Editor's Corner

Getting new executives fully up to speed is tough. But if you've recruited a chief medical officer, it's a particularly trying process for both the candidate and the organization, says David Shabot, managing director with executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. So what can a provider organization do to make the transition work? In many cases, a warm personal welcome, some community/social outreach and tolerance for personal transitions will help a lot, Shabot says.

The CMO job is hard enough as it is. After all, it's never been easy to lead physicians, who in most cases are quite independent by temperament and training. The job is made even harder by the ambiguous and conflicted nature of the CMO role.

In academic medical centers, for example, the CMO works for the hospital--and works for the hospital's interests--but the affiliated physicians are typically faculty members with the university. In this situation, a new CMO may hit a brick wall if they can't parse university politics.

In community hospitals, meanwhile, a salaried CMO must work with independent physicians, all entrepreneurs with their own outlook on the industry. It's the "herding cats" dilemma times ten. The new CMO may find that it's extremely difficult to meet his or her goals.

To come on board successfully, the CMO certainly needs to address these tensions, which can take the wind out of anyone's sails if they're not managed well. But just as importantly, he or she needs to get their personal lives on track. And believe it or not, the provider organization can be a big help there just by being sensitive to such issues, says Shabot, who specializes in recruiting and placing senior healthcare executives.

For example, CEOs should bear in mind that the new CMO may have moved ahead of their family members, who often stay behind in an old location until children have finished a school year. The hospital or health facility needs to take into account that their new exec will want to fly home many weekends, at least until their family is resettled. Providers should also bear in mind that the new person needs to establish social networks; anything fellow senior execs can do to foster social or community connections outside of work can help, Shabot notes.

The key is to "have a little more empathy for what it takes to move a person and their family," he says. "It all comes down to the hospitality of the employer--whether they're thinking about the employee's personal needs." - Anne