Pursue the Right Training Venues
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the core requirements of your leadership duties, you are ready to pursue the right training path. Leadership can be learned, whether you’re thrust into it and find yourself in “damage control” mode, or you want to pursue new leadership opportunities for career advancement, Dr. Howell says.
Your first step might be to develop your leadership skill set through informal self-help training. The easiest way is by reading books that other hospitalist leaders have found to be valuable when they were starting out (see “Self-Training Resources,” below left).
The next step is to find a mentor. This person should be a good leader whom you trust and respect, and from whom you can seek advice. “A leadership position can be awfully lonely,” Dr. Nelson says. “I suggest that people find a confidant and mentor at their local institution, someone who is very accessible, who they see all the time, who works in the same environment and knows the local politics.” The mentor could be someone you trained with, or under, or perhaps a hospitalist program director at another institution. It could be the chief nursing officer at your institution. “It is reassuring to know that others are facing similar problems elsewhere,” Dr. Nelson adds.
A local mentor can help with technical matters like offering you a “crash course” in financial spreadsheets, says Patience Agborbesong, MD, SFHM, medical director of a 17-hospitalist program at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. She notes that SHM provides networking resources to help you connect with other HM leaders (www.hospitalmedicine.org/leadership).
Large hospitalist groups frequently offer mentorship opportunities throughout their chain of operations, says Ethan B. Dunham, MBA, director of organizational development for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Cogent Healthcare. “If you find you’ve received something akin to a ‘battlefield promotion’ and are in over your head, you can turn to someone who has been there,” Dunham says.
As healthcare reform begins to financially incentivize things like safe patient handoffs and more evidence-based medicine, the business part of running a practice is going to quickly align with quality and safety outcomes. That’s what HM leaders should be focusing on.—Lakshmi K. Halasyamani, MD, SFHM, vice president, quality and systems improvement, Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Mich., SHM board member