Coordinated Wellness Strategy Nets Positive Results and Savings at The Ohio State University

Published on: 

A case study from The Ohio State University highlights how initiatives addressed system-level drivers of burnout and not only improved the health of faculty, staff, and students, but also saved money.

Clinician burnout remains an ongoing challenge in healthcare, and more organizations are putting in place initiatives to mitigate the risks and stem the growing epidemic. In 2017, the National Academy of Medicine launched its Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience, a network of 60 organizations that were committed to reversing the trends of burnout.

The collaborative recently released a case study from The Ohio State University on initiatives implemented that addressed system-level drivers of burnout. According to the university, there has been a productivity net savings of more than $15 million from wellness programming, along with $3.65 return on every $1 invested.

“The success of our university and our medical enterprise is driven by our people, and supporting their well-being is among our highest priorities,” Michael V. Drake, MD, president of The Ohio State University, said in a statement. “In addition to happier and healthier Buckeyes, these efforts help create a more efficient, innovative and effective organization.”


Ohio State identified improvements in cardiovascular health; decreases in prediabetes, depression, and anxiety; and increases in healthy lifestyle behaviors and academics among students, faculty, and staff.

The university used the One University Health and Wellness Council to provide leadership for its health and well-being initiatives. The council coordinated and aligned well-being initiatives across the College of Nursing, College of Medicine, Emergency Medicine Residency Program, and Wexner Medical Center.

While initiatives were aligned and coordinated, each program, center, and college implemented changes specific to their faculty, staff, and students:

  • The College of Nursing’s 5-year plan identified personal and professional wellness as core values and included an evidence-based, cognitive behavioral skills-building program for students.
  • In the College of Medicine, mentorship, diverse learning options, and peer-to-peer programming were incorporated to enhance student well-being, as well as a required curriculum, on a pass/fail basis, designed to help students build professional and personal life-enhancing skills.
  • The Emergency Medicine Residency Program sustained well-being initiatives through a $1 million endowment that was matched by departmental funds, and it prioritized well-being by cultivating a community of trust and compassion and working to build a “home away from home” through events and activities, as well as free babysitting.
  • The Wexner Medical Center focused on trauma recovery support to help clinicians after stressful or traumatic events and provided mindfulness training, wellness retreats, culinary medicine classes, and more.

“It is critical to create an exciting vision and strategic plan for wellness that includes evidence-based interventions and diligent monitoring of outcomes over time,” said Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, who serves as vice president of health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State. “Culture eats strategy, yet it takes time to build a culture that promotes optimal well-being and makes healthy behaviors the norm. Leaders, faculty and managers must ‘walk the talk’ and provide needed wellness resources as well as support for grassroots initiatives.”

Melnyk recently published an article on clinician burnout in The American Journal of Accountable Care®, a publication of The American Journal of Managed Care®.