Years in a bad economy have left many older workers with complaints of being forced out of positions, with limited prospects of obtaining employment at another job.
Yet, out of WellStar’s 12,600 employees, 32 percent are over age 50.
WellStar’s director of Human Services, Karen Mathews, said mature workers are an asset to the organization, and the company develops strategies to keep this senior-level talent.
One strategy that AARP listed as a highlight of WellStar’s placement is the FlexWorks program, which allows retirees to work as much as they want if a position allows for flexible hours.
Also, the Return to Work program offers temporary positions to employees returning to work after an injury or medical event.
Mathews said the overall focus of WellStar’s WorkLife Initiative is to “support our team members in every phase of life.”
She said the organization embraces employees moving into retirement by allowing someone who has been with WellStar for 10 years to draw part of their pension while still working.
“Our people are our greatest asset,” Mathews said. “Our older workers are seasoned, experienced, wise, and hold organizational and cultural knowledge.”
The list of 50 employers is published by AARP every two years, and although WellStar Health System was recognized in 2009 and 2011, the 2013 listing is the first time the organization has made the top ten.
“We take care of our people so they can take care of our patients,” Mathews said.
Lena Williams, who has worked for WellStar Health System for 27 years, won WellStar’s Older Worker of the Year award for 2013.
Mathews said the organization had over 60 nominations sent in by coworkers for this year’s award.
Williams, 63, said she was surprised by the acknowledgement and that it “was an honor.”
Williams, who moved to Roswell in 1986 and now lives in Acworth, said WellStar cares about its employees and acts on promises it makes to workers.
“It’s not just lip service,” Williams said.
Williams has spent much of her time as a registered nurse in Kennestone hospital caring for patients recovering from minor surgeries, such as having a gallbladder removed, or treating patients while hospitalized for illnesses, like pneumonia.
Williams said her love of the work and her love of the people has kept her going.
“I enjoy taking care of people and seeing them get back to their homes,” Williams said.
Williams said over the years she has seen an increase in educational opportunities offered through WellStar, which has helped her to learn new technology, such as the equipment that monitors a patient’s vital signs.
In September, Williams will have to transition to WellStar Connect that will require entering information through computer software to make patient records available across the entire network.
“I will admit, it is getting a little harder to learn new things,” Williams said.
Williams said she decreased her hours to part-time in January and plans on retiring in February 2014.
Williams said she had a lot of hope when first being hired at Kennestone to work there until she retired.
Now that the plan is happening, Williams said she is happy with the accomplishment.
“I feel like it is something I have achieved,” Williams said.
Williams plans to keep in touch and even volunteer at the hospital one day a week.