9 healthcare leaders on the changing role of the chief wellness officer

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Chief wellness officers have been an integral part of managing crises and are learning during the COVID-19 pandemic about the best ways to address workforce well-being, nine healthcare leaders said in an NEJM Catalyst article

The article was written by: 

  • University of Michigan Medical School Chief Wellness Officer Kirk Brower, MD
  • Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chief Wellness Officer Chantal Brazeau, MD
  • Hartford HealthCare Chief Wellness Officer Sharon Kiely, MD
  • New Mexico School of Medicine Chief Wellness Officer Elizabeth Lawrence, MD
  • ChristianaCare Chief Wellness Officer Heather Farley, MD
  • Jennifer Berliner, MD, medical director of the chief medical and scientific office at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • University of Massachusetts Medical School Clinician Experience Officer Steven Bird, MD
  • Jonathan Ripp, MD, chief wellness officer of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Stanford University School of Medicine Chief Wellness Officer Tait Shanafelt, MD

Five takeaways from the article:

1. The authors said chief wellness officers have taken on key tasks, including identifying the causes of worker anxiety and deploying support resources. They have also played a key role in operational decision-making and assessing how pandemic protocols have affected workers' well-being. 

2. Toward the beginning of the pandemic, several of the authors used complementary models to help them understand their observations about workers' distress and to help support them. One of those models was the stress continuum model, developed for the military. 

3. The authors said the chief wellness officer role primarily focused on clinical providers before the pandemic, but the role expanded during the public health crisis at some organizations to include all workers, nonclinical faculty and learners.

4. During the pandemic, authors said they relied on resources and infrastructure already in place for their health systems' disaster preparedness for workforce well-being. They also increased psychological support at their organizations, including expanded access to virtual peer support, mental health hotlines and individual counseling.

5. Chief wellness officers can play a key role during crises by ensuring workers' well-being remains central to operating plans at their organization, the authors said. They recommended health systems incorporate attention to the well-being of the workforce into emergency management protocols.

Read the full article here

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