Dr. Heather Farley, an emergency physician by training, is one of the nation's foremost experts on healthcare worker wellbeing.
Dr. Farley has personally experienced the trauma that impacts caregivers when a patient suffers an unexpected adverse event and the transformative power of supportive, evidence-based initiatives. She is passionate about advancing the professional fulfillment and wellbeing of health care providers so they can flourish at work and at home. Studies show that investing in employee wellbeing is a wise choice for health systems for a multitude of moral, ethical, and financial reasons.
Dr. Farley leads advocacy programs and interventions aimed at optimizing the caregiver experience and fostering an organizational culture of wellbeing. Her mission is to restore joy and meaning in work for health care providers across the nation.
On Sunday, May 17, 2020, Dr. Farley and the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing were highlighted in The New York Times as a model of how to provide support for healthcare workers in times of extreme stress.
Areas of Expertise (8)
Wellbeing at Work
Culture of Wellbeing
Healthcare Worker Stress
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey: MD, Medicine 2002
Dartmouth College: M.S., Health Care Delivery Science 2018
Media Appearances (17)
'I Can't Turn My Brain Off': PTSD and Burnout Threaten Medical Workers
The New York Times print
The coronavirus patient, a 75-year-old man, was dying. No family member was allowed in the room with him, only a young nurse. In full protective gear, she dimmed the lights and put on quiet music. She freshened his pillows, dabbed his lips with moistened swabs, held his hand, spoke softly to him. He wasn’t even her patient, but everyone else was slammed. Finally, she held an iPad close to him, so he could see the face and hear the voice of a grief-stricken relative Skyping from the hospital corridor. After the man died, the nurse found a secluded hallway, and wept. A few days later, she shared her anguish in a private Facebook message to Dr. Heather Farley, who directs a comprehensive staff-support program at ChristianaCare's Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del. “I’m not the kind of nurse that can act like I’m fine and that something sad didn’t just happen,” she wrote.
Women in health care suffer burnout disproportionately to men
ABC News online
"We can't teach a canary to be more resilient in the same coal mine. We have to change the environment to foster a culture of well-being. We need to shift our focus to building a more resilient coal mine," added Dr. Heather Farley, chief wellness officer at ChristianaCare. Burnout in health care affects everyone -- from doctors to patients to family members. That's because when health care professionals are burned out, they make mistakes. Many quit
Achieving Greater Workforce Resiliency
American Hospital Association online
COVID-19 has taken a prolonged and unprecedented toll on caregivers, both physically and emotionally. At the same time, hospitals and health systems face the greatest financial threat in U.S. history as rising costs for treating COVID-19 patients collide with the impact of earlier shutdowns or slowdowns of many so-called “elective” procedures and services.
Medical workers struggle with PTSD due to COVID-19
Fox29 Philadelphia tv
Dr. Heather Farley of ChristianaCare discusses the impact of PTSD for healthcare workers on Good Day Philadelphia.
6 ways a health system attacks stress during the COVID-19 crisis
American Medical Association online
The commitment to well-being at ChristianaCare in Wilmington, Delaware, began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that dedication enabled the health system to build a robust well-being infrastructure that has helped to rapidly pivot and scale up available support resources to meet the needs of physicians and other health professionals during this crisis. Leaders at ChristianaCare—a large health system that includes two hospitals in Delaware and one in Maryland with more than 1,200 beds, which ranks in the top 25 nationally in both admissions and emergency department visits—performs daily rounding on all shifts with a heavy emphasis on the COVID-19 units and the emergency departments. These offer basic well-being needs, including food, drinks, lotion to help moisturize hands that get washed all day long, anti-fogging wipes, lip balm and ear protectors because people are wearing masks all the time that irritate their ears. All of these are nice touches, but the well-being work of the health system extends far beyond that.
Creating a Culture of Wellness in the Workplace
Delaware Business Times
Healthcare organizations in particular are high-risk environments in which to work, mainly due to factors like stress and fatigue. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers generally experience higher rates of burnout, divorce, depression and suicide than the general population. While more healthcare facilities are now acknowledging the problem, many are at a loss as to how to address it...
Be Well: Preventing Physician Suicide
American Hospital Association online
Health care providers across our diverse workforce are faced with an ever increasing complexity in the systems and approaches we use. As the nation looks for ways to lower rates of suicide, it is critical we address physician suicide as well. The rate of suicide among physicians is twice that of the general population.
Scott Becker Interviews Dr. Heather Farley, Chief Wellness Officer at Christiana Care Health System
Becker's Healthcare online
In this episode Scott talks to Dr. Heather Farley, the Chief Wellness Office at Christiana Care Health System. Here she discusses fighting burnout, core initiatives in her position, creating a positive work environment and her leadership philosophy.
Delaware need easier access to mental health care after COVID
Delaware News Journal online
During the most dire moments of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleagues of a fellow doctor feared that he was nearing a breaking point. Each day, he witnessed the overwhelming death and suffering caused by the disease. On top of that, he and his adult child, who was compelled unexpectedly to return home from college, were constantly fighting. Even worse, his marriage was crumbling. This doctor knew he needed help with his mental health. But he refused to access those services, due to his valid unease over a potential lack of confidentiality, the stigma of mental illness and the risk that his medical licensure could be jeopardized. At the time, a lack of clarity in the existing Delaware law could result in doctors being reported to the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline simply for having a mental health diagnosis or seeking mental health care. The consequence of this law was that many doctors feared seeking the very care that could support them through challenges, help them heal, and allow them to continue their work of caring for our community.
ChristianaCare program provides ‘care for caregivers’
Delaware Business Times online
NEWARK — Roughly five years before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the healthcare industry to the brink and back again, Dr. Heather Farley had seen enough cases in the emergency room to know not everyone has a happy ending. “There were a few that rocked me to my core, and at that time the culture in
Seeking solutions for healthcare worker burnout
Delaware Public Media radio
Over the last two years, healthcare workers have navigated through two pandemics - the coronavirus and the exhaustion, stress, and heartache that come with it. Staff at ChristianaCare say they need a lifeline - and they can’t wait. The health system’s Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Heather Farley and Delaware Public Media’s Rebecca Baer discuss a “rescue plan” for those workers. Delaware Public Media's Rebecca Baer
Ideas That Work: Make Regular Rounds With Goodies for Staff
Outpatient Surgery print
The pandemic has inspired healthcare facilities to invest more resources to support their hardworking providers. ChristianaCare in Newark, Del., was ahead of the trend when in 2016 it developed The Center for WorkLife Wellbeing, an interdisciplinary program that tackles the growing problem of stress and burnout in health care. “When caregivers feel supported and fulfilled in their work, the quality of their experience and their patients’ experience improves,” says Heather Farley, MD, MHCDS, chief wellness officer and head of The Center for WorkLife Wellbeing.
Dr. Heather Farley, Physician Executive and Chief Wellness Officer at ChristianaCare & Professor of Emergency Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University
This episode features Dr. Heather Farley, Physician Executive and Chief Wellness Officer at ChristianaCare & Professor of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University. Here, she discusses her focus on work life wellbeing, how the pandemic has impacted workforce burnout, ways to alleviate workforce stress, and more.
Creating a Culture of Well-being
The Academy online
In this episode, Heather Farley, the Chief Wellness Officer at ChristianaCare, joins Renee at The Table. They discuss many aspects of wellness and well-being, including the importance of a true culture of safety – and why it has to be more than just improving resilience and avoiding burnout. Heather also shares her personal leadership journey to her current role as Chief Wellness Officer, concrete steps to changing culture to prioritize well-being, and her work on the 2022 Healthcare Workforce Rescue Package.
The 2022 Healthcare Workforce Rescue Package – Heather Farley, MD, and Tina Shah, MD
Heather Farley, MD, MHCDS, FACEP, an emergency physician by training, is one of the nation's foremost experts on healthcare worker well-being. Dr. Farley has personally experienced the trauma that impacts caregivers when a patient suffers an unexpected adverse event and the transformative power of supportive, evidence-based initiatives. She is passionate about advancing the professional fulfillment and well-being of health care providers so they can flourish at work and at home. In her role as Chief Wellness Officer at ChristianaCare, Dr. Farley oversees the system-wide programs that support caregiver experience and promote a culture of well-being.
To that end, Sinsky and physician Heather Farley, chief wellness officer at ChristianaCare in Delaware, among other experts, helped create the 2022 Healthcare Workforce Rescue Package. It includes evidence-based strategies that health care systems can adopt right away as a foundation for longer-term solutions. Those include peer-support programs, crisis documentation protocols and better staffing and workflow tools, all of which can help ease clinicians’ burdens while enabling them to recognize when they or their colleagues are nearing their limits. Chief among the recommendations is to put an executive leader in charge of implementing wellness programs. Indeed, “chief wellness officer” has become an in-demand job posting. Farley’s own appointment as CWO of ChristianaCare preceded the pandemic, and many initiatives she and her staff implemented—wellness resources, peer support and a mental health hotline, among other changes—proved effective when stress levels escalated.
'We are not going to "resilience" our way out': 4 chief wellness officers on combating burnout
Becker's Hospital Review online
Those reflections helped pave a path forward at health systems such as Newark, Del.-based ChristianaCare. The system already had a Center for WorkLife Wellbeing — founded to foster meaning, connection and joy within its caregivers — which was expanded to cover all the health system's employees in January 2020. When those running the center recognized the collective struggle the pandemic brought upon the health system, it adjusted, according to Heather Farley, MD, an emergency medicine physician and chief wellness officer at ChristianaCare. ChristianaCare already had a heavily utilized peer support program. During the first month of the pandemic, it saw a threefold increase in requests for individual support and a tenfold increase in requests for group support, according to Dr. Farley.
Selected Papers and Publications (9)
Defending the Term “Burnout” : A Useful Tool in the Quest to Ease Clinician SufferingNEJM Catalyst
Rowe S., Farley H., Marchalik D.
Health care leaders must take a preemptive approach to clinician well-being that is supported by all stakeholders and prioritized on an equal footing with essential clinical and financial measures.
Op-Ed: Stop Ignoring Our Parallel Pandemic — Biden's COVID-19 task force must take action to prevent clinician burnoutMEDPAGE TODAY
Tina Shah MD, MPH, and Heather Farley MD, MHCDS
When President Biden announced the formation of his COVID-19 task force in November, many of us in healthcare were encouraged by the news. The diverse expertise of the team signaled a science-based, compassionate path forward in addressing the pandemic.
Supporting Well-Being Through the Implementation of Education and a Relaxing Retreat SpaceThe Journal of Nursing Administration
Van Horne S., Downing V., Farley H.
Manuscript # NNA-2020-467 The objective of this study was to determine whether an innovative program including psychoeducation grounded in positive psychology and awareness of cognitive biases, along with access to a dedicated relaxation environment, would lower burnout for nurses.
Assessment of Physician Sleep and Wellness, Burnout, and Clinically Significant Medical ErrorsJAMA Network
Importance Sleep-related impairment in physicians is an occupational hazard associated with long and sometimes unpredictable work hours and may contribute to burnout and self-reported clinically significant medical error.
Responsibilities and Job Characteristics of Health Care Chief Wellness Officers in the United StatesMayo Clinic Proceedings
Tait Shanafelt, Heather Farley, Hanhan Wang, Jonathan Ripp, On behalf of theCHARM CWO Network
The high prevalence of occupational distress in physicians and other health care professionals relative to workers in other fields has been recognized over the past decade. Appreciation that this problem is due to characteristics of the practice environment, rather than deficits in personal resilience, has helped focus mitigation efforts on improving characteristics of organizational culture and practice efficiency.
Success Story: The Chief Wellness Officer Journey at ChristianaCareAMA Ed Hub
Heather Farley; Vanessa Downing
Learn how ChristianaCare developed a comprehensive suite of wellness services overseen by a Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) and gain an understanding of the CWO scope and role. Why a Chief Wellness Officer (CWO)?
How The Center For WorkLife Wellbeing is Supporting Caregiver Wellbeing During COVID-19Physician Leadership Journal
Farley, H., Van Horne, S., Downing, V., & Godfrey, K.
The Evolving Role of the Chief Wellness Officer in the Management of Crises by Health Care Systems: Lessons from the Covid-19 PandemicNEJM Catalyst
Innovations in Care Delivery: Vol. 2 Issue 5 | May 2021, scheduled to publish on April 21
Organizational strategies to reduce physician burnout and improve professional fulfillmentCurrent Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care
Olson K, Marchalik D, Farley H, Dean SM, Lawrence EC, Hamidi MS, Rowe S, McCool JM, O'Donovan CA, Micek MA, Stewart MT
Burnout is highly prevalent among physicians and has been associated with negative outcomes for physicians, patients, staff, and health-care organizations. Reducing physician burnout and increasing physician well-being is a priority. Systematic reviews suggest that organization-based interventions are more effective in reducing physician burnout than interventions targeted at individual physicians.
External Service & Affiliations (5)
- Collaborative for Healing and Renewal in Medicine (CHARM) -- Member
- American Medical Association -- Member
- National Academy of Medicine -- Member
- Institute for Healthcare Improvement -- Member
- American Association for Physician Leadership -- Member