WATERLOO — Staff at Peoples Community Health Clinic are part of the “Peoples family,” said Erika Nelson.
“(The) clinic ensures their employees are taken care of, especially in a major time of need or uncertainty,” she explained. “Employees are treated with dignity and respect.”
Melissa Oltman said the clinic’s sharing, supportive environment is behavior that is modeled “from the top on down.”
“It’s part of our culture,” she said. “It’s no surprise that a large number of our employees have been here for exceptionally long tenures.”
This comes from nurturing employees, said Cynthia Kress. She has experienced it in everything from watching staff rally around a coworker with a personal crisis to the care supervisors take when providing professional coaching.
“My direct supervisor is someone I can talk to about anything, and I always receive helpful and positive feedback when I do so,” she said. “I plan to retire from Peoples Clinic because I love this job and my co-workers are family to me.”
Having a good time helps, too, said Dr. Sharon Duclos, co-medical director. She believes proud, happy employees are a testament to the clinic’s ability to care for its caregivers.
“The average turnover for a health care provider is five years. Many of ours have been here longer than that,” said Duclos, now in her 26th year at the clinic.
“I (recently went) to a conference where we brainstormed ways to bring joy into the workplace,” she added. “It’s a common topic, because for health care providers and nurses, there’s a 50% burnout rate.”
With this in mind, Duclos strives to cultivate playfulness whenever appropriate.
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“I try to find the energy in the room and tap into the fun,” she said. “You’re spending eight hours every day with these people; it can be fun or it can be a misery. This is your life.”
This positive workplace culture results in positive patient interactions, said Melissa Dunlevy.
“Our clinic’s mission statement is ‘providing access to affordable, compassionate, high quality health care for all,’ which does encompass our daily goals and each individual interaction with our patients and community,” she explained. “Our patients are viewed as a whole person; we are mindful of their financial, social, legal, transportation, and mental health needs and about their successes and goals.”
This year, Peoples Clinic celebrated its 20th anniversary at its current location in downtown Waterloo. The 40,000-square-foot facility includes medical, dental, urgent, and emergency care as well as counseling, laboratory, X-ray, and pharmacy services.
“We like to say there are patients out there who don’t know they’re our patients yet,” said Chris Kemp, CEO. “Our goal is to expand where there are needs in the community.”
This includes a rural satellite clinic in Clarksville, called Peoples Clinic Butler County. The health center opened in 2008 and is staffed 2.5 days per week.
It is one of several initiatives the clinic has developed in recent years, said Kemp. Employees had suggested ways to help current and prospective patients with issues like transportation, homelessness, food insecurity, and communication barriers.
“We’ve been trying and working very hard to make sure this is a great place to work,” she said. “We didn’t expect such a reaction. … This is a big deal to us, that our employees nominated us as an Employer of Choice. It brought tears to my eyes.”
Nominators said the upgraded facilities, expanded programs and added providers, equipment, and services have improved the clinic’s ability to help people of all financial situations.
“Peoples Community Health Clinic has been a mission-driven organization since its inception,” Oltman explained. “As we have grown and changed and adapted to meet the changing needs of our patients, we have had to be flexible to meet the needs of our employees also.”