Faculty + Staff

Injured employees rebound with new strength

UCLA's WorkStrong program offers those with workplace injuries assistance of personal trainer, nutritionist

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Chris Hernandez and Isabel Lai
UCLA

Chris Hernandez and Isabel Lai

Chris Hernandez, a supervisor of logistics and lift teams at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, prided himself on being active and even volunteered for the local fire department. That quickly changed one day when he was hit by a vehicle as he was walking to retrieve equipment from an ambulance.

The injuries he sustained kept him off his feet for more than six months. At the time, Hernandez worked as an emergency medical technician for UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica’s critical-care transport team. After physical rehabilitation, Hernandez returned to work, but with his decreased physical fitness, he reinjured himself. That’s when he heard from Alison Frink with UCLA's WorkStrong program.

WorkStrong is a University of California program designed to improve the overall health and fitness of UC employees who sustain injuries at work,” says Frink, UCLA WorkStrong coordinator. “We pair employees with a personal trainer and nutritionist to give them the tools they need to get and stay healthy.”

WorkStrong started in June 2012 and has since helped nearly 500 employees. However, those individual participants are not the only ones who benefit from WorkStrong. All departments across UCLA benefit from a stronger, healthier workforce that is able to perform at its best. Plus, participants make lifestyle changes that improve their health for a lifetime.

Participants are referred to the program through their workers compensation physician. Frink then invites potential participants to learn more about WorkStrong and how it can help them recover and live a healthier lifestyle.

In Hernandez’s case, his trainer and nutritionist worked closely with him to create a personalized plan based on his injuries and previously active lifestyle. “They helped me find healthier ways to live my life,” Hernandez says. “I’ve lost 25 pounds and am much closer to where I want to be because of WorkStrong.”

Isabel Lai, clinical nurse at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, is another employee that has benefited from WorkStrong. After sustaining elbow injuries from lifting machines and patients, Lai was invited to participate in WorkStrong.

“I was a little hesitant at first,” Lai admits. “I had not worked with a personal trainer for many years and had never worked with a nutritionist. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now, I am so grateful that I did this program and cannot wait to tell others.”

Lai’s trainer worked with her to strengthen her arms, and taught her how to properly use her body to do her work safely and effectively. “Now, I’m not afraid to use my elbows when lifting at work, and I can share the insight and advice I’ve learned on healthy eating habits with my patients,” Lai says.

Frink understands that Lai is not the only one who is hesitant to take advantage of this program. “Health care workers love taking care of others, but they’re not always the best at taking care of themselves,” Frink says. “Busy schedules, traffic and logistics might seem like challenging obstacles to overcome, but a big part of my job is to figure out how to make WorkStrong work for participants.”

For more information about WorkStrong, call Alison Frink at 310-367-7561.

This story is posted in UCLA Health Employee News.

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