Obstacles to Creating a Successful Physician Well Being Program

Posted on April 26, 2022 by Vanessa Downing, PhD

Establishing a well being program for your physicians is crucial work, from both an ethical and business standpoint. But as with any program, there will be challenges to face and overcome. Three key challenges:

insight_obstaclestowellbeing-1Detractors—There will be people in your organization who are skeptical, resistant or critical about your well being initiatives. Contrary to rejecting their points of view, you should invite them to be a direct part of the work. Their criticisms and hang ups are invaluable because they let you know what others might think but won’t say. Additionally, by getting active participation you turn those who may be the worst detractors into champions for the program success.

Ethical conflicts—Creating an effective and respected well being program means being equally supportive of, and trusted by, leadership and those on the front lines. Whether through surveys, focus groups, helplines or one-on-one conversations, members of your well being team will be entrusted with sensitive information. This information may give rise to ethical conflicts. Individual physicians seeking help will need privacy and confidentiality. At the same time, the organization needs information—to fulfill reporting requirements, to understand where leadership isn’t up to standards and more. Understanding there are going to be different people in the organization wanting different things, and how to hold confidentiality while maintaining the trust of everyone involved—that’s the challenge. 

Giving honest feedback—When well being programs are going well, there will be a very large amount of information to share with senior leadership. Due to the contribution system and cultural issues to well being, there may be times when well being leaders will have to speak truth to power—giving potentially difficult feedback to the very administrators or other leadership whose support allows your well being work to exist.  It's extremely important to advocate for the well being of people on the front lines or in other places where they might have considerably less power than senior leadership. In fact it is essential for the program’s success. But at the same time the feedback needs to be delivered in a way that good relationships are maintained across the board.

Finding ways to deal with these kinds of challenges daily will go a long way toward making your well being program sustainable over the long term. A final important consideration is to ensure peer support is available for the well being workers championing these programs. Working in the well being field is challenging, oftentimes with many feeling isolated and alone. Making peer coaching available to these workers is one example of a way to further support them and their efforts.

For more on the framework for setting up your well being program effectively, read the article Launching a Well Being Program—Important Steps for Success.

Download Launching a Well Being Program— Important Steps for Success

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