensive than the average pre-employment physical examination because they are so job specific.
"Our preplacement screenings take an hour and a half. The purpose is to identify any risk factors to the employee or to the company and help the company make reasonable accommodations so an employee can work at a given job. The screenings really take into account the type of work the person will do," said Nason.
In addition to direct health services, WorkWISE is available to consult with employers on matters of safety compliance in the workplace, can offer drug and alcohol testing, on-site education on stress management, smoking cessation and other topics. Work-site health fairs can provide immunizations, health screenings and risk factor assessments.
The program staff includes Nason, nurses Elaine Bisbee and Ardis Porter, nurse practitioner Linda Willard, physician assistants Karen Nichols and Bill Bisbee, and office manager Deb Sawyer.
Because the occupational health service is a program of Mayo Regional Hospital, it has 24-hour coverage through Mayo's emergency room and access to a variety of hospital support services: physical therapy, radiology, cardiopulmonary services, laboratory, substance abuse treatment, dietary counseling and the Heartwise cardiac rehabilitation program.
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