Occupational medicine offers growing ways to develop healthier workplaces

This piece is presented by Sanford Health.

Dr. Jolene Mitchell

An effective approach to occupational medicine can support both your employees and your business.

Dr. Jolene Mitchell helps Sanford Health Occupational Medicine deliver best-in-class programs and services to industries from banking to mining. As she told us, adding occupational medicine services can play a significant role in creating healthier, more productive workplaces.

What is occupational medicine?

Occupational medicine is a sub-specialty of preventive medicine that addresses the treatment and prevention of illness and injury in the workplace. The Sanford occupational medicine team includes physicians, nurses, industrial hygienists, therapists, safety professionals and audiologists who partner with companies of all sizes. Our team provides prompt medical treatment for work-related injuries, as well as a range of other services that include rehabilitation, job-safety evaluations, health education and regulation services, as well as injury-prevention programs.

As an occupational medicine specialist, what is your specific role?

My No. 1 priority is the prevention, mitigation and elimination of diseases or injuries in workplace settings. One of my main aims is to provide customized wellness programs that will improve organizational health.

How do you build a customized wellness program?

An onsite wellness program can be comprehensive or very simple, but each is designed to bring disease management and self-care education and services directly to a work site. A simple wellness program can include ergonomics, teaching stretching activities or helping employers find time during the busy workday for people to get up and walk away from their desks. A more comprehensive plan might include physical exams, preventive tests, exercise programs, nutrition classes or psychological wellness education. There’s a big push across the country right now to improve workplace stress and develop that work-life balance.

At Sanford, we’re also finding more and more technology to expedite and better facilitate safety programs. We’re working toward a medical informatics foundation, which will allow us to use data in a clinically meaningful, economically conscious way that will improve our outcomes for patients and employers.

What types of companies do you work with?

I work with companies in a wide range of industries, from banking to mining to transportation. Companies in any industry can take advantage of work site services like health care screenings and assessments or injury prevention, and I tailor our services to meet their needs.

With jobs that are not physically demanding, I can use ergonomics to make sure employees are as comfortable and productive as possible. Even when they’re sitting for long periods of time, I want employees to be able to interact with their environments safely and efficiently.

In industries that are inherently more dangerous for workplace-safety consultation, we provide medical or legal consultation and help to prevent injury or disease. I also help employers stay within regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.

What drew you to working with the Sanford occupational medicine program?

I chose Sanford because they have a large conglomerate of providers covering multiple states and a wide variety of workplaces. It’s nice to have the collaboration between providers within the Sanford family, so I can draw on the resources and expertise across the broad area that we cover.

What are your main goals as a physician working in occupational medicine?

My No. 1 priority is the prevention, mitigation and elimination of diseases or injuries in workplace settings. Overall, if we have safe, healthy working environments, then we will have productive members of society that can help push companies into the future with sound financial foundations. It’s my privilege to see the achievements, skills and success of our community employers and to aid in their economic success.

What’s most rewarding about working in occupational medicine?

I work with a portion of the population that moves an entire country forward. I get to see the jobs that Americans perform that I never would have imagined. I get to see environments they work in that I never would have imagined. It is truly astounding how diversified and specialized our workplaces have become – and that we need each of these people to fulfill their role to move this massive economy forward. I get to see the contributions they make in society that they oftentimes don’t even see themselves.

Jolene Mitchell, MD, provides occupational medicine services in Sioux Falls and the surrounding areas. She completed her medical degree at the University of Pikeville, Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Mitchell, call 605-328-9300.

Occupational medicine offers growing ways to develop healthier workplaces

Dr. Jolene Mitchell helps Sanford Health Occupational Medicine deliver best-in-class programs and services to industries from banking to mining. As she told us, adding occupational medicine services can play a significant role in creating healthier, more productive workplaces.

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