Workplace Spotlight: Valley Baptist Medical Center, Brownsville

Published: April 30, 2019

Developing a worksite lactation program is a simple and inexpensive way to support employees who choose to breastfeed. Lactation support programs are good not only for your employees, but also good for your business. Implementing a policy can improve employee and family health, reduce healthcare costs, reduce sick-time and absenteeism, help retain experienced employees and boost morale and productivity. For more information, please go to our website.

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Valley Baptist Medical Center (VBMC-B)
 in Brownsville, Texas, provides comprehensive services to the greater Brownsville community and is part of the Valley Baptist Health System that serves the Rio Grande Valley. VBMC was designated as a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite in July 2018. What’s more, they were awarded the gold-level designation, a special recognition for employers that go above and beyond the standard requirements to provide lactation support for their employees. VBMC-B began the designation process with a commitment to enhancing their employee lactation support program and aligning that program with their hospital’s mission, which is to “help people achieve health for life through compassionate service."

As a Texas Ten-Step hospital, VBMC-B has policies in place to support breastfeeding among its patients, and was providing some support to their employees as well. Samantha Martinez, Clinical Supervisor for Children’s Services, recalls they used the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite designation as an opportunity to provide the best support to their employees while strengthening the hospital’s culture of breastfeeding support.

“The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite designation ties into our workplace goals at the facility and as a whole organization. Since we are recognized as a Texas Ten-Step hospital, we want to maintain that culture of making sure moms are successful with breastfeeding, not just for our patients, but also making sure our employees and our staff have the same standards. Our standard is high. We expect our patients to breastfeed and hold the same standard for our employees.”

Pamela Perez, a breastfeeding employee, is very grateful for the support she has received from VBMC-B. She tells us, “when I came back to work from maternity leave, Marimer clarified a lot of questions and concerns that I had about how to breastfeed, how often to pump, and how to save my milk. She provided me with a room with a key that I used for expressing milk. It was nice to have a good transition after having my baby and to be able to save the milk for my baby.” She feels the support she received allowed her to have a smooth transition back to work. Ms. Martinez hopes that “employees translate that support when they are helping their breastfeeding patients.”

To become a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite, an employer must have a written lactation support policy in place that states an employer must provide a private space, flexible scheduling for break time, access to clean, running water and hygienic storage so that employees may express and store breastmilk for their babies. Initially, VBMC-B applied for the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite silver-level designation, but their desire to provide optimal care for their patients and employees steered them toward the gold-level designation. “We wanted to provide to our employees with the best possible support for them to provide their milk for their babies,” states Marimer Morales, a lactation nurse at VBMC-B.

During their planning, they learned the hospital did not have a written policy for lactation support. VBMC-B’s   human resources department, assisted quickly in creating one. The prompt completion – only one day – of the policy by the human resources department is an indication of their dedication to support employees’ lactation needs, a common theme seen across the hospital. The Chief Nursing Officer, engineering team, media team and the internet technologies department devoted time and energy to help VBMC-B become a gold-level Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite. Though coordinating across multiple departments and teams was the most challenging and time consuming aspect of the designation process, according to the individuals who spearheaded the designation. Ms. Martinez recalls, “it made me feel good about our hospital that so many people would come together to make sure our employees have lactation support.

With their policy in place, the team at VBMC-B worked on meeting the gold-level designation requirements. They added practical amenities – a refrigerator and a phone – and started providing educational support by offering a breastfeeding resource library, access to a lactation consultant and an informational bulletin board. Ms. Morales makes herself available to breastfeeding employees by phone, and encourages employees returning to work after having a baby to “come see [her] and talk about pumping and how they can do it successfully so they can breastfeed their babies and provide milk for their babies as long as possible.”

VBMC-B is proud of their TMFW designation and promotes their commitment to breastfeeding at local community events. They view the time they spend in the community as an opportunity to share with the public that VBMC-B is a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite. Ms. Martinez explains that their presence in the community will hopefully encourage “other facilities to notice and take note, and make the same change we did to accommodate working moms.” At a recent farmer’s market they displayed a banner displaying the phrase, “Proud to be a Mother-Friendly worksite.” Their commitment to their employees, dedication to providing lactation support and successful designation as a gold-level Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite is indeed work for which they should be proud.

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The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program is administered by the Texas Department of State Health Services in accordance with Texas Health and Safety Code 165. Breastfeeding. The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Technical Assistance and Support Program is funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services and operates out of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin.