From the Society

SHM Practice Administrators’ Mentor Program benefits both parties

SHM resources help Alessandra G. Cornelio, MPH, develop her career. Now, she is paying it forward


 

Editor’s note: Each month, SHM puts the spotlight on our most active members and explores how they are making substantial contributions to hospital medicine. Visit www.hospitalmedicine.org/getinvolved for more information on how you can lend your expertise and help SHM improve the care of hospitalized patients.

This month, The Hospitalist spotlights Alessandra G. Cornelio, MPH, the acquisition manager at Hartford Healthcare Medical Group in Connecticut. Ms. Cornelio is an active member of SHM’s Practice Administrators Committee. She developed and now directs the Practice Administrators’ Mentor Program.

Cornelio

Alessandra Cornelio

Question: Why did you choose to become a practice administrator in hospital medicine? How has SHM helped in your professional growth?

Answer: I was finishing my internship at the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center. I was interested in hospital administration and learning more about the inpatient side of health care. I chose to work within hospital medicine because I wanted to help build a team of compassionate doctors who could provide an excellent patient experience while maintaining an environment with safe, high-quality care.

To complement my career goals, SHM helped my professional growth by exposing me to the variety of topics and issues that practice administrators deal with regularly in their practices. I was also able to review and learn from the many resources available on the SHM website, such as white papers and articles, which were extremely useful for a new administrator.

Q: What prompted you to join the Practice Administrators Committee? What are some of the most impactful projects the committee is currently working on?

A: Within my first year of being a practice administrator, I attended a practice administrators’ forum at the SHM annual meeting in Washington. I found that the information was relevant to my daily functions as an administrator, and I was also able to meet and share ideas with other practice administrators from throughout the country. Down the line, I learned that SHM needed new members for the Practice Administrators Committee. I wanted to become more involved in a meaningful way, so I decided to apply.

The Practice Administrators Committee is a hardworking committee that takes on many meaningful projects. Most recently, the team has been working on developing a more user-friendly website for practice administrators, and a subgroup of the committee has cross-referenced “The Key Principles and Characteristics of an Effective Hospital Medicine Group” with existing resources, which will prove valuable to all administrators in the final product.

Q: Can you discuss how you began leading the work group for the Practice Administrators’ Mentor Program and how it has evolved since its inception?

A: As part of the committee’s initiative to help fellow practice administrators, we formed a subcommittee to begin developing a mentor program. (Former SHM staffer) Joseph Miller and I worked together to create an appropriate program model through research and brainstorming. We also utilized the HMX Practice Administrators Community to ask fellow practice administrators what they would expect from a mentor program and if they would participate. There was a strong favorable response rate, and we were able to implement a pilot program.

We implemented two different tracks for the program – the buddy system track and the career development track. The buddy system track is for those of any level of expertise or experience who are more interested in short-term assistance or in need of a sounding board. The career development track is a more traditional approach, matching a seasoned practice administrator with a less experienced practice administrator.

The program was designed to have annual cohorts, with the Practice Administrators Committee members as mentors. There is a detailed application process to ensure that each mentee is matched with an appropriate mentor, based on their interests and needs. We provide an orientation webinar to both parties before kicking off the relationship to present program expectations. The pilot program used this model, and comments from 6-month and annual evaluations showed tremendous satisfaction with the structure and value of this program.

There were approximately 16 pairs during the pilot year, and the following year, we grew to almost 20 pairs. Our goal as a committee is to maintain this program year after year, and in order to expand, we’ll need more than just the committee members to volunteer as mentors. There are so many talented practice administrators, and it would be wonderful to fold them into this gratifying program to pay it forward.

Many mentors, including myself, found value in acting as a mentor. I learned from my mentees as well as made connections and friendships with other professionals in the field.

Q: Given your intimate involvement, how have you seen the Practice Administrators’ Mentor Program benefit both the mentors and the mentees? Can you provide any specific examples?

A: Mentees are able to connect with seasoned mentors and can ask specific questions about career development and any issues they may be experiencing. Mentors are able to share their experiences and pass along important and valuable lessons learned to mentees. I served as a mentor, even though I did not yet consider myself a qualified candidate. However, I found that I was more equipped than I had realized, and I was able to assist my mentee with many aspects of career development (i.e., resume building, discussions with the C-suite, etc.).

My mentee was a practice coordinator who had only been in hospital medicine for 1 year. She had little experience hiring hospitalists, so this was a major area that we worked on together during our yearlong connection. I introduced her to collaborating with her HR department when posting positions, as well as working with permanent placement agencies. Her service was also undergoing a change in leadership, which can be difficult for any service line to experience. We discussed ways in which she could present important information to the new medical director that would produce a meaningful conversation.

In turn, my mentee introduced me to new online resources and was able to connect me with the manager of her practice, who assisted me with streamlining the payroll structure in my practice. I truly enjoyed my experience developing and participating in the program.

Felicia Steele is SHM’s communications coordinator.

Learn more about how you can benefit from the Practice Administrators’ Mentor program via the SHM website.

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