Workforce Wellness – Bon Secours


Flu Shot Myths Put Everyone at Risk

Despite widespread evidence that flu shots help protect people from getting sick, many still refuse to roll up their sleeves.

If you’re one of those who question whether flu vaccines really work, chances are you’ve heard some of the widespread myths that seem to start circulating every fall.

Recent studies show that getting a flu shot can reduce your risk of illness up to 60 percent, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although infants under the age of 6 months are too young to get a flu shot, they are protected for the first four months of their life if their mother was vaccinated. Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.

Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot every year, according to federal health recommendations. Yet many people don’t. Last November, only 40 percent of eligible people had received their flu shot, according to the CDC.

Flu shots do not cause the flu.

The vaccine contains viruses that have been inactivated, which means they’re not infectious. It can cause mild, short-lasting side effects, she said, but it doesn’t give you the flu. Minor side effects include a low-grade fever, aches and soreness on your arm from the shot.

To understand why some might believe this myth, you need to know how the flu vaccine works.

It takes about two weeks after getting your flu shot for your body to develop enough antibodies to protect you. So, should you get the flu after getting your vaccine, you were likely infected before or during that two-week window.

Another possibility: it’s not the flu. It’s a cold. Many people confuse respiratory viruses with influenza because they cause similar symptoms.

Flu shots work.

The truth is that you can still get the flu even though you had a flu shot. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one.

How well the vaccine works can vary for each person. Older people, whose immune systems are not as strong, will not develop the same immunity as someone younger or healthier.

Another factor that affects the vaccine’s effectiveness is whether it closely matches the viruses circulating. The closer the match, the better the protection.

It’s important to know that even if the vaccine doesn’t closely match the viruses circulating, it still helps protect people. Should you become infected, your case of the flu will be milder because you had a flu shot.


For more information or to find a healthcare provider near you, call 804-359-WELL or visit



Can occupational therapy help you live a better life?

While physical therapists focus on big movements, occupational therapists help patients regain the ability to do small movements that are necessary for daily living. These movements might include things like feeding yourself, buttoning your shirt, or signing your name. You may receive occupational therapy in the hospital, at an outpatient practice, at home, or even at school if you’re a child or teen.

Occupational therapists help people of all ages, from children with developmental disabilities to adults with injuries or seniors who have experienced a stroke. You or a loved one may benefit from occupational therapy if:


If arthritis in your hands keeps you from buttoning your shirt, or Parkinson’s disease keeps you from feeding yourself, occupational therapists can help you regain these skills. They may have you use adaptive equipment that makes tasks easier for you and/or have you complete exercises to rebuild these skills.


Children with autism or other disabilities frequently see occupational therapists both in- and outside of school settings. Your child’s occupational therapist can help them with writing, social situations, and other activities that may be challenging for them. Beginning regular occupational therapy when your child is young can help them build skills and gain independence that will last a lifetime.


If you need to use a wheelchair or other mobility equipment, it can be difficult for you to move around your home and perform tasks as you once did. An occupational therapist can assess your home and help you find ways to adapt it to fit your needs. They can also help you find adaptive equipment that makes tasks easier.


A severe hand injury at any age can affect your ability to work and play. An occupational therapist can help you rebuild strength and function so that you can return to activities you enjoy.


Whether you have surgery on your knee or shoulder, elbow or hip, you may need help returning to your daily activities after orthopedic surgery. Occupational therapists, working alongside physical therapists, can help you practice these skills safely so you can build strength with a lower risk of injury after surgery. Participating in therapy can help you heal faster so you can get back to your normal life.

At Bon Secours Physical Therapy, our expert occupational therapists help patients achieve their goals and experience a higher quality of life. If you think you could benefit from occupational therapy, talk to your physician to learn more or visit us at



Improving Depression Detection

As a primary care physician in Easley, South Carolina, Dr. Julie Dangler treats a range of medical conditions. So it didn’t surprise her when a 35-year-old woman visited her last year complaining of chronic back pain.

But this time, instead of just conducting a physical exam, Dr. Dangler asked the woman several questions about her mental state.

“Over the past two weeks, how often have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things?” she asked. “And over the past two weeks, how often have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?”

The woman’s response: “Nearly every day.”

The questions are part of Bon Secours Health System’s new depression screening initiative, designed to improve depression detection, ensure patients have access to quality behavioral health services, and dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“One in five Americans lives with a mental illness,” said Jeff Oak, senior vice president, whose role includes leading mental health strategy for Bon Secours Health System. “That’s roughly 43 million Americans. From a population health perspective, that’s significant.”

Among all those experiencing mental illness, only half receive treatment and only a third receive treatment that’s deemed effective by the Institute of Medicine, he said. And the number one barrier to treatment of mental illness is the associated stigma.

“When we think about population health, which is so important to us as a health care ministry, we can’t do population health well unless and until we do mental health well,” Oak said.

With the use of patient questionnaires, the system began depression screenings in spring 2016 as part of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visits for patients 65 and older, an initiative where Bon Secours is a nationwide leader. Medicare Annual Wellness Visits across Bon Secours increased from 26% in September 2014 to nearly 67% as of August 21, 2017; as compared to 20% of Medicare Part B beneficiaries completing AWVs nationwide.

“It’s not a way to pry,” Dr. Dangler said. “It’s a way to really show that we care and let people know that it’s something that really does impact their health, and that’s why we’re stressing it.”

In 2017, Bon Secours primary and specialty care providers began expanding the screenings, evaluating patients ages 12 and older during every visit.

Early signs show the initiative is working. Between January and August 2016, Bon Secours Health System screened 19.92 percent of patients over the age of 12 for depression. The health system set a goal to increase screenings to 29.92 percent between January and August 2017. It surpassed this goal, with 56.21 percent of patients receiving depression screenings.

Bon Secours Health System was also the top performer for depression screenings in the Premier Population Health Collaborative – a cohort of 22 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) across country working to improve population health.

“It’s getting the message out there once again and really stressing that we need to make sure we ask every person over 12, every time they come in,” Dr. Dangler said. “It’s important because the first time you leave it out, you might have missed someone who was depressed and needed your help.”

Someone like her back pain patient, who shared she had been “blue” for quite a while, Dr. Dangler said.

“It never really occurred to her that it might be depression,” she said. “We treated her for it, prescribing medication and recommending counseling.”

But the efforts don’t end there. By August 2018, the health system hopes to screen more than 62 percent of patients over age 12 for depression. And by the spring, the health system expects to launch a pilot collaborative care model in Greenville, South Carolina, that embeds behavioral health care managers like social workers into the primary care setting, says W. Carson Felkel, II, M.D., a psychiatrist and head of behavioral health program services in Greenville.

Under the model, patients who receive a positive depression screening are connected with a care manager. The care manager then reaches out to patients every two to four weeks and rescreens them to see if they’re improving.

“For the patients who are not getting better, the team around them will change the type of therapy, change their medicines, refer to them to specialists if needed,” Dr. Felkel said. “Or, a psychiatrist reviewing the patients weekly will perform a one-time consult.”

If all goes well, Bon Secours will implement the model system-wide, he said.

The Health System Office’s mental health team is also creating clinical guidelines for screening, treatment and follow up, which will include guidelines for identifying other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and substance use disorders, Dr. Felkel said.

“We are in this for the long haul,” Oak said. “If I do nothing else in this leadership role, I want to help remove the embarrassment and shame around mental illness. To remove avoidance and fear. To remove ignorance and stereotypes. No matter what your role, you can make a difference in battling stigma by treating those with mental illness with the dignity they deserve.”

For more information or to find a healthcare provider near you, call 804-359-WELL or visit



Acting quickly when recognizing stroke symptoms saves lives

When you have a stroke, every second counts. Brain cells die as blood flow to the brain gets interrupted.

Years ago, having a stroke meant living with lifelong, serious disabilities. Today, advanced surgical procedures and treatments have changed that, dramatically reducing the effects of stroke for many.

At Bon Secours, neurosurgeons, physicians, nurses and staff work as a team to identify and treat stroke patients as quickly as possible. Within minutes, highly trained specialists put into action
treatment decisions to help prevent the damage that can occur after a stroke. Neurosurgeons remove blood clots, repair blood vessels and stop the bleeding.

This commitment to comprehensive stroke and neurological care is why all Bon Secours Virginia hospitals are certified stroke centers with six primary stroke centers, a stroke-ready free standing emergency department and two comprehensive stroke centers.

Using pioneering technology, Bon Secours stroke services include:

  • Early intervention – Patients who come to any of our emergency departments with stroke symptoms are evaluated immediately for possible treatment with clot-busting medicines.
  • Expert care – Our emergency medicine physicians, who have been trained to assess acute stroke patients, work in collaboration with neurologists.
  • Interventional team – When a blood clot in the brain causes an acute ischemic stroke, our interventional team can dissolve the clot or remove it using the latest technology and methods.
  • Neuroendovascular surgery – Stroke patients have access to minimally invasive interventional treatments to protect the brain.
  • Teleneurology – At any time, teleneurology allows us to connect an on-call stroke specialist to our emergency room. These neurologists can conduct an assessment as if they were standing at the patient’s bedside.

Despite advances in stroke treatment, it’s still important to seek emergency help immediately if you think you or someone else is having a stroke.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms often have less disability three months after a stroke than those who received delayed care, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are the stroke signs to look for in yourself or those around you:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911. You need to get to a hospital right away. Even if the symptoms go away quickly, it may still be a stroke.

It also helps to know if you are at risk for a stroke. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans, but the risk of having a stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks compared to whites.

Another risk factor is high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you are four to six times more likely to have a stroke. Make sure to check your blood pressure regularly and seek treatment if it’s too high. Many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms.

Heart disease and having atrial fibrillation can also double your risk of stroke.

Other stroke risk factors include: diabetes, high cholesterol, sickle cell disease and having had a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack.

While you can’t control some risk factors, such as getting older, you can help prevent stroke by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. If you’re overweight, lose the excess pounds to reach a healthy weight. Make sure you exercise regularly – 30 minutes daily can greatly improve your health. If you smoke, quit. And if you drink, limit your alcohol consumption.

Talk to your health provider so you can take action to control your risk.

For more information or to find a healthcare provider near you, call 804-359-WELL or visit



Virtual Doctor Visits Put Good Health at Your Fingertips

The night before you leave on a flight for a long-awaited vacation, you notice a rash spreading all over your arms.

The last-minute gardening you managed to cross off your list seemed like such an accomplishment. Now, it appears poison ivy is having its revenge. The itching gets worse by the hour.

Not long ago, a situation like this would mean rearranging your flight plans so you can get to the doctor in the morning. Or, taking the risk that you can find a doctor once you get to your destination.

Today, you have a better remedy. With Bon Secours virtual appointments, getting to a medical provider is as easy as downloading an app and making a few clicks on our website. You don’t even have to leave your home.

Bon Secours 24/7 allows patients to see a health provider without taking off time from work or school. You can talk privately to a licensed medical professional from your phone, tablet or personal computer.

The first step is to create an account at Bon Secours 24/7. You can also download the app to your phone or tablet. After that, you choose a provider and answer basic questions about why you need medical care.

Within minutes, you can speak face-to-face with a provider through your device’s video capabilities. Thanks to today’s video technology, health providers can examine skin conditions and detect breathing problems such as wheezing. Most appointments last about 10 minutes.

While some people need to see a doctor in person for further medical testing, Bon Secours 24/7 is appropriate for several non-emergency medical conditions:

  • Seasonal allergies
  • Cold, cough, bronchitis and flu
  • Fever
  • Sinus and upper respiratory infections
  • Conjunctivitis or pink-eye
  • Skin conditions such as rashes
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Headaches
  • Sprains and strains
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

When you or your child are not feeling well enough to get out of bed, Bon Secours 24/7 provides a convenient way to access medical care. Our medical professionals can prescribe many medications during your virtual visit. Every visit is private and held to the same confidentiality and security standards as a regular office appointment.

To use Bon Secours 24/7, your smart device or computer must have a web camera or video capability enabled. Once you establish an account, you can test your computer to make sure it can support a virtual visit.

No matter where you are in the United States, you can access our virtual visits. Through Bon Secours 24/7, we’ll connect you with a medical provider licensed to practice in the state where you need care.