Stanford Medicine exec: Why hospitals need a wellness chief

Over the last few years, it has become even more crucial for hospitals and health systems to have a designated senior-level leader to oversee clinician wellness efforts.

That's what hematologist Tait Shanafelt, MD, Stanford (Calif.) Medicine's chief wellness officer, argues in an interview published Sept. 29 by the American Medical Association.  

Dr. Shanafelt became Stanford's first chief wellness officer in 2017.

Below is an excerpt from the interview.

Question: How important is it for an organization or health system to have a chief wellness officer?

Dr. Tait Shanafelt: I think organizations will only get so far in their efforts to improve without appointing a senior-level leader to oversee the organization's efforts in this space. Addressing the challenges and creating an environment that both mitigates work-related distress and cultivates professional fulfillment is a complex endeavor analogous to trying to improve quality or patient experience.

Some organizations ask: Can't we advance clinician wellness without a CWO? Isn't advancing clinician well-being every leader's job? Why do we need a separate leader for this role?

I would counter: Isn't improving patient experience every leader's job? Isn't improving quality of care every leader's job?

The answer of course is "yes," but you also need expertise as well as dedicated leadership in the institution for these domains. These leaders develop the strategy to guide organizational improvement, and overseeing execution and implementation of the strategy, identify new challenges and opportunities, and assess progress. Just as we need a leader overseeing such efforts for quality, patient experience and other key domains, we need an executive leader to advance clinician well-being.

 To read the full interview, click here.

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