DiversityNursing Blog

Chief Wellness Officer - More Healthcare Organizations Are Adding CWO’s To Their C-Suite

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Oct 08, 2021 @ 03:06 PM

wellnessEven before the pandemic, healthcare providers experienced burnout and other negative mental health issues. Now more than ever, it is critical health systems take steps to support their staff's well-being.

Recently, more healthcare organizations have started to hire Chief Wellness Officers (CWO), as a strategy to address burnout, mental health, and compassion fatigue.

Jonathan Ripp MD, MPH, Chief Wellness Officer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said there were only a handful of Chief Wellness Officer positions when he was appointed to the role in May 2018. “There has been at least a dozen more who have been named in the past year, and several more places that are looking to create the position,” said Dr. Ripp. “I would not be surprised if, 10 years from now, it's commonplace for most large organizations to have a Chief Wellness Officer or equivalent, taking this challenge on, and doing so in a way that is effective.”

The ultimate goal of this role is to aid system-wide changes that enable staff to practice in a culture that prioritizes and promotes mental health and well-being.

The CWO is responsible for measuring well-being across their organization. Then, they create and implement wellness programs that address the current environment causing burnout and stress.

The hiring of a CWO is not a remedy all on its own. The CWO works in collaboration with other leaders and staff to prioritize well-being and would ultimately lower costs and improve patient care.

According to Beckers Hospital Review, burnout and depression result in major costs to health systems due to an increase in medical errors, reduced quality of care, and turnover. Research has found that for every dollar invested in wellness, hospitals can see a $3 to $6 return on investment.

Medical Schools are also following the hiring trend.

According to Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, medical students are more likely to experience burnout and depression than peers on different career paths. To confront the challenge head-on, they appointed their first Chief Wellness Officer, Dr. Kelly Holder.

Holder said, "Mental and emotional wellness is essential to complete health. We simply cannot ignore this fact. I view my role as another way to serve the students, faculty and physicians in Brown’s medical school, and aid them in not just meeting their immediate self-care needs but also creating and developing plans that can help them learn more about how to take care of themselves in a way that's sustainable for a profession that demands a lot."

“Wellness and self-care is more important than ever before. These next few years will be critical for health care workers as we address the mental and physical burdens from COVID-19,” said George Washington University's Chief Wellness Officer, Lorenzo Norris, MD.

Hopefully this position sticks around, even after the pandemic passes, because burnout and mental health have been issues in the healthcare field all along.

Topics: mental health, compassion fatigue, burnout, hospitals, Nurse burnout, healthcare organizations, frontline workers, front line workers mental health, compassion fatigue in nursing, C-Suite, Chief Wellness Officers, CWO

Compassion Fatigue In Nursing

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Aug 27, 2021 @ 02:13 PM

compassionfatigueNursing is one of the most highly respected careers, but also one of the most stressful. This kind of stress can lead to compassion fatigue. 

Compassion fatigue is the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events.

Compassion fatigue differs from burn-out, but can co-exist. It has a more rapid onset while burnout emerges over time.

According to the Nursejournal, compassion fatigue reportedly affects 16% to 39% of Registered Nurses, with most reports coming from Nurses working in areas like hospice, oncology, and emergency care. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of compassion fatigue is reportedly far greater among Nurses.

Signs of Compassion Fatigue:

  • Extreme exhaustion on a regular or daily basis
  • Increased anger and irritability
  • Diminished sense of self-worth
  • Lower levels of job satisfaction
  • Reduced ability to feel empathy
  • Disruption of world view; irrational fears and extreme anxiety
  • Dissociation
  • Impaired ability to make well-informed decisions
  • Difficulty separating work and personal lives
  • Dread going to work
  • Increase in work absences and showing up late
  • Failure to commit to any overtime when asked multiple times

Compassion fatigue is a treatable and manageable condition. Treating it starts with recognizing and admitting it is a real condition. From here, you can begin the process of healing. 

Education is important for Nurses at risk for or experiencing compassion fatigue. Healthcare organizations should include educational training regarding therapeutic communication, establishing boundaries, conflict resolution, ethical dilemmas, and self-care.

Self-care methods are a great way to combat compassion fatigue. Nurses are constantly concerned with the needs of others and often neglect their own needs.

According to GoodTherapy, those who practice good self-care are significantly less vulnerable to stress and compassion fatigue than those who fail to do so. Generally self-care includes:

  • Balanced, nutritious diet
  • Regular exercise/meditation
  • Routine schedule of restful sleep
  • Balance between work and leisure
  • Honoring emotional needs
  • Journaling/reading 

Set emotional boundaries. Establishing these boundaries between ourselves and our patients is important so we don’t end up carrying their pain and experiences. 

It is a challenge to stay compassionately connected while still remembering that each of us is a different and separate person. This awareness may help to maintain the space that exists between the caregiver and the patient. 

Use a support system. Support can come from family or friends, mental health professionals, or like-minded individuals experiencing the same thing as you. 

“It may not sound fancy or sophisticated, but building community is the most powerful thing you can do,” says Geoffry White, PhD, a private Practitioner in Los Angeles who has worked to prevent compassion fatigue in mental health practitioners responding after terrorism and war. 

Compassion fatigue is a serious problem affecting many Nurses, Healthcare workers, families, and caregivers. You are human, and your work is incredibly demanding. With self-care, boundaries, and support from others, you can manage and ultimately beat compassion fatigue.

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Topics: compassion fatigue, compassion fatigue in nursing

5 Strategies to Help Cope with Compassion Fatigue

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 @ 02:19 PM

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“I get so attached to my patients that I just can’t get them out of my head when I go home.”

“Every week I find myself getting distraught over a new favorite patient who isn’t doing well.”

Is this you? As a nurse, you witness the fear, pain and suffering of others every day. But when you get too immersed in the lives and trials of your patients, you can become a victim of “compassion fatigue.” Compassion fatigue is also thought of as “secondary post-traumatic stress.” And once it sets in, you can lose mental energy and get burned out.

How do you know if you’re suffering from compassion fatigue?

• Mistakes go up and job performance goes down.
• You can’t stop thinking about your job or the problems of your patients.
• You have trouble sleeping.
• You have a general feeling of weariness.
• You don’t feel like doing anything—you feel blah.
• You feel less satisfied, less energetic and less efficient.

If you’re unsure whether you suffer from compassion fatigue, it’s time to become more self-aware. Watch how you are reacting to your patients and colleagues…and how they are reacting to you. Are you more sensitive than usual? Are your colleagues getting frustrated with you? Are your patients becoming too clingy? Too familiar? When you recognize how others perceive you and the affect you have on others, you can identify the above symptoms of burnout early.

Use these strategies to cope with job stress and to combat compassion fatigue:

Exercise. You may feel like you just don’t have time to exercise. The physical and mental benefits of exercise will make you more productive and are worth every minute. [Editor's note: Scrubs Magazine has a great series of articles for quick workouts you can do while on the job].

Maintain a personal life, even if you don’t feel like it. When you’re stressed, you may tend to eliminate the very things that will revitalize you—like family dinners, eating lunch out, prayer, meditation, or time with friends. Spend time with supportive people.

Have a sense of humor. People in stressful jobs, such as psychiatric nurses, may often have a wicked sense of humor—but it’s still a sense of humor. When people who work with them recognize they’re joking around less often, it’s a sign that it’s time for a break.

Set limits between work and home activities. Easier said than done, I know. Don’t play nurse or therapist in personal relationships.

Broaden your network. Get involved in professional or social organizations where like-minded people meet and discuss events and mutual problems.

Editor’s note: Some of the symptoms that included in this article could be indicators for depression. Please see a mental health professional if you believe you are clinically depressed. Also, it’s okay to show emotion and share it with families and patients, but try your hardest to not get attached to patients too frequently. Sure, there will always be that special patient that touches your heart, but if you’re suffering from compassion fatigue, it is time to reevaluate your role as a professional in these particular peoples’ lives for your own sanity.

Compassion Fatigue Checklist

Additional resources to download:

Fletcher Compassion Fatigue Scoring Sheet (PDF)

Fletcher Compassion Fatigue Assessment (PDF)

Topics: compassion fatigue, nurse, patient

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