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Gundersen Lutheran Health System

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Gundersen Lutheran Health System
La Crosse, Wisc.
Number of Employees: 6,300

Several programs serve employee caregivers of Gundersen Lutheran Health System. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) was started in 1975 and includes assessment, short-term counseling and referral services including employees with caregiving responsibilities. Employees are provided assistance in finding reputable websites for help with long-distance caregiving and help with family medical leave applications.

The Community and Preventive Care Services Program began providing structured eldercare services in 1987 and evolved since then. It offers employees some of the same services and information their patients receive, including educational videos, fall prevention workshops, pamphlets on caregiving, an employee newsletter sent through the mail and also available online, and health education programming including stress management, healthy eating and exercise.

The organization sponsors a local 211 information and referral service, which includes a link to the statewide information and referral line. It also offers a personal time off (PTO) policy and a PTO bank, which can extend the hours available to an employee or which permits employees to donate their PTO hours to assist others. In addition, in-house professionals provide specific services, such as social work assistance, a nurse advisor program, care coordination and nutrition services for patients, as well as employees. The organization also provides an online renewal center providing music, meditation and relaxation exercises for employees. In addition, chair massages and on-site outdoor walking trails are available to employees to help manage their stress. They also offer a health insurance product for retirees and their elderly parents.

Marketing is through an employee newsletter and online version of the newsletter. Posters in break areas promote the programs as well. Utilization rates of the EAP average 9-10 percent, including employees and eligible family members.

Employees are surveyed regarding satisfaction with services used and satisfaction rates are high. In addition, there are quarterly wellness surveys of 25 percent of their workforce exploring wellness behavior and health. The organization has added questions related to caregiving in the last quarterly wellness survey in order to assess that element of their lives. There is also an annual survey of employees about engagement, which includes questions related to the balance of work and family and job satisfaction.

Benefits to Employer
The program has assisted employees in managing their roles as a professional caregiver and an informal caregiver. The health system recognizes the importance of addressing health issues of its workforce, and balancing work and family is an important element of that.

Other Program Information
Gundersen Lutheran Health System provides services, including elements of their eldercare program, to other employers. They report that since they are a 24-hour operation, there is flexibility for employees who are caregivers to work alternative shifts when it is necessary and available. Their information resources online are also available to people in the community.