Healthcare shakeups spark 'talent war' for children's hospital leaders

Children's hospitals are in a "war for talent" as they seek to find leaders with experience in industries that survived periods of rapid change--similar to what is happening in the healthcare industry, according to a leading executive search firm's chief quality officer.

As the healthcare industry goes through a period of transition, much of that change is visible in the C-suite, Jim King, a senior partner, chief quality officer and leader of the Children's Hospitals practice at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview. Particularly among independent pediatric hospitals, King said, there is a major need to recruit talent who have had experience weathering major industry-wide transitions.

Children's hospitals need leaders who can help children's hospitals transition to an individual facility-centric model to a more health system-oriented mindset, he said. They also need executives who can effectively coordinate pediatric care across the continuum. As a result, "children's hospitals seek leaders that bring more than just healthcare experience to the team," King told FierceHealthcare.

For example, he said, pediatric hospitals increasingly look outside the healthcare industry for chief human resources officers and in some cases even chief financial officers. Indeed, projections in late 2013 indicated 2 out of 3 hospital CEOs hired over the next year would have background in other industries, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

King said that many hospitals look to executives who previously worked in highly-regulated industries, such as banking, financial services and airlines, that have successfully gone through significant transformations. "We also are seeing a focus where, even in HR, for example, it's great if the candidate can have experience coming from a large consulting house, where they've seen a multitude of industries," he added. "They want [leaders'] experiences to complement the team they already have that typically is steeped in healthcare experience."

In addition, pediatric hospitals seek physician leaders, King said, because many independent children's hospitals serve as a medical school's teaching hospital. "Many times, what you'll see is the physician leader that becomes the CEO came out of that academic environment, and have a strong appreciation for partnering and working with their clinical faculty," he said. "Having that academic stature in their background, and then they ascend to become the CEO, often helps to build a stronger collaborative partnership."