Do you want to become a hospitalist leader?


Still up for it?

If you think you have the commitment and desire for leadership as an early career hospitalist, how would you continue down the leadership path?

“A great way is to find a person you want to be like, who could be a mentor. Find a successful leader that you admire, and one who is willing to guide you,” Dr. Howell said. “Books are helpful as well, and I still find I’m learning today – I have a list that includes Drive by Daniel Pink and Good to Great by Jim Collins. There are Malcolm Gladwell books that also have terrific knowledge to impart.”

Mark W. Shen, MD, SFHM, associate professor at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and former president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said potential hospitalist leaders must be aware of their fellow clinicians.

“Pay attention to the needs of the hospitalist group as they are articulated by the lead hospitalist, the administration, and the patients,” he said. “There are so many activities that come up on a day-in, day-out basis. You should jump in and volunteer to take the lead on some of those activities. Leading your peers is often one of the most challenging parts of leadership. I think taking on even just a small activity like, say, working on a clinical pathway for the group, will result in a lot of preparation for future leadership roles.”

An example of an early career activity that Dr. Shen felt was valuable to future leaders was helping in the development of a hospitalist core curriculum. “We would use the core curriculum to educate students and residents coming through our rotation and have some degree of commonality or standardization,” he said. “So even though I wasn’t an explicit leader of the hospitalist group at the time, I’d say that helping develop the core curriculum aided me in understanding what leadership was all about.”

Getting started in a leadership role, Dr. Spector said, can be helped by embracing a knowledge of the business of medicine. “Business and finance are a reality you shouldn’t avoid,” she said. “Another way to learn is to partner with your local administrators or whoever is running your division or your department. There are business managers and business partners in every institution, and you can learn a great deal from them. It’s important to network and get to know people because we’re a people business, and opportunity comes when people know who you are.”

Dr. Howell noted that advocating for yourself is sometimes hard, and it can be a red flag in some circumstances, but you should tell your bosses where you want to go professionally.

“You can say that you want to grow professionally, and let’s face it, there are naturally-inclined leaders. We all need to be transparent in goal paths,” he said. “But if you want a leadership role for power, money, and prestige then you’re not applying the right thinking. If you want to help others and you have a mission you believe in, then communicate that to your bosses.”

Dr. Scheurer believes choosing between clinical and administrative leadership is not so clear cut, because in the health care setting they tend to morph into each other. “Many times clinicians will end up taking on a leadership role that has a significant administrative component to it,” she said. “I do think if clinicians make a career move and get the right training then they can be exemplary leaders in health care, but I do worry a little about clinicians going into leadership roles without any formal training. They are usually well-intentioned but that’s not enough. It’s not any different than medical training. If you want to be a good leader you need training to develop your skills, and a lot of those skills do not come naturally or easily. We thrust good clinicians into leadership roles because they are good clinicians, but if they don’t have the right skills, being a leader can be a problem.”

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