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Lehigh Valley Health Network names Chief Wellness Officer

Joseph Patruno, MD, board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN), has been named Chief Wellness Officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN).

“Physician burnout is a vexing problem,” Thomas Whalen, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of LVHN, said.

In the 2019 Medscape National Physician Burnout Report, 44 percent of physicians reported feeling burned out. Whalen said Patruno was appointed Chief Wellness Officer to address this pressing issue and promote well-being among health-care professionals.

“Burnout is endemic in the clinical setting,” Patruno said. “My role proves that LVHN is committed to improving the wellbeing of its caregivers, ultimately improving patient care and satisfaction.”

In his role, Patruno will implement strategies that meet the goals of the LVHN Well-Being Paradigm: Creating a Culture of Wellness, Optimizing Efficiency in Practice, and Promoting Personal Resiliency.

Creating a Culture of Wellness

There are various programs that express appreciation towards and recognize caregiver achievement, provide mentorship to early career physicians, and express to caregivers how truly valuable they are to LVHN. Patruno is advocating for a Well-Being Counsel.

Colleagues who join this group will act as a representative on the operational side of their department. These individuals will determine what needs to be improved in the caregiving environment and also bring ideas back to their team on how to improve structure and boost well-being.

One program already implemented is Physicians for Physicians (P4P), a peer mentorship group of doctors and Advanced Practice Clinicians (APC) who support colleagues facing professional or personal strife.

Optimizing Efficiency in Practice

The goals are to maximize time spent with patients while minimizing unnecessary administrative chores to optimize the joy in practicing medicine. Effectively implementing team-based care principles will ensure physicians are receiving the support they need. Plans include EHR optimization, staffing and documentation support, improved work space and IT enhancements.

Promoting Personal Resiliency

This will be achieved by fostering more community and collegiality, promoting self-care and resiliency programs, and efforts to improve work-life balance for health care providers at LVHN. Social mixers hosted by Medical Staff Services are an example of a program that has been successful in bringing doctors and other caregivers together outside of the hospital.

“Our early efforts, through our Wellness Committee, have been in measuring the problem of burnout and creating strategies to combat it to allow our physicians and care teams to thrive in the clinical environment,” Patruno said.

“Assuring the well-being of our caregivers is a moral imperative, assures that our patients get the highest quality care and experience, and in the end makes financial sense for our health network,” said Patruno.

Dr. Joseph Patruno