3 must-have skills for physician, nurse leaders

In an era of increased physician leadership due to factors such as changing reimbursement and delivery systems, both doctors and nurses have more influence on the broader workings of the healthcare industry than ever, but that will require a different range of skills, according to a Harvard Business Review column.

Success at the leadership level requires three major skills, writes Sachin H. Jain, M.D., chief medical officer at CareMore Health System. They include the ability to:

Prioritize operations: Physicians and nurses often thrive in operations management because of their detailed-oriented backgrounds, but the distinction between urgent and secondary tasks can confound clinician leaders. As such, Jain writes, they must be wary of this potential blind spot and make sure they prioritize tasks accordingly.

Establish strategy: Leadership positions that involve defining organizational plans and structure are a natural fit for many clinicians, Jain writes, but it's easy for those leaders to lose sight of the trade-offs involved in the strategy process--after all, every course of action an organization chooses means multiple directions they do not.

Lead people: Many clinicians have numerous leadership qualities and skills, Jain writes, but have never hired or fired anyone before, and skills that make them effective clinicians may make it difficult to lead people. For example, Jain writes, due to the compassion-centric nature of their clinical work, it may complicate the more difficult aspects of management such as disciplining employees. To avoid these scenarios, clinicians must collaborate closely with fellow leaders and those in human resources to help improve their management skills.

"As they transition to careers in the business of healthcare, clinicians must hold on to the heart and practice of medicine as they continuously develop the core executive skills required to effectively lead and shape their organizations," Jain writes. "Healthcare will be markedly better for it."

To learn more:
- here's the column

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