At a time when physician burnout nationally has reached an all-time high, Stanford Medicine has taken a leadership role in the pioneering wellness field. It is in keeping with our approach to create a compassionate and supportive environment, not just for patients, but also for the physicians and health care professionals who treat them.
In 2017, we became the first U.S. academic medical center to create a Chief Wellness Officer, and hired Dr. Tait Shanafelt, a nationally recognized expert in physician wellness. He directs the WellMD Center at Stanford and, as a testament to the importance of this function, also serves as associate dean of the School of Medicine. The leader of the WellMD Center also holds an endowed chair position—the Jeanie and Stewart Ritchie Professor of Medicine.
Our goal is to promote the well-being of our physicians and medical professionals, so they can help their patients stay well.
The WellMD Center has developed a comprehensive approach to improve well-being and professional fulfillment, supported by evidence, that focuses on leadership and system approaches to improve the practice environment rather than just personal interventions. The approach is designed to drive improvement in three core domains:
Efficiency of practice
Workplace systems, processes, and practices that promote safety, quality, effectiveness, positive patient and colleague interactions, and work-life balance.
Culture of wellness
Organizational values, behaviors, and leadership that prioritize personal and professional growth, community, and compassion for self and others.
Individual skills, behaviors, and attitudes that contribute to physical, emotional, and professional well-being.
Among other activities, the center has prioritized five initial, critical dimensions for organization-level interventions:
- Leadership behaviors that drive engagement
- System-level operational efforts to improve efficiency of practice
- Strengthening community and connection between colleagues
- Helping physicians cultivate a learning/growth mindset that is based on self-compassion
- Enterprise approaches to strengthen teamwork
Pilot testing of targeted approaches to drive improvement is currently underway in several departments for four of the five prioritized dimensions; an approach for the fifth dimension is in development.
The WellMD Center has also developed and trained a network of well-being directors from within each department to identify and help address unique, local challenges that are eroding physician well-being. These directors were appointed by their department chairs to help lead the efforts to improve well-being in their department. The directors will be supported and mentored by the WellMD Center as they lead their initial intervention projects starting in September 2018.