Workforce Wellness – Bon Secours


Change Your Lifestyle, Not Just Your Diet

You may have a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier or lose weight, so you’ve started on a diet. But a temporary diet is not going to help you in the long run. You need to change your lifestyle, not just go on a diet.

Throughout this article, we are talking about diets that you may find out about online or from friends or family, and not ones that a healthcare provider such as a doctor or registered dietitian has instructed you to follow. Continue to follow all guidelines from your healthcare providers.

Diets such as low-carb, low-fat, eating unrefined foods for a month with no dairy or grains, and other popular online diets may seem an easy way to lose weight, but they don’t last.

With a diet, certain foods or beverages might be off-limits – which may make you want to eat or drink them even more! With lifestyle change, nothing is off-limits: you have healthier foods that you eat regularly and less-healthy foods that you eat occasionally.

Pick one thing to change at a time and continue it until it is a habit. If you drink several sodas per day, for example, and want to change it so soda is an occasional treat, try replacing one soda per day with a glass of water. You can get flavored seltzer water if you dislike tap water. Once you’re used to drinking water instead of soda at that time, you can replace another soda with water. When you’re happy with your soda consumption, you can work on reducing mindless snacking, for example.

Replace one thing with another.
It can be easier to make changes if you’re replacing a less healthy choice with a more healthy choice, as in the soda and seltzer water example above. If you find yourself munching chips as you watch TV, but you can’t miss your favorite shows, can you color while you watch? Pick up a craft such as knitting or woodcarving? If you have the space, walk on a treadmill while you watch it instead of sitting still, or go to the gym and watch there.

Get up and move. If you’re still all day at your job, getting moving instead of continuing to be still – such as while watching TV – can have a big positive impact on your health. If you have a dog, commit to walking her every day, and gradually increase the distance. Your pet will get fitter, and so will you! Or decide that biking every Saturday morning with your spouse is going to be your regular “together” time. Our blog post Motivating Yourself to Work Out has additional ideas to help you get moving.

Meal plan
so you don’t resort to fast food. It’s hard to figure out what you are going to feed yourself for 21 meals every week, and harder still if you have a spouse or children. But planning in advance can save you money at the grocery store, as well as stress of not knowing what is for dinner. Be realistic: if you have something an hour after work and need to pick up a prescription on the way home, don’t plan to cook an elaborate dinner. Leftovers or a salad will be a better option.

Choose healthy meals. As noted above, you don’t have to eat 100% healthy 100% of the time, but aim to keep your treats occasional. Meal planning makes it easier to have healthy food in your home.

Katherine Skiff, NP, a Bon Secours primary care provider, has some encouragement for you: “Changing your lifestyle to be healthier does not start out easy but becomes easier with time. You may find some days that you are off track or reverting to old habits. There is nothing wrong with this and it can be a normal part of self-improvement.  Try not to beat yourself up about it or lose hope. The most important thing is to get back on track and celebrate small accomplishments. Changing years of bad choices takes time and determination. Invest in yourself because you only get one body, treat it well!”

Bon Secours Physical Therapy has outpatient nutrition services where you can be assessed by registered dietitians.  Several of our dietitians have additional certifications in weight management, diabetes education and sports nutrition. Our nutrition staff provides personalized nutritional advice based on your medical history, condition, individual needs and goals along with sport specific nutrition. We offer flexible hours and convenient locations throughout Richmond. For more information, visit here.

Where Nurses Mean the World: Agnes Kirton, Women’s Specialty Unit

When Agnes Kirton, BSN, RN, CMSRN, was growing up, she’d ride along with her father to pick up her mom from work. Her mom worked as a nurse in a small nonprofit hospital in the Philippines, and seeing her caring for patients left a strong impression on the young girl.

“She never left on time, so I would wait and watch my mom and what she would do, from a distance of course,” explained Agnes. “I could feel the compassion from her and how the patients responded to her.”

It was because of her mother’s influence that Agnes decided to become a nurse, too. She saw firsthand the impact her mom had. The patients at that hospital were poor, yet a few months after receiving care, they would visit Agnes’s home with thank-you gifts. “Fresh vegetables, anything from their garden. Anything that would give her a sense of appreciation,” Agnes remembered. “I think that’s just amazing.”

Like her mother, Agnes is dedicated to helping others. She first came to America in the early 1980s through a nurse recruitment center, starting at Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital and then transferring to Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital a few years later. She has now been part of the St. Mary’s Hospital family for more than thirty years.

A culture of compassion

Agnes believes that having a culture of compassion helps patients heal.

“You have to care to be able to heal. It makes a difference,” she said. “That’s what it means to be a Bon Secours nurse. The core of nursing comes from the heart.” In fact, a philosophy of holistic caring is the central tenet of the professional nursing practice model at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Part of that caring means embracing people from different walks of life and diverse cultures — not only patients but colleagues as well.

“Diversity and inclusion are alive at Bon Secours!” said Agnes, who is president of the Richmond, Virginia, chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of America. She added, “It makes the environment rich to have various cultures intermingling with each other. This is why I like to travel. It makes you a different person in a good way – more understanding, more tolerant, more appreciative and full of gratitude.”

Helping people

At the end of the day, it’s all about people. Nursing is a challenging but rewarding career, and in the Women’s Specialty Unit, Agnes spends much of her time with patients who are fighting for their lives. Being able to bring her patients and their family members closer in the midst of their battle — often against cancer — gives her a sense of pride.

“When patients are in the last days of their lives, the family feels the pain,” Agnes said. “They almost distance themselves from what is going on. Capturing the hearts of the family members who are suffering from anguish and uncertainty about their loved ones, gaining their trust and building a human connection with them — that in itself makes me proud as a nurse.” It’s also a reflection of the Bon Secours Mission. “The Mission of Bon Secours — to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and to bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved — Bon Secours lives that. They really practice that,” said Agnes. “That’s why people come to St. Mary’s.”

Make an appointment to visit one of our Richmond area locations and meet other amazing members of the team!

Beware of Mosquitoes and Ticks

While it may seem like mosquitoes and ticks are only a summer phenomenon, the risk of being bit by either one continues well into the fall. Read on to know how to reduce your risk, check for ticks, and how to treat.

What are the risks?

Mosquitoes and ticks are known for carrying several diseases and spreading them to people through bites. Even without infections spreading, bites are often itchy and uncomfortable.

Mosquitoes may carry West Nile Virus, Zika, several types of encephalitis, and other diseases. West Nile Virus has been confirmed in mosquitoes in the Richmond area this year.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Virginia, but it’s not the only disease that ticks may spread. Anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are all transmitted by ticks. Ticks need to be attached to you for several hours to spread any of these diseases, so promptly checking yourself for tick bites after you come in from a day outdoors will help reduce your risk.

How do you prevent bites?

Covering your wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellent (bug spray) with DEET helps protect against both mosquitoes and ticks, and using screens in windows and doors keeps them from getting into your home. You can spray insecticides around your home and inside your home; follow manufacturer instructions for safety, including what is safe near small children and pets.

Some types of mosquitoes are only active at dawn and dusk, while others are active all day. Putting an insecticide in standing water such as puddles or empty flower pots can help prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Water must stand for at least a week before mosquitoes can breed in it.

Ticks are common in areas with high grass or in wooded areas; your pet may get a tick and may pass the tick on to you. Wear permethrin-treated clothing and shoes to further deter ticks and prevent tick bites. Check yourself, your children, and your pets after you come in from areas where ticks may be present.

How do you treat bites?

Although it is difficult, try not to scratch the bite as that makes it itch more. Use over-the-counter antihistamines or calamine lotion to reduce the itch.

If you get a fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, joint pain, or vomiting after a mosquito bite, contact your primary care provider. Some mosquito-borne diseases may be treated with medicines, but many others have no treatment other than supportive care for symptoms. Survivors may have lifelong disabilities. Preventing infection by preventing mosquito bites is therefore extremely important.

If you find a tick on your skin, removing the tick quickly and completely is the first step. Regular tweezers that you already have around the house work well. If you are unable to see well or to reach the tick yourself, a friend or family member should help you.

According to the CDC:

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers.
  2. Grasp the tick, using tweezers, as close to your skin as possible.
  3. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t jerk. If the mouth parts remain in your skin, try to remove them; if you can’t, leave them alone.
  4. Dispose of the tick by putting it in alcohol, a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly with tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Do not try to crush it with your fingers.
  5. Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Be aware of rashes and fevers in the days and weeks following a confirmed or suspected tick bite. If you start to feel unwell, go see your primary care provider as soon as possible. Let them know the location of the tick bite, when you received the tick bite, and suspected duration of the tick bite. Many tick-borne diseases can be effectively treated with antibiotics if caught early enough, but may cause severe disability or death if untreated.

If symptoms occur, contact your primary care provider or schedule an appointment online with healthcare provider near you by going to

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia Department of Health

How to Get Fit on a Budget

It may seem that you have to have a personal trainer or an expensive gym to get into shape, but technology helps make it easy to make a fitness routine on a budget.


Apps can help you keep your exercise routine organized by tracking how much of a particular exercise you did or by leading you in a routine. Many are free and ad-supported, or you can pay a few dollars to have the ads removed. Apps exist for every kind of exercise you can think of, including walking/running, yoga, and weightlifting.

Couch to 5k, often referred to C25K, is a program designed to build people up into being able to run 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles. This distance is common in fundraisers and races across the country. Dozens of apps exist for C25k, including ones meant for running outdoors (such as around the neighborhood) and those meant for running on a treadmill. Choose the one whose style you like the best, and don’t be afraid to repeat a week if you’re struggling.


If you want to follow a recorded exercise program at home, you have a plethora of free and cheap video options to choose from.

  • On Demand. If you already subscribe to cable, many cable providers have exercise videos for free on-demand. Take a look at your options.
  • YouTube. Dozens of YouTube channels have free exercise programs. From walking to yoga to weights, if you can think about it, you can find it.
  • Streaming services. If you already have a subscription to a streaming service, take a look to find exercise videos. Be beware – they don’t always stay on the service!
  • DVDs (or even VHS tapes). If you still have a DVD player (or a VHS player!), you can find cheap DVDs to play. Ask your friends if they have any old ones they can’t use because they’ve gone streaming-only, or check at a library sale or in your local thrift store.


A gym membership has more of an ongoing cost than some of the other options mentioned here, but it can still be done economically. If you’re not motivated to work out at home or outdoors, if you’d like group exercise classes or to swim laps, a gym membership may be right for you.

First, figure out what you’re looking for. Make a list of the options a gym must have, the ones it would be nice to have, and the ones you don’t care at all about. Some things you may want to consider:

  • What equipment do you want?
  • What classes do you want?
  • What other amenities do you want, such as towel service or a locker room with showers?
  • What is your budget?

See what gyms are available in your area, what amenities they have, and what their pricing structures are like. Fitness clubs are often more expensive and may require a year-long contract. Religious or community organizations are often more affordable, and you don’t necessarily need to be a member of the organization to get a gym membership. Chain gyms, often found in shopping centers, may be the most affordable but have the fewest amenities.

Outside of a Formal Program

Exercise does not have to be done following a program or class. You can run around your neighborhood, or bike on a rails-to-trails project. Similarly, group fitness is not restricted to classes done in gyms. If you’re open, you can find opportunities to exercise with others for free or with a small fee. Many areas have groups that meet up regularly to go hiking or running. Yoga studios may offer one-time classes in parks or in rooftop gardens. Even getting together with your friends to go walking around your neighborhood every day counts as group exercise, and is an excellent low-impact way to strengthen your body and your social bonds.

Before you start an exercise routine, talk with your primary care physician to make sure you don’t have any restrictions on the type of exercise you can do. If you do not have a primary care physician, click here to find a doctor!

Getting a Good Night’s Rest

Adequate sleep, at least 7 hours a night for an adult, is necessary for good health. Your body cannot do the repair work it needs to do if you do not get enough sleep. Not sleeping is also a safety hazard – drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Follow these tips to get a better night’s sleep.

Go to bed at the same time every night.

Your body has an internal clock to help you go to sleep and wake up. If you keep a consistent schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, this process will be more regulated and it will be easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning. If you’ve ever spent time around young children or pets, you’ll know when their bodies are accustomed to sleep, getting cranky if they miss naps or go to bed late. Your body is the same way.

Don’t use your phone before bed.

Phones and other electronics should not be used before bed, and should be kept out of the bedroom. Many modern phones have apps or settings that will change the quality of light in the phone to be more yellow and less blue, to try to reduce the effect of blue light keeping you up at night, but it has not been proven to work at this time. Avoiding light in general is better.

Block the light.

By avoiding electronics in your room, you’ll avoid little status lights that can be clearly seen in a dark room. Use blackout curtains to keep the room dark, especially when sunrise starts early in the summer or if you have a streetlight outside your window.

Avoid caffeine later in the day.

Caffeine in the late afternoon and evening can keep you up. Choose decaf for your after-dinner coffee.

Make your bedroom quiet.

While noises outside of your home are often outside of your control, keep your bedroom as quiet as you can.

Exercise during the day.

Exercising during the day can make it easier to sleep at night, and you’ll be working towards your recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week.

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about being evaluated at one of our Sleep Centers.