Corporate wellness programs teach the employees of large companies about healthy lifestyles, but as a dietetic intern with the corporate wellness program at Johns Hopkins, I learned so much more. In less than two months, and after just my first rotation, I’m already practicing many of the skills a dietitian needs to be successful. Under the guidance of my preceptors, I edited and developed talks on various topics, located educational materials to use, helped run the wellness program booth at health fairs, attended meetings and observed individual counseling sessions. Most importantly, I got to see the unique difficulties dietitians face in this setting, and how experienced professionals handle this type of work.
Corporate wellness programs are a huge business, and field is only expected to grow. They offer work for dietitians that differs from the more commonly cited areas of clinical, community and food service. Initially, many companies offered wellness programs simply to try to avoid rising employee health insurance costs by improving the health and physical well-being of their workers. Over time however, employers began to recognize the importance of providing mental health, stress management and other services as part of their wellness programs, aiming to create a more holistic approach to employee well-being. Because of this, a dietitian working in a wellness program may need to learn about aspects of health that weren’t explicitly covered in their education or training. Backgrounds, education levels and job titles may vary drastically across the employee populations, so wellness dietitians need to know how to serve diverse audiences.
The workforce of a hospital is particularly varied; the wellness program may work with doctors, housekeeping staff, management, office workers and others, all of whom come from different backgrounds and levels of formal education. When giving advice on healthy living habits, dietitians may need to talk with authority on a large variety of topics, not all of which center around nutrition. They also need to tailor their message to their audience. A physician probably doesn’t need to be told what hypertension is, but may still benefit from ideas on how to fit physical activity into their daily routine. An employee without a formal education in health and medicine shouldn’t be expected to already know jargon, so teaching them what HbA1c means might be necessary.
Throughout my assignments and activities, I learned how important it is to be able to use plain language to communicate to the widest audience possible, while still conveying useful and relevant information. In corporate wellness, the goal is to promote healthy behaviors to as many employees as possible. To accomplish that I have learned to tailor my message so it is accessible to a diverse group of employees.