Nurses Help Others—and Themselves—Get and Stay Healthy
Health and safety champs lead teams to new heights
Silbia Espinoza, RN, strives to climb any mountain. Literally.
“I’m not what you would call a ‘normal’ person,” Espinoza says with a laugh. “I work a 12-hour shift and go straight to the gym. I can’t work out for less than an hour and 10 minutes!”
Espinoza, a UNAC/UHHP member who works in Southern California at the Baldwin Park Medical Center Intensive Care Unit, has been her department’s health and safety champion for two years.
Making wellness routine
“My manager, Celso Silla, volunteered me to be the champ,” she says. “Now people are always asking me when we can go out on walks and hikes.”
For example, one Saturday morning early last year, she and 14 co-workers, outfitted with sunscreen, water, protein bars and hats, took a steep, six-mile hike to and from the Hollywood sign. “It was fun!” she says.
They also work wellness into their daily routine. “Even when we attended a nursing conference, we decided to power walk instead of taking Uber,” she says. “People said afterward they had never lost weight by being at a conference.”
Remedy for stress
Espinoza’s drive to workout comes in part from the demands of her job. “Working in the ICU is very stressful. I have all this energy after work,” she says. “After working out I go home calmer and can think clearly.”
One change Espinoza has seen in her two years as a champ is healthier snacks at meetings and in the break room. Fresh fruits and veggies have replaced cookies and doughnuts.
“I like that I can be a role model,” Espinoza says. “I like the results I see in myself, and I feel great that my co-workers tell me how much weight they’ve lost or how many steps they’ve completed. All any of us needs is someone to encourage and guide us.”
Reaching the summit in Hawaii
As a health and safety champion for her unit-based team, registered nurse Marja Lehua Apisaloma is passionate about health.
In her new role as a champ, Apisaloma, a member of Hawaii Nurses Association, OPEIU Local 50, recently helped launch a 14-week health challenge in the Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Urology and Cardiology departments at the Kaiser Permanente clinic in Maui.
“Small choices repeatedly create change,” Apisaloma says. “Just balance things out and choose wisely.”
In the first two weeks of the 14-week challenge, 25 co-workers started working out together, taking walks and encouraging each other to have healthy eating habits. They cumulatively lost 63 pounds in the first two weeks.
Like her Southern California counterpart, Apisaloma also thinks about high peaks—and credits her supervisor, Melissa Perricelli-Gouyetes, RN, and colleague Karin Quon, RN, for helping her reach them. “Melissa pushed me off the cliff and forced me to fly by volunteering me for the health champ role,” Apisaloma says. “I am loving it and am grateful for the push.”
“Karin is a firecracker,” Apisaloma says of her co-worker. “We empower each other and work on focusing on our individual strengths.” That is exactly as intended by the Labor Management Partnership’s 2015 National Agreement. It called for volunteer champions to help spread good health and safety practices in their departments.
Even on difficult days, says Apisaloma, “perspective, mindfulness and an attitude of gratitude help me daily. I try to keep this Hawaiian proverb in mind—Kulia I ka nu’u—which means 'strive to reach the summit.' ”