Dr. Ruhlen said hospitalists are perfectly positioned for leadership roles in hospitals. He also said that “institutions led by physicians appear to have better performance metrics” and that physicians “owe it to our patients to try to take back medicine.”
One thing Dr. Ruhlen wished medical training would address better is population health, a topic he became “enamored” with in business school. “It’s a very interesting body of work, interesting body of language,” he said. “I think it will be critically important as we move into a realm of significant health reform.”
Path: Quality Expertise
Greg Maynard, MD, MSC, SFHM, took a different route to hospital leadership. He didn’t seek an advanced degree in business and hasn’t bounced from one job to another climbing the corporate ladder. Instead, he’s devoted his time and energy to quality improvement (QI) as clinical professor of medicine in the division of hospital medicine at the University of California at San Diego.
Dr. Maynard encouraged hospitalists to consider becoming experts in hospital quality and patient safety, a path that has led him to national recognition. “You won’t get bored,” he said. “Your career will find you.”
Dr. Maynard, who serves as senior vice president of SHM’s Center for Healthcare Improvement and Innovation, said every QI project “seems to have its time,” and he warned hospitalists that dealing with frustration is part of the job description.
“Some projects I initiated didn’t get off the ground, no matter why I did it,” he explained. “For example, transitions of care—when we started looking at it, nobody in the hospital cared. The administrators didn’t care about discharge summaries or teachback communication strategies. They only cared when readmissions came in focus.”
He and his team needed to learn to “satisfy ourselves” and change what they could change as hospitalists. The hard part, he said, was being patient.
“We knew it was coming; we just had to wait and not get rankled,” he added. “I had to learn to not take things personally. Be patient and wait for the opportunity.”
Dr. Maynard advised hospitalists to learn to “say no, or ‘I would love to but I just can’t.’” He also said hospitalists should not be afraid to ask for help.
Return on Investment
Dr. Guthrie, who received his MBA nearly 40 years ago, said times have changed and business schools have adapted to a new economic landscape. Opportunities for physicians to receive advanced training are much greater now, with physicians earning advanced degrees in public health and health administration, as well as MBAs.
Many of the top schools offer work-friendly course schedules, including night and weekend courses and plenty of online options. Some, such as the University of Massachusetts, offer a 100% online MBA program.
Still, he warned hospitalists to consider their goals along with the time, energy, and financial commitment that post-graduate work requires.
“The investment is huge,” he said.
It’s exactly what Dr. Catacutan is contemplating. Should he go back to school, pursue leadership within the walls of his hospital and executive courses like SHM’s Leadership Academy, or should he be satisfied as a full-time clinician?
“Is it really worth my time, especially with family and kids?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s a personal decision.” TH
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.