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Wellness Update from Associate Dean and Chief Wellness Officer of IU School of Medicine & IU Health Physicians: Initial Experience and Vision for the Future

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by Jennifer L. Hartwell, MD

My first few months as Associate Dean of Wellness at Indiana University School of Medicine and Chief Wellness Officer of IU Health Physicians have been invigorating. During the first 90 days, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the current landscape and determine some initial courses of action. I’ve formally and informally met with over 50 students, residents, faculty, advanced practice providers and staff; visited several regional hospitals–reviewed available local wellbeing, turnover and engagement data, as well as had numerous casual hallway conversations with colleagues and read social media comments. 

Jennifer Hartwell Md Wellness

Jennifer L. Hartwell, MD

I’ve learned about some of the great work that is already taking place and a few areas where we have an opportunity to grow. I’ve determined some initial courses of action, the following is a summary of key highlights: 

What is Wellness? Beyond Breathing Exercises
Wellness is a sense of thriving, or vitality, across multiple domains and is more than the absence of burnout. While most people are familiar with the personal growth aspects of wellness (breathing, yoga, mindfulness, etc.), there are other factors to consider. I will focus on three key areas that contribute to the state of wellness in the workplace: system culture, team collaboration and personal growth. Wellness is everyone’s responsibility and requires investments by the individual, the team and its leaders, and the system. Wellness is not a destination to be reached, but rather a concept that promotes continual growth, both individually and collectively. 

The Current Landscape
IU School of Medicine has invested heavily in learner wellness over the past several years to mitigate mistreatment while increasing program offerings and access to mental health resources. IU School of Medicine Faculty Affairs, Professional Development, and Diversity has programs that support learner, faculty and clinician wellness for personal and professional growth. Clinical and basic science faculty wellness champions have developed several innovative programs for their teams.

IU Health Physicians has launched a number of initiatives to bring awareness to the issue of burnout and to promote wellness, including the measurement of and transparent sharing of well-being scores, aggregation of resources to support providers, utilization of the Practice Improvement Team (PIT crew) to improve workflow, ongoing enhancements to the electronic health record, and reduction of duplication of some administrative paperwork. 

Mission, Vision and the Creation of the Health and Wellness Advisory Council
The Health and Wellness Advisory Council was created in 2019 to promote vitality through a culture that nurtures both individual and collective wellness throughout IU School of Medicine and IU Health Physicians so that we can all achieve our strategic institutional goals. Our vision is to develop IU School of Medicine and IU Health Physicians into national leaders in fostering wellness for faculty, staff and learners. 

In order to achieve the mission and vision, a strategic plan for wellness will be developed by the Health and Wellness Advisory Council with “Wellness Champion” representation by medical students, residents/fellows, clinical and basic science faculty, advanced practice providers, along with communications, human resources, program management and data analytics support from IU School of Medicine and IU Health Physicians. The Health and Wellness Advisory Council will serve as a dynamic two-way communication body, providing input from each of the stakeholders’ areas as well as disseminate information and inspire local wellness efforts. 

Excited for the Road Ahead
I have been both challenged by the scope of the role and inspired by all of the dedicated and talented learners, providers and faculty who have already done incredible things for our collective wellness. Our leadership is engaged and continues to direct efforts and resources for our wellness. I hope you will join, or lead, wellness initiatives for yourself, your local team and our system as a whole. 

Jennifer L. Hartwell, MD, FACS, CNSC, became the inaugural associate dean for wellness at Indiana University School of Medicine and chief wellness officer for IU Health Physicians on July 1, 2019. An assistant professor with the Department of Surgery and trauma and acute care staff surgeon with IU Health Physicians, Hartwell is recognized as an emerging expert on the topic of work-life balance and wellness, having given three national presentations on the issue.