Dr. Wellikson reminds hospitalists that management “isn’t all fun and games. Your group expects you to fight for them. Not everybody sees you in the best light. Sometimes leadership can be lonely, and there’s no road map. You can’t always say ‘yes.’ Sometimes you need to fire colleagues.”
How to Get Started
When working hospitalists get exposed to administrative or quality improvement projects and opportunities, some of those projects will be successful and satisfying, while others will not. But even if their goal isn’t to become the CEO of a national organization, they can gain a sense of their interests and aptitudes. Other part-time administrative roles include associate medical director of a group practice, quality officer for the hospital, or medical director of informatics.
Just look around the hospital and see what’s broken, suggests Dr. Cawley. “Or else go down to the quality department and volunteer your services,” he advises. “There are innumerable tasks that need to be done. I would recommend starting small. Do projects that involve small groups working together. As the projects get bigger, they will involve more people, more resources, more measurement tools. This will then give you a sense of whether you want to continue in management.”
When a hospitalist gets appointed to a quality committee, it is important to be an active contributor. “Take a forward stance. Prepare for the meetings,” adds Dr. Holman. Go back to your constituency and have an active discussion about the project. By that very experience you will be viewed as a leader—and recognized leaders are the people who are given larger-scale opportunities.”
Dr. Goldsholl insists, “The way to be successful as a leader is to continue to be passionate about patient care. At the same time, continue to develop yourself with the tools and skills needed to make the case for hospital medicine. If you can do both, your chances of success are higher.”
It is also important to develop people skills—some of which can be learned. “Did I have all of those skills in the beginning?” asks Dr. Goldsholl. “Absolutely not. A certain maturity and ability to be flexible were acquired over time. At first I did not know how important it was in the first five minutes of a business conversation to ask the person I’m talking to about their children. That’s something else I didn’t learn in medical school.” TH
Larry Beresford is based in Oakland, Calif.