Message from the President

Standing Up for Team Member Success

by Loren Hamel, MD - President, Spectrum Health Lakeland | Aug 18, 2020

When the Lakeland team hired a young man named Eli last year, they knew he’d be a great addition to the call center. He was bilingual in Spanish and English, hardworking, and focused. It was clear he would be a talented employee.

But what they didn’t know was that Eli used a wheelchair for mobility. He was paralyzed at 21 years old after a crash involving a distracted driver. He was even treated at Lakeland Medical Center, St. Joseph, for his injuries.

When Eli was ready to return to the workforce, he applied at Lakeland because he recalled how well he had been cared for as a patient. He thought he might be able to return the favor and help others in their time of need.

Although Eli and the call center team were excited to be working together and he didn’t want any special attention, there was still a challenge. Eli had to bring his heavy, outdated standing chair to and from work. It was something he needed to avoid harmful effects from sitting too long during a shift, prevent sores, and ease strain on his back. To be successful in the call center, he also needed to reach certain buttons to transfer calls.

A few team members noticed just how difficult it was to move that bulky chair around and wondered what they could do to make things a little easier. Individuals from Employee Health, the call center, the Foundation, Lakeland Care, and Inpatient Therapy put their heads together and decided they would try to get a new standing chair that Eli could use at work.

Changing the workspace, covering the cost of the chair, and ensuring that it fit properly were all questions they had to find solutions for. But the group stuck with it over the next few months. They found money for the chair through the Foundation and Lakeland Care and even received a discount from the supplier, CareLinc Medical Equipment. Building Services helped make Eli’s workspace more accessible, and Inpatient Therapy and Employee Health worked hard to make sure the chair would work for Eli.

Recently, he received and began using the new chair. And he says it’s already made a difference. His are shifts less difficult, and even standing an hour or two helps him feel totally refreshed while he works.

The chair also opens the door for Eli to be able to work more hours, which means being able to help more callers. This is really important, especially interpreting for Spanish-speaking callers. Just recently, he was able to help give updates to the family of a loved one who was on the COVID unit. The family only spoke Spanish and it was such a relief for them to know they could call Eli and get information they could understand.

But I think this story is impactful for more than just Eli and the people he helps in the call center. It holds an inspiring lesson for us all. I’m so very proud of the way team members saw an opportunity to help and came together to provide a solution. That culture of wanting all our team members to succeed—regardless of gender, ethnicity, orientation, age, background, abilities—is part of what makes Lakeland a really special place.

We’re committed to do our best to provide the resources team members need to succeed. Did you know there’s even a group at Spectrum Health devoted to meeting those needs? AdaptABILITIES is an Inclusion Resource Group that supports team members with disabilities, team members who are caregivers for someone with a disability, and allies who have a passion for helping. The group works to help shape the culture of Spectrum Health with networking, resources, education, and more.

There’s still more work to do to increase accessibility, but stories like Eli’s show that when we collaborate, we can ensure that Lakeland is a special place of inclusion and success for everyone on our team.

Dr Hamel signature

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© Spectrum Health Lakeland 2020