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Monday, October 12, 2015

What does Global Warming mean for the upcoming Flu Season?

Pinnacol, like many employers, offers free or low-cost flu shots to employees hoping to avoid the aches and pains associated with whatever variation of influenza will be circulating this season. At Pinnacol we'll be getting our flu shots on October 29th. Not every employee signs up, but I can't remember the last year I didn't receive my poke in the arm. Last year's shots were apparently only mildly effective as a prevention as the folks that make the shots have to make an educated guess months ahead as to which virus to protect against.

Here in Colorado, as well as in much of the west, we're having beautiful, and unseasonably warm, weather. Denver yesterday broke the high temperature record for the date with a high of 87 degrees. Even in the mountains the weather has been warm with no ski areas as of yet able to start making snow. Normally ski season starts in just a couple of weeks, but this year they'll need quite the change in weather to have us sliding down the hills anytime soon.

I'm not sure if global warming is the cause for the climb in temperature this year and I'm not willing to prognosticate as to whether the mild weather will continue or for how long. But it does make you wonder - will the milder temperatures have any impact on the upcoming flu season? We are in week 42 of 2015 and according to the chart from last year that's about the time when the Center for Disease Control normally see's the spike in reported flu symptoms start to climb.
As you'll notice, the height of flu season last year was in the last week of 2014. Of course, flu hits different parts of the country at slightly different times. Here in the office we're already seeing an increase in people fighting colds and other respiratory ailments (it can't be the flu yet, right?) and we haven't even seen the first snow. Whether you are a believer in global warming or not, one can still hope that the milder climate may keep those pesky viruses at bay. But just in case, I'll be standing in line, sleeve rolled up, to get that jab in the arm as I always do. Regardless as to whether you participate, here is hoping for a quiet flu season. How about you - are you getting a flu shot this year? Do you think the climate impacts the flu season?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Getting the most out of an Internship Experience: You Get Out What You Put in

Back in June our intern Alyson had blogged about her experience with Pinnacol. Over the last several months Alyson has been working hard to make the most of her internship so we thought we'd have her write another blog about getting the most out of your time with a company...

So you’re close to graduating, or you just want to make you resume stand out, or you want some experience; whatever the reason, your internship is one of the most important experiences in college. Many students often wonder why an internship is necessary. Well the answer is simple. An internship can be of considerable benefit to you. Internships will introduce you to potential future work environments and you will be able to decide whether these meet your career wishes and interests. You can also acquire important supplementary skills during an internship and make contact with potential future employers.

It would be disappointing if you left your internship and realized that you really didn’t learn anything new or you didn’t develop your skills professionally. You might kick yourself and think, “Well they (the organization) didn’t help me do this or that… this was a waste of time…” The reality is it is your responsibility to make the most of your time at the company so here are a few tips to making the most of your internship:

Strategize: Before you walk into your first day at your internship have a strategy in mind. Know what you want to gain from this experience. Is there something in particular you might be interested in within the company? A certain department or job? Do you know what you want to learn or what skills you want to enhance?

Use your time wisely: You should be aware of how much time you have at your internship. If you only have 300 hours verses a whole semester it is important to use your time wisely. Set up meetings with anyone doing a job you might be interested in. Visit different departments to find out what they do within the company. Use the time you have to pick the brains of the professionals you are surrounded by.

Communicate: Communicate your wants and needs to your mentor or preceptor. Let them know what you are interested in so you can find work or a project that is motivating and will help you gain something professionally. Talk everyone you meet. Being open and communicating with everyone will expand your network and it will show the organization that you fit in.

Ask questions: This is your time to ask whatever questions you want relating to the business or the industry. There is no such thing as a stupid question when you are trying to gain as much knowledge as possible from this experience.

Participate: Make sure you put yourself out there and participate. Lunch and learns, meetings, social events, or whatever other events the organization does is an opportunity to really get out there and meet professionals and show them you are part of the team. Again, this is a networking tool.

Your internship is what you make it. You get out what you put in. This is your chance to really make something of your career and enhance your confidence and professionalism. When you put in 100% you will get a great internship experience. Be on time, be professional, and be open-minded.

Other blogs by Alyson:
Flashback 2002
My Life as an Intern at Pinnacol

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pinnacol In Action: PIA Days 2015

In celebration of 100 years of Pinnacol’s commitment to Colorado, our Pinnacol In Action (PIA) Advisory Council will be coordinating 100 Pinnacol employees who will be volunteering in five different volunteer events from October 12-16. Pinnacol In Action is our volunteer program that gives every Pinnacol employee two days of paid time off each year to volunteer in the community.

This year's PIA Days events include:

  • Ronald McDonald House -  for the past 36 years, Ronald McDonald House Denver has offered a loving home away from home to families needing to be near their seriously ill or injured child while they are being treated a Denver area hospital. 
  • Montbello Central Park with Denver Parks and Recreation. I did this one several years ago and though it was hard work it was great! Pinnacol volunteers will be painting, removing debris, turning playground sand, and beautifying the baseball field.
  • Project C.U.R.E.Project C.U.R.E. is the largest provider of donated medical supplies and equipment to developing countries around the world. Our volunteers will be packing boxes of medical supplies to be shipped to the developing world. This is another event that I've been fortunate enough to do in past years and it's very rewarding. 
  • George Washington High School with Denver Public Schools Foundation -  Pinnacol volunteers will be painting and organizing the student union and the volunteer center, organizing supplies, and supporting the Community Engagement Officer with various projects around the school. I've never done this event but our volunteers spend a fair amount of time at GWHS through other organizations including GoodWill through whom I'll be volunteering in November helping students learn how to conduct a job search. 
  • PawsCOPawsCO is dedicated to reducing pet overpopulation and offers a comprehensive approach through their three programs: PawsCo Spay/Neuter, PawsCo Pet Food Drive and PawsCo Adoptions. Our employees will be assembling feral cat enclosures. These enclosures are very important during the winter to keep community cats, a group that includes ferals (who are afraid of people) and strays (who've been lost or abandoned). No matter how resourceful these outdoor cats are, they need help surviving winter.
Even our Grand Junction office will get into the swing of things helping clean up a section of Highway 50. 

Thank you to all of our employees who will be involved in these events!

New position available: Healthcare Contract Manager

Many people are surprised to find that Pinnacol has established one of the largest provider networks in Colorado. Called SelectNet, Pinnacol Assurance's occupational health network provides quality care for workers injured on the job. SelectNet is comprised of primary care physicians, specialists, rehabilitation service providers, ancillary medical providers and hospitals located throughout Colorado.

Committed to the highest standards of care in occupational medicine, SelectNet relies on primary care physicians to manage the patient's overall treatment plan, while making referrals, as necessary, to specialists. Integrated services available within the network include:

Inpatient and outpatient hospital services
Referrals to board certified physician specialists
Chiropractic care
Licensed clinical psychologists
Mid-level practitioners
Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
Orthotics and prosthetics
Home health care
Durable medical equipment
Specialized medical imaging
Pharmaceutical benefits

In 1991, Colorado State Senate Bill 218 was passed, requiring workers' compensation insurance carriers to offer managed care in specific Colorado counties. Pinnacol Assurance saw the law as an opportunity to enhance our entire provider network and care-delivery procedures throughout the state, not just in the counties specified in the bill.

With feedback from providers, policyholders, workers, and insurance agents — as well as extensive research, time, and investment — SelectNet was officially launched in June 1996 with this goal: "To provide the right amount of care at the right time, and to safely return injured workers to work as quickly as possible." We are constantly improving our network and processes to meet this goal and to better serve our customers and medical providers.

We have a new opportunity for an experienced contracting professional to join us in the role of Healthcare Contract Manager. Based out of our Lowry headquarters this position will be responsible for contracting, implementation, administration and monitoring of new large system and high volume contracts. This position is accountable for providing a full range of operational support around existing large system contracts with additional focus on re-contracting and collaborative opportunities for lowering claims costs, improving levels of service and the quality of care.

A Bachelor’s Degree in health care administration, business, or related field is strongly preferred. Relevant work experience may be substituted for the bachelor's degree. A minimum of 5 years experience in progressive network management including contracting and network administration is required along with proven experience negotiating workers’ compensation or commercial reimbursement contracts with complex hospital systems and large physician groups.

If the Healthcare Contract Manager opportunity sounds of interest we would love to hear from you! Please apply via our company website.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fresh Blanket of Snow

Denver commuters who were westbound this morning and who happened to glance up from the brake lights in front of them were treated to a spectacular view of Mount Evans sporting a fresh coat of snow. I didn't notice it until I arrived at our Lowry offices and was parking my car. My eastbound commute, apart from watching brake lights, consists of seeing the sun slowly creep above the horizon.

After the warmest September on record the first couple of days of October have hinted at what is to come weather-wise. Cooler temperatures are becoming the norm and last night saw some heavy rains in the metro area. If the temperatures had been much cooler Denver would have seen its first snowfall but that, at least for now, was reserved for the higher terrain west of town. 

For those of you new to Denver, Mount Evans is the 14'er that dominates the western skyline. According to the measured distance function on Google Maps, from our Lowry offices in east Denver its almost exactly 40 miles as the crow flies to the summit of this lofty peak (14,271 ft.) and on a clear day it would be possible to see Mount Evans from as far away as Limon (105 miles) out on the eastern plains. Folks who have been here a while are probably aware that you can drive to the top of Mount Evans during summer months on the highest paved road in North America. 

Originally known as Mt. Rosa or Mt. Rosalie, in 1895 Colorado's legislature officially renamed the peak in honor of John Evans, second governor of the Colorado Territory from 1862 to 1865. Evans had been forced to resign 30 years prior because of his part in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre and its subsequent cover-up.

I've been in Denver since 1971 and I can remember driving up Mount Evans when there was still a restaurant and gift shop at the top called the Crest House. That building burned down in 1979 but the rock foundation remains. As you would imagine the weather on the mountain can be extreme, and Mount Evans even saw a high altitude tornado at almost 12,000 feet on July 28, 2012. Mount Evans is also famous for its snow white mountain goats which regularly are seen along the road to the summit. 

This morning's snow may not last for long as it is still early season, but this first coat is a harbinger of what we'll be seeing in Denver before too long. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

The answer raises more questions...

Pinnacol has covered a lot folks doing all sorts of work during our 100 years serving Colorado. Workers' Compensation insurance, as a social safety net, has made a difference in the lives of thousands of Colorado workers who have been injured on the job. Before 1915 the only real recourse available to injured workers was to sue their employer in court and just doing that was challenging enough to discourage many from exercising that right.

For those of you fortunate enough to spend this last weekend up in the high country you were treated to Fall weather at its best - warm temperatures, clear skies, and air finally clear of all the smoke from western fires. I took advantage of the exceptional weather to bike up to Columbine Mine just south of, and some 3,400 feet higher than, Twin Lakes, CO. I've ridden this route many times and have never been blessed with a day as nice as Saturday. No snow, no hail, no lightning, no wind, and a temperature that still allowed short sleeves at the top. It made the hike-a-bike sections almost fun.

It was nice to ride this route just for fun and while I missed the thousand plus fellow cyclists keeping company on events like the Leadville 100, for once I got to truly take in the beauty of this extraordinary route. For those who have never been to the Columbine Mine there isn't much remaining. Remnants of a decaying log cabin bleaching in the high altitude sun kept company most of the time only by marmots and the sigh of the usually ever present wind. Get off the bike (or out of the jeep) and walk around and you are treated to some incredible above timberline views. To the south across the valley you see Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford; to the west you gaze up at Quail Mtn. (13,461 ft.) which I've never been brave enough to challenge on two wheels. Closer to the Columbine Mine but probably overlooked by most one comes across something you wouldn't expect at 12,600 ft. What appears to be a grave ringed in small stones with white rocks laying out a cross on an east/west alignment. Flush with the sparse wind-blown grass it's hardly noticeable until you are upon it. From my first visit to the Columbine Mine years ago I've been aware of this grave and it's always raised a question as to who was buried there. There is no headstone, no monument, nothing but the grave itself. Usually I'm forced along on my journey by threatening weather or the pace of a race and my curiosity quickly evaporates as I make my way down to timberline. 

Saturday was a once in a season kind of day weather-wise so I spent some extended time sitting at 12,000 feet taking in the scenery and imagining what it might have been like to live and work and ultimately die in this beautiful but desolate place. Most would perhaps not select this exposed mountain ridge to be their eternal resting place but on this day it was hard to imagine a more peaceful spot. 

When I got back down to civilization I promised myself I'd try to find out who lies up at Columbine Mine. The only mention I could find spoke of a Theodore Knickerbocker who died in 1907 being "Buried by cabin near Columbine Mine". Pinnacol's creation was still 8 years in the future but I wondered if Mr. Knickerbocker had died in an industrial accident. Try as I might I could find no other information. So the answer of who was buried below the vast blue Colorado sky, closer to the heavens than most of us routinely visit, raised more questions than answers. If anyone out there knows more about the Columbine Mine and Mr. Theodore Knickerbocker I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Top 10 Most In Demand Jobs...

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently sent out an article by Tony Lee describing the 10 toughest jobs to fill. Their choice of language using "toughest jobs to fill" was intentional because their audience is primarily businesses looking to hire candidates. I've titled this blog the Top 10 Most In Demand Jobs because most of my audience are job seekers. Regardless, the SHRM article highlights the fact that while 2015 has been a very challenging year for businesses to find qualified candidates 2016 is shaping up to be even more problematic. 

So without further ado, here are the positions expected to be most in demand:
  • Data Scientist. Everyone is talking 'Big Data' and finding folks with the statistical and analytical chops to translate data into meaningful and actionable information are already highly sought after and that trend will only continue as roughly 6,000 companies are expected to hire for an estimated 4.4 million IT jobs with direct ties to data analysis next year. 
  • Electrical Engineers. Any type of Engineering is in high demand but the article points out that there are currently 17 openings for every electrical engineering candidate. 
  • General and Operations Managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 12.4 percent growth rate in demand through 2022 equating to more than 600,000 openings over the next seven years.
  • Home Health Aide. Due to the rising number of seniors, nearly 600,000 positions will need to be filled - a 48% increase in hiring over the next seven years. 
  • Information Security Analyst. With all the news about cyber threats and personal information being compromised on-line, it's probably no surprise this position makes the list. Microsoft reports that North American companies will need to hire at least 2.7 million cloud-computing workers including those doing information security work and that supply will not meet this demand.
  • Marketing Managers. This one caught me by surprise as it seems that American colleges are turning out a ton of marketing majors. I would hazard a guess that most companies are looking for seasoned, experienced Marketing Managers and its the age-old dilemma - how do entry level candidates get the experience necessary to be competitive for these jobs.
  • Medical Services Managers. The BLS projects 73,300 new hires will be needed in the field by 2022 due in large part to changes in Health Care and a aging population.
  • Physical Therapists. Starting to recognize a pattern here with a lot of health care-related positions increasingly in demand. The American Physical Therapy Association estimates that in 2016, demand for full-time physical therapists will exceed 229,000, with a pool of candidates of around 196,000—creating a gap of 33,000 unfilled jobs.
  • Registered Nurses. Again, not too much of a surprise. Pinnacol hires RN's as Medical Case Managers frequently. Fortunately, being an office environment, we offer nurses a nice alternative from the traditional nursing world of 12 hour shifts and substantial lifting of patients. The average age of working nurses is 42 so between retirements and the growth in health care more than 1 million nurses will have to be hired over the next 7 years.
  • Software Engineer. You already know that computer jobs are hot right now and will continue to be so. Estimates are that in 2016 there will be three jobs available for every new college graduate from a computer science program.