While it may be tempting as a newly appointed Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) to step in and start changing things quickly within your organization, it’s not the best approach.
As organizations create new C-level leadership positions to systematically improve the well-being of physicians and other healthcare professionals, it is best for CWOs to take the time to define the scope for which they are responsible.
They should also define the current state of the organization, as well as what the future state should look like, said Tait D. Shanafelt, MD, co-author of an AMA STEPS Forward™ toolkit that offers a roadmap for CWOs. interview with co-author Christine Sinsky, MD, AMA Vice President of Job Satisfaction. Dr. Shanafelt is Associate Dean of the Stanford School of Medicine in California and Director of Wellness at Stanford Medicine.
The Chief Wellness Officer Roadmap toolkit outlines a nine-step approach that CWOs can take to implement a leadership strategy for professional wellness:
Clearly define your scope and fees. Health care CWOs are not “personal resilience” agents. Instead, they spend most of their time focusing on creating a more efficient and supportive practice environment through redesigning workflow and strengthening organizational culture dimensions such as leadership, teamwork, professionalism, collegiality and community.
Study and understand your organization. Before a CWO can begin to implement and monitor new initiatives, it must be familiar with the gaps and needs of the organization. This will likely involve collecting new data.
Build your team. The team should include administrative or operational managers, administrative assistants, project managers, statistical and methodological experts, event planners and communication experts.
Identify existing organizational programs, gaps and resources. Meet with other relevant organizational leaders – the chief quality officer (CQO), chief medical officer (CMO), and others – to understand their efforts to ensure yours are complementary and integrated with other efforts.
Define and develop your team’s mission and strategy. Once your team is in place, come together to clearly define and develop your team’s mission – envision an ideal future state – and a strategy to get there.
Establish partnerships, distributed leadership and thematic working groups. Partnerships with the CQO, CMO, and other leaders in the organization are essential to being an effective CWO. Thematic and time-bound working groups can also help the organization move forward on specific issues spanning multiple organizational silos or departments.
Develop a two-way communication strategy. It is important to keep physicians informed about what is being done to support their professional well-being. This can be done through newsletters, emails, short video reports or guest presentations at department meetings.
Define performance measures for the organization and the team. There are distinctions between organizational settings and CWO team settings. CWOs cannot be held responsible for organizational metrics such as overall burnout scores, but should be responsible for education, advocacy and leadership, and a strategy to guide the organization .
Avoid common pitfalls and mistakes. This includes everything from trying to oversee too many initiatives to becoming the complaints department.
Defining a strategy is essential
Not developing a strategy is a big pitfall new CWOs face. Instead, following the roadmap outlined in the toolkit helps you define the very specific and limited number of initiatives that will help your organization.
“There are so many things that could be done – many of which are worth doing – but you won’t be able to do them all,” Dr Shanafelt said. “Strategy really helps you narrow down the few critical ones that you’ve prioritized as the most important needs for the organization right now.”
Learn more about how to lay the foundation for your organization with the “Building a Chief Wellness Officer” toolkit.
The open-access AMA STEPS Forward toolkits provide innovative strategies that enable physicians and their staff to thrive in the new healthcare environment. These courses can help you prevent physician burnout, create the organizational foundation for joy in medicine, and improve practice efficiency.