LVHN chief wellness officer expands ‘burn out’ fight to doctors’ group

Dr. Joseph Patruno, MD –


Lehigh Valley Physician Hospital Organization has recruited Dr. Joseph Patruno, as chief wellness officer for its affiliated health system.

Dr. Patruno, who is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, was named chief wellness officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network last year. LVPHO is affiliated with the health network. He will be working with both entities.

Similar to the work he is doing with LVHN, Dr. Patruno will create and lead newly established wellness programing and professional fulfillment initiatives to help fight physician and health care provider burnout.

“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,” said 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 action as chief wellness officer for LVHN was to initiate a survey among physicians and other clinical personnel practicing in the health network to determine the scope of burnout locally. He oversaw the dissemination of the Well-Being Index (WBI), developed by the Mayo Clinic and followed up with an ongoing campaign to re-survey the physician population regularly.

Those results are reviewed and used to develop and implement programs that would address specific needs of the staffs.

Among the initiatives, a team of fellow physicians, who are specifically trained in peer-to-peer interaction, are now 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.  As result of those efforts, according to the last WBI, the burnout rate at LVHN was down to 34 percent, lower than the national average.

A dedicated page has been developed for the Valley Preferred website, where specific resources for well-being are provided.

It includes 12 weeks of well-being tips developed to relieve stress during the coronavirus outbreak, and includes mindfulness exercises and resources for mental health counseling and personal health coaching.

“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,” said Dr. Mark Wendling, 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.”