You may have had a mentor as a resident and possibly in your first year as a hospitalist, but don’t count out these valuable resources as you continue in your career. And don’t count out mentors who may come from other walks of life.
“It’s natural for physicians to look toward other physicians for guidance,” says Russell L. Holman, MD, chief operating officer for Cogent Healthcare, Nashville. “For physicians, including hospitalists, their natural inclination is to seek mentors who are physicians or have a similar training background. While there are many great physician mentors, you may be limiting yourself and missing opportunities that come from broader mentoring.”
Informal mentoring relationships are an excellent way to learn all sorts of leadership skills, from the subtle—like handling complains about a physician’s constant body odor—to hard skills, such as putting together a budget for your department or practice.
—Russell L. Holman, MD, chief operating officer, Cogent Healthcare, Nashville
Dr. Holman identified people at various stages in his career who could impart skills he sought, from a vice president of [human relations] for an integrated health system who steered him on personnel management and leadership development, to a carpenter-turned-attorney who helped him hone critical thinking skills.
“Talking to a mentor can show you the fresh side of new or old situations,” says Dr. Holman. “And you can feel comfortable telling them things that you wouldn’t tell anyone else. [When] you don’t work together, it provides a safe harbor to express ideas and opinions you normally wouldn’t.”
Mary Jo Gorman, MD, MBA, chief executive officer of Advanced ICU Care in St. Louis, Mo., agrees. “If you want someone to bounce ideas off of, try to find someone outside your organization,” she advises. She recommends physician organizations such as SHM: “Find someone who will listen, can keep their mouth shut and give you some honest feedback. For that reason, I’m a fan of professional coaches and career counselors. They provide an objective and unbiased audience and can suggest straightforward ways to manage sensitive issues.”
You also can find valuable mentors inside your workplace. “An often overlooked resource for hospitalist leaders is the other managers in their facilities,” says Dr. Gorman. “When I was a new manager, one of my mentors was the director of nursing. We could toss ideas back and forth, and she knew the politics and the personalities of the place, knew what mattered and what didn’t, and could steer me in the right direction.”
The managers and directors you work with, regardless of whether they’re physicians, are likely to have a lot of management experience, and can be resources for on-the-spot advice and guidance.
“Depending on the situation, even a chief operating officer or CEO of your hospital can give you good ideas and help you,” adds Dr. Gorman. “You’re a hospitalist; they’re supposed to be on your side. And they may be just five or 10 years older than you, but they have a lot of people management experience under their belts.”