The 100 hospitalists who gathered in September at the Vail Cascade Hotel and Spa among Vail, Colorado’s high peaks for SHM’s second Hospitalist Medicine Leadership Academy showed their character early during a simulation led by David Javitch, PhD, a Harvard University instructor. The exercise usually goes like this: The leader auctions $1 bills, with bidders paying their highest bid whether they win or lose. Participants’ aggressive juices flow and someone usually pays $5 or $10 for the lone dollar. Then they realize that their irrational bidding behavior is fueled by their need to compete rather than to cooperate, and the leader discusses the value of cooperation over greed.
But the SHM Leadership Academy hospitalists played the game differently. Dr. Javitch earmarked the proceeds of the auction for a pediatric AIDS foundation. After early bids to $5, one Mississippi doctor who had worked in a hospital without water and electricity during Hurricane Katrina bid $100. The bidding ceased abruptly. Spontaneously, several groups took up collections to boost the donation’s size. This stopped the facilitator in his tracks.
Instead of giving the participants a lesson on the destructive power of greed and competition, the facilitator got a lesson about hospitalist altruism—a dedication to serving people that is transforming how patients are treated in America’s medical centers. This exercise revealed both the pros and the cons of hospitalists’ leadership tendencies.
The Academy Format
Working at round tables of 10, the hospitalists spent all four days in the same small group. Each group was led by a facilitator who guided its exercises, kept the discussion on track, and encouraged participation in feedback and Q&A sessions. The hospitalists were put through their paces by experts in various disciplines relating to hospital medicine, learning about the field’s leadership challenges, its business metrics, strategic planning, understanding various personality traits and communication styles, and managing change and transformation efforts.
The SHM Leadership Academy, which limits attendance to 100, balances lectures with exercises, simulations, personality and communication inventories, and time for questions and sharing about professional issues. There was also time set aside for networking, including at a cocktail party hosted by IPC: The Hospitalist Company, North Hollywood, Calif., as well as sightseeing, biking, and visits to Vail Village to explore local shops and restaurants
The hospitalist attendees came to the Leadership Academy from diverse paths and at various stages of their careers. Some physicians started hospitalist programs fresh from residency, some worked in large teams, some had been in solo and group practice before becoming hospitalists, some were employed by hospitalist groups and health plans, and one started as a community-based solo practice hospitalist. They work in a wide range of settings, from rural and suburban community hospitals to academic medical centers, and in cities large and small.
Russell (“Rusty”) Holman, MD, and Cogent Healthcare’s, Irvine, Calif., national medical director, spelled out the Leadership Academy’s goals: for hospitalists to run their programs more efficiently, improve morale within their groups, maximize team efficiency, and identify critical drivers of success.
“Our goal at this conference is for you to learn new things, to improve your skills as leaders, and to learn how to continually demonstrate value to your CEOs and CFOs,” says Dr. Holman, who also led participants through the analytic steps of a strategic plan in their small groups.