The Chief Wellness Officer: A long overdue catalyst for systemic change in Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The International journal of health planning and management




CWO; Chief Wellness Officer; Emergency Medicine; physician burnout; provider well-being; wellness


GOALS: The American healthcare system is amid a burnout epidemic, worsened by COVID, that must be addressed expeditiously and with high priority. The burden Emergency Physicians encountered before and during the pandemic is well known, with countless healthcare workers exiting the work force. A Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) is a senior leader who works primarily to cultivate organisational wellness and to foster and promote a culture of well-being throughout an institution. Specifically, the CWO assists the health system leadership promote clinician engagement and address clinician burnout. This paper explores the status of existing CWOs, and cites the benefits, impacts, and barriers to implementation of a CWO, with focus on the field of Emergency Medicine (EM). METHODS: A steering committee of wellness experts was formed from a national EM organisation. A purposive search and literature review using search terms relating to CWOs was completed. Publications were examined for relevance and recency. The committee created an online questionnaire surveying current US CWOs, conducted personal interviews, and met through regular focused meetings. A framework delineating the role of a CWO as an organisation evolves from instituting novice wellness interventions to expert organisational innovations was created. PRINCIPLE FINDINGS: Despite their title, CWOs are not regularly included in c-suite decisions. Barriers to instituting a CWO include perceived financial cost, the medical system itself, and physician resistance. Defining and measuring objective return on investment may be a solution to overcoming barriers. CWOs who create comprehensive institutional wellness innovations bring organisations to the highest proficient and expert levels of wellness practices, positively affecting physician engagement and deflecting burnout. CWOs instituting novice and beginner levels of wellness interventions, especially in EM, only modestly impact individual wellness practices. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: A CWO and team with an organisational voice and a C-suite stakeholder's seat are essential to centralising and leading effective wellness efforts and innovations in EM and other specialities. This team will improve the work environment and culture and begin to fix our broken healthcare system and providers.


Emergency Medicine