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Are You “Well-Being” Washing? Here’s How to be More Intentional

Chuck Chapa explores the idea of "well-being" washing and provides actionable advice to build more effective well-being programs.

In today's dynamic healthcare landscape, the well-being of healthcare professionals is garnering much-needed attention. Physician practices are recognizing the importance of prioritizing the well-being of their physicians and staff. However, with this growing awareness, we also see a concerning trend known as "well-being washing" creeping into the healthcare sector.

Understanding Well-being Washing

Well-being washing is when an organization, like a physician practice, emphasizes appearing to be focused on well-being externally while ignoring how employees are feeling internally and the absence of providing programs and resources of any real substance. Well-being washing happens when healthcare organizations engage in performative actions that create the illusion of supporting employee well-being while making no significant changes to their workplace culture or policies. These actions often manifest as one-time wellness events, surface-level well-being programs, or well-being seminars without substantive changes behind the scenes or actual programs to support them. A classic case of “talking the talk” without actually “walking the walk.”

Why Well-being Washing is a Problem

Well-being washing poses several critical challenges:

  • Cynicism and Disengagement: Healthcare professionals, including doctors and staff, are highly discerning. When they realize that the well-being initiatives are superficial, it can lead to cynicism and disengagement, undermining the intended positive impact on well-being.
  • Missed Opportunities: Authentically addressing well-being can lead to happier and more effective healthcare professionals, ultimately enhancing patient care and practice success. Well-being washing prevents organizations from reaping these benefits.
  • Reputation Damage: When healthcare professionals and the public see through well-being washing, it can harm the practice's reputation, eroding trust, and goodwill.
  • Ethical Concerns: Well-being washing may expose physician practices to ethical issues if they falsely claim to prioritize well-being without delivering on those promises increasing their reputational risk.

Avoiding Well-being Washing in Physician Practices

To genuinely support the well-being of healthcare professionals and avoid well-being washing, physician practices can follow these steps:

  1. Understand the Unique Challenges: Recognize that healthcare professionals face unique well-being challenges, including high-stress environments and long working hours. Tailor well-being initiatives to address these specific concerns.
  2. Develop a Holistic Well-being Strategy: Create a well-being strategy that encompasses physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Prioritize a holistic approach that acknowledges the diverse needs of your healthcare team.
  3. Commit to Long-Term Change: Sincere well-being initiatives require a long-term commitment. Avoid quick fixes or one-off events, and instead invest in lasting changes to policies, work schedules, and the overall work culture.
  4. Provide Resources and Support: Ensure that healthcare professionals have access to resources and support for their well-being, including mental health programs, access to counseling, and flexible working arrangements.
  5. Promote Inclusivity: Recognize that well-being in healthcare is not one-size-fits-all. Embrace diversity and inclusivity in your initiatives to ensure that all healthcare professionals feel supported.
  6. Measure and Communicate Progress: Implement metrics to measure the effectiveness of your well-being initiatives. Regularly communicate your progress and involve healthcare professionals in the evaluation process.
  7. Encourage Leadership Buy-In: Leadership within physician practices plays a crucial role in setting the tone for well-being. Ensure that practice leaders are actively involved in and supportive of well-being initiatives.
  8. Transparency and Honesty: Transparency is the cornerstone to avoid well-being washing. Be open about the challenges and limitations of your well-being efforts and demonstrate a genuine commitment to improvement.
  9. Seek Feedback: Continuously seek feedback from healthcare professionals to understand the impact of your well-being initiatives and make necessary adjustments.
  10. Consult with professionals: Consulting with professionals when addressing well-being is a great way to ensure a comprehensive, evidence-based, and sustainable approach. At Curi Advisory, we can provide specialized knowledge, ethical guidance, confidentiality, and tailored solutions to genuinely improve physician well-being. Our goal is to help you build trust among your organization and ensure your well-being programs are effective, compliant, and culturally sensitive. At Curi Advisory, we can provide specialized knowledge, ethical guidance, confidentiality, and tailored solutions to genuinely improve physician well-being. Our goal is to help you build trust among your organization and ensure your well-being programs are effective, compliant, and culturally sensitive.

Well-being is more than just a buzzword; it's an essential part of creating a sustainable and successful physician practice. Physician practices must understand that well-being washing is not a sustainable approach. Instead, they should make a sincere commitment to the well-being of healthcare professionals, addressing their unique needs and actively working to create a culture of well-being. By doing so, physician practices can experience the benefits of happier and more engaged healthcare professionals, ultimately leading to enhanced patient care and practice success. This journey is a step toward a brighter, more authentic future for healthcare professionals and the practices they serve.


The opinions and views expressed in this blog post belong to and are solely those of the individual author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Curi Advisory or Curi Advisory’s parent or affiliated companies or their members, insureds, clients, customers, or partners.