Behind The News: Orla Kelleher, occupational health manager

Pressure on hospitals can take a toll on staff, so self-care is being promoted at Bon Secours Hospital in Cork

Orla Kelleher, who works at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, is more aware than most of the stresses on healthcare staff.

“A large healthcare organisation like ours takes its toll on the workforce, and it’s all our responsibility to maintain our physical and psychological wellbeing,” says Kelleher, who co-ordinated the private hospital’s health-and-wellness awareness day this week.

“It’s excellent for morale and gives a great buzz around the hospital, with groups of colleagues partaking together,” says Kelleher. “While we don’t have an A&E department, we have a medical-assessment unit and do take acute admissions and have an intensive-care unit.”

Back injuries and musculoskeletal injuries are the main healthcare problems reported by the hospital’s healthcare staff. “Anyone with a back injury comes to me, and we organise free assessment in the physiotherapy department and medical attention within the hospital.”

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This is the third year that the Bon Secours in Cork, which has 1,200 staff in total, has run its health-and-wellness awareness days.

At this week's event some members of staff took the Smoothie Bike Challenge, to see who could spin the best smoothie in the fastest time using pedal-powered blenders. Jessica Kingston, a theatre nurse who won Ireland's Fittest Family on RTÉ's last year, took on Dr Owen Power, a senior house officer at the Bon Secours.

“The challenge is to come up with creative ideas to promote health and wellbeing,” says Kelleher. “We concentrate on lifestyle changes and how our predominantly female workforce can manage their social demands on shift work and find pockets of time for exercise. We also provide weekly weigh-ins, in tandem with health and dietary advice.”

In addition, the hospital can offer its staff corporate rates at a nearby gym and swimming pool, and encourages staff to use the cycling and walking path along the River Lee just outside.

Paul Reidy, the hospital's human-resources manager, says: "The key is that we can manage our health and wellness in house, with dieticians, physiotherapists and catering staff all working on the programme."

The restaurant at the hospital provides detailed calorie counts for all of the daily meals its serves; it also emails menus to staff, so they can plan their meals in advance.

“Keeping our staff fit and in a good state is central to having a healthy, happy workforce,” says Kelleher