After conducting surveys highlighting common elements of wellness programs and describing the roles of well-being champions (WBCs), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has developed 10 recommendations to advance the scope, effectiveness, and sustainability of these positions and organizational wellness initiatives.
In 2021, members of the Faculty Resilience Committee within the AAMC’s Council of Faculty and Academic Societies administered two surveys to assess the current state of WBCs, including the characteristics of WBC roles, levels of support, and responsibilities, and wellness initiatives under way at a wide range of institutions.
In a report based on the survey results, AAMC found that a large majority of institutions (88.9 percent) have at least one wellness program, but the breadth of those programs varies widely. More than 48 percent of respondents reported their institution had programs for all health professional populations (learners, faculty, and staff).
Respondents with programs that served multiple audiences reported having WBCs at different levels throughout their organization, with 54.4 percent having an organization-level WBC, such as a chief wellness officer (CWO). However, of the respondents who identified as a WBC, only 30.9 percent received formal training for their roles, and while 50 percent of CWOs and 54.1 percent of wellness directors reported having at least 31 percent full-time-equivalent (FTE) allocated to their role, many WBCs have no formal FTE allocation for their wellness role.
In describing how wellness programs were delivered, a large portion of respondents (92 percent) indicated they were “presently using or hoped to add” optional wellness activities to their wellness programs. However, a majority of respondents (56.2 percent) reported that either wellness program funding occurs only when return on investment (ROI) is demonstrated (28.6 percent) or the organization has no budget for wellness programs (27.6 percent).
The AAMC report describes WBCs as “leaders of change responsible for overseeing the wellness initiatives and outcomes within a defined portion of an organization.” The report adds that despite the emergence of WBCs, “it remains unknown whether the creation of these new positions ensures diminished burnout and improves health professional well-being. It is also unknown whether organizations are providing the necessary training, resources, and infrastructure to ensure the person holding the position is successful and the wellness initiatives are sustainable.”
The report’s authors developed 10 recommendations to help organizations promote a culture of well-being:
- Approach organizational wellness initiatives within an improvement framework to lead change.
- Develop and communicate an organizational vision for well-being.
- Establish an organizational-level well-being champion to coordinate and align a network of wellness efforts across the organization.
- Embed well-being champions throughout the organization to coordinate efforts for specific audiences.
- Standardize the job characteristics of well-being champions and set clear expectations.
- Support the role of all well-being champions by introducing training, providing resources, and dedicating funding.
- Promote well-being as a core competency for all health professionals.
- Incorporate program evaluation when designing comprehensive wellness initiatives.
- Conduct ongoing assessments of individual well-being.
- Prioritize well-being as a professional development goal.