‘Bridging leaders’ link quality, medical education


Natural bridges: From clinical to educational

As with the early days of the hospitalist movement, bridging leaders are trying to build a community of peers with common interests.

“We’re just at the beginning,” Dr. Arora said. “Hospitalists have been the natural torch bearers for quality and safety in their hospitals, and also play roles in the education of residents and medical students, working alongside residency program directors. They are well-versed in quality and in education. So, they are the natural bridges between education and clinical care,” she said. “We also know this is a young group that comes to our meetings. One-third of them have been doing this for only the past 2 years or less – so they are early in their career paths.”

Front-line clinical providers, such as residents, often have good ideas, and bridging leaders can bring these ideas to the health system’s leaders, Dr. Arora said. “Bridging at the leadership level also involves thinking about the larger priorities of the system.” There are trust issues that these leaders can help to bridge, as well as internal communication barriers. “We also realize that health systems have to move quickly in response to a rapidly changing environment,” she noted.

“You don’t want a hundred quality improvement projects being done by students that are unaligned with the organization’s priorities. That leads to waste, and highlights the need for greater alignment,” Dr. Arora added. “Think about using front-line staff as agents of change, of engaging with learners as a win/win – as a way to actually solve the problems we are facing.”

Dr. Darlene Tad-y, associate professor and hospitalist at the University of Colorado Hospital, Denver

Dr. Darlene Tad-y

A bridging leader occupies a role in which they can influence and affect these two parts of the mission of health care, somebody whose leadership responsibilities sit at the intersection of these two areas, said Darlene Tad-y, MD, director of GME quality and safety programs at the University of Colorado, Aurora. “Once, these people were mostly in academic medical centers, but that’s not so true anymore. A director of quality for a hospital medicine group is responsible for developing the group’s quality strategy, but at the same time responsible for teaching members of the group – not only doing QI but teaching others how to do it,” she said.

“Hospitalists make terrific bridging leaders. We really are in that sweet spot, and we can and should step into these leadership roles,” Dr. Tad-y said. “Because of our role in the hospital, we know the ins and outs of how processes work or don’t work. We have an insider’s view of the system’s dysfunction, which puts us in a great place to lead these efforts.”

The bridging leaders movement has been a grass-roots development, Dr. Tad-y explained. “It’s not like people started with the job title. But because all of this work was needed, a few people started doing it – and they began seeking each other out. Then they found that there were more than a few of us. We just hadn’t known what it was called.”


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