Joseph A. Patruno, MD, Joins Valley Preferred/LVPHO as Chief Wellness Officer, to Prioritize Organizations' Well-Being Focus
Lehigh Valley Physician Hospital Organization (LVPHO)/Valley Preferred has recruited Joseph A. Patruno, MD, Chief Wellness Officer at its affiliated health system, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), to create and lead newly established wellness programing and professional fulfillment initiatives. The appointment comes in response to a national physician/health care provider burnout rate of approximately 42 percent. The organization is prioritizing a comprehensive and physician-driven program to mitigate the stressors of medical practice, and balance the rising demands of work with the personal needs of providers.
“We know from surveys that the millennial generation (age 40-54) has the highest rate of burnout, and women providers are affected more than men,” says Dr. Patruno. “We also know that this issue deserves urgent attention, because keeping our physicians, nurses, and other clinicians healthy is absolutely critical to providing quality health care to patients.”
Dr. Patruno’s first priority as Chief Wellness Officer was to initiate a survey among physicians and other clinical personnel practicing at LVHN to determine the scope of burnout locally. He oversaw the dissemination of the Well-Being Index (WBI), developed by Mayo Clinic, and followed up with an ongoing campaign to re-survey the physician population regularly. Results are reviewed and used to develop and implement programs that would address specific needs of the staffs. According to the last WBI, the burnout rate at LVHN was down to 34 percent, below that of the national average.
Another initiative involved the partnering of Valley Preferred with Preferred EAP, the mental health arm of LVHN, to offer peer support for physicians experiencing burnout or high rates of stress. A team of fellow physicians, who are specifically trained in peer-to-peer interaction, are on-call for their colleagues who may be dealing with crises such as losing a patient, facing litigation, or simply feeling overwhelmed with their work and/or personal lives. So far, this team has helped numerous physicians and other care providers through trying situations of all types.
A Physician Well-Being Resource center was developed for the Valley Preferred website, where specific resources for well-being are housed. These include 12 weeks of well-being tips that were developed for alleviating stress during the coronavirus outbreak, mindfulness exercises, and resources for mental health counseling and personal health coaching. This is also where Dr. Patruno’s webinar on physician wellness can be accessed. A series of videos is in development featuring several Valley Preferred physicians willing to share their stories of burnout in a spirit of openness and assistance to others.
“The way to start making a difference in this nationwide problem is to first bring awareness to the fact there is a problem, and encourage people to begin talking about it – with someone,” says Mark Wendling, MD, Executive Director of Valley Preferred. “From surveys, we know that 45 percent of physicians cope with burnout by isolating themselves. That’s probably the least beneficial strategy. We want to help physicians and providers know they aren’t the only ones dealing with this, they aren’t alone, and we have resources and people that can be immensely helpful. We’re committed to solving this problem together.”