Heather Farley, M.D.

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Heather Farley, M.D., MHCDS, FACEP

Heather Farley, M.D., MHCDS, FACEP

Chief Wellness Officer

Expertise & Research Interests

  • Change Management
  • Wellbeing
  • Burnout
  • Provider Wellbeing
  • Wellbeing at Work
  • Stress Coping and Resilience
  • Healthcare Worker Stress
  • Vicarious Trauma
  • Professional Fulfillment


  • MD, Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
  • M.S., Health Care Delivery Science, Dartmouth College

Heather Farley, M.D., MHCDS, FACEP

Chief Wellness Officer

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 was highlighted in The New York Times as a model of how to provide support for healthcare workers in times of extreme stress.


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Media Appearances

Achieving Greater Workforce Resiliency

2021-01-21 , American Hospital Association
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.

'I Can't Turn My Brain Off': PTSD and Burnout Threaten Medical Workers

2020-05-16 , The New York Times
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.

Medical workers struggle with PTSD due to COVID-19

2020-05-24 , Fox29 Philadelphia
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

2020-05-06 , American Medical Association
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

2019-04-15 , 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

1970-01-01 , American Hospital Association
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

2019-11-13 , Becker's Healthcare
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.
Selected Papers and Publications

Organizational strategies to reduce physician burnout and improve professional fulfillment

2019-10-04 , Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care
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.

Defending the Term “Burnout” : A Useful Tool in the Quest to Ease Clinician Suffering

2019-08-07 , NEJM Catalyst
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 burnout

2021-03-01 , MEDPAGE TODAY
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 Space

2020-12-01 , The Journal of Nursing Administration
Manuscript # NNA-2020-467

Success Story: The Chief Wellness Officer Journey at ChristianaCare

AMA Ed Hub
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)?

The Evolving Role of the Chief Wellness Officer in the Management of Crises by Health Care Systems: Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic

NEJM Catalyst
Innovations in Care Delivery: Vol. 2 Issue 5 | May 2021, scheduled to publish on April 21

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

The Journal of Nursing Administration
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 Errors

2020-12-07 , JAMA 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 States

2020-11-01 , Mayo Clinic Proceedings
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.
External Service and Affiliations
  • 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