Hospitals invest in physician leadership

Doctor Computer and Gadgets

Even the best doctors aren't necessarily born leaders. Rather, physicians must be groomed for leadership positions, according to a panel of hospital CEOs at a recent health forum in San Francisco, moderated by John Combes, president and chief operating officer of the American Hospital Association Center for Healthcare Governance.

Hospitals are investing in clinicians, preparing them for boards and other committees tied to the organization's major initiatives. The American College of Physician Executives says it taught physician leadership courses for about 200 days in 2011, almost double the average 100 days in previous years, American Medical News previously reported.

"We have to invest in it to enhance their skills,"  Kathryn Raethel, R.N., president and CEO of Castle Medical Center in Kailua, Hawaii, said in a Hospitals & Health Networks article. Castle Medical Center offers a leadership institute, which meets quarterly to cover financial skills, managing productivity and team building. "We take everybody, down to charge nurse level, in the organization," Raethel said.

Newark (N.J.) Beth Israel Medical Center used to move physicians and nurses into leadership positions without supplying them with the tools they needed, according to President and CEO John Brennan, M.D. He said such training is critical for physician leaders because of the power they have to enact change. "They have to be able to state our strategy, down to the departmental level. The message is much more powerful coming from a physician leader than from me."

Newark Beth Israel now offers a nine-month leadership development program, in which senior management nominates employees based on their performance. In addition to being an educational opportunity, employees in the program are on track for higher-level positions and salaries, Brennan said.

West Virginia United Health System also funds further education for any department chair who wants to get a mini-MBA, according to President and CEO J. Thomas Jones of the academic medical center. "The cost is minimal, and they come back with a very different and deeper understanding about finance and interactions with people."

When asked if future leaders will need clinical skills, most panel members agreed having clinical knowledge provides an understanding to make hospital-level decisions.

For John McCabe, M.D., CEO of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., his emergency medicine background has only strengthened his role as chief executive.

"Emergency medicine physicians interact with every other specialty on a daily basis," he told Becker's Hospital Review, adding that helps him to understand what other specialties go through every day.

McCabe's clinical background also provides him with the mission of patient-centerness.

"Emergency medicine physicians historically see anyone who comes to them, regardless of time of day or ability to pay. I take that perspective with me as CEO," he said.

For more information:
- see the H&HN column and transcript
- read the Becker's Hospital Review interview

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