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Vanessa Downing, Ph.D - ChristianaCare. Wilmington, DE, US

Vanessa Downing, Ph.D Vanessa Downing, Ph.D

Director of the Center for WorkLife Wellbeing | ChristianaCare


Vanessa Downing, Ph.D, is the director of the ChristianaCare Center for WorkLife Wellbeing.


Vanessa Downing, Ph.D, is a thought leader in healthcare worker wellbeing, having applied evidence-based approaches of positive psychology to consulting, psychotherapy, coaching, leadership, and research roles since 2012. She oversees the development of services and interventions that create a culture of wellbeing and leads the creation of programming specifically tailored for those working in high intensity, trauma-exposed fields. Her work highlights the critical nature of recognizing the humanity of those who have chosen careers that prioritize service to others.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Work Life Integration

Vicarious Trauma

Resilience and Mental Health

Healthcare Worker Wellbeing



Flourishing at Work

Compassion fatigue

Education (2)

University of Maryland College Park: Ph.D, Counseling Psychology 2008

UCLA: B.A., Theater, Film, and Television 1996





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What is Burnout and What Can I Do if I Feel Burned Out?


Media Appearances (2)

Shouting? The 'silent treatment'? How spouses argue linked to physical ills

Chicago Tribune  


Vanessa Downing is a psychologist and behavioral health coordinator at the Christiana Care Center for Heart & Vascular Health in Wilmington, Del. She wasn't surprised by the study findings. "When we look at health psychology as a whole and the movement to integrate psychologists into health care settings, it's because of the mounting research supporting these relationships between our emotions and personality traits and what happens with our health outcomes over time," Downing said...

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In These Tough Times, Focus on Resilience

U.S. News  


Resilience is the ability to withstand, bounce back and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. "For a long time, people believed resilience was kind of a trait, something you have or you don't," said Vanessa Downing, a psychologist in Wilmington, Delaware. "Now we know it really is much more a set of skills that can be taught and learned."

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Selected Papers and Publications (5)

How the center for worklife wellbeing is supporting caregivers during COVID-19


Heather Farley, Sam Van Horne; Vanessa Downing and Kathryn M. Godfrey

Having been in existence for several years, ChristianaCare’s Center for WorkLife Wellbeing was well-positioned to spearhead many collaborative efforts designed to promote caregiver wellbeing during the current prolonged pandemic. The chief wellness officer took several actions as a senior physician leader to ensure that caregiver wellbeing was a priority and that caregivers’ concerns were used to promote positive change.

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Supporting Well-being Through the Implementation of Education and a Relaxing Retreat Space


Sam Van Horne, Vanessa Downing, Heather Farley

Objective: 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.

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Success Story: Laying the Groundwork for a Chief Wellness Officer at ChristianaCare

AMA Ed Hub

Vanessa Downing; Heather Farley


A popular metaphor in well-being has become that of the canary in the coal mine, and the idea that one cannot simply build a more resilient canary—one must work to change the toxic environment of the coal mine. Awareness of the incalculable impact of medical errors and adverse events on clinicians prompted ChristianaCare to re-evaluate their approach to well-being and leadership of well-being initiatives.

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Success Story: The Chief Wellness Officer Journey at ChristianaCare

AMA Ed Hub

Heather Farley, Vanessa Downing


In recent years, ChristianaCare undertook the daunting yet vital task of redefining its organizational values and behaviors, namely a commitment to “serve together, guided by values of Excellence and Love.” These values are part of the reason ChristianaCare chooses the term “caregiver” to describe all of its employees, both patient-facing and nonclinical.

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Success Story: Ice Cream Rounds Are Meaningful Well-Being Groups for Residents and Fellows

AMA Ed Hub

Vanessa Downing; Mark D. Mason


Graduate medical education can be a particularly demanding and daunting time period.1,2 Residents' lives are fast-paced and stressful, with external pressures and expectations increasing exponentially over time. Isolation, imposter syndrome, and feeling overwhelmed are common experiences.

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Research Grants (1)

Research Grant for the proposal

2020 Delaware Health Sciences Alliance $50,000

"Using National Best Practices to Inform Mental Health Treatment for Delaware Healthcare Workers in the Wake of COVID-19"