Five Musts for Recruiting, Retaining Physicians

Posted on Tue, May 12, 2015
Five Musts for Recruiting, Retaining Physicians

A recent interview with Dr. Joel Stern brought to light a number of ways EmCare helps identify and develop strong physician leaders.

The #1 secret to selecting effective medical leaders
Selecting physicians for leadership roles requires a hands-on approach, getting to know the attitudes and motivations of the person and not just the skill set.  Physicians who seek to become leaders must first understand they are not flying solo. They rely on the engagement and actions of others to effect change and improve performance.  Decisions become more complex as they must be made in a way that reflects what is best for the whole instead of the part. Thought processes evolve from a single line with sequential processes to a kaleidoscope with numerous parallel processes. 
From caring for patients to caring for those you lead
To build a successful team, great physician leaders must be comfortable showing they care about every person on it.  As John C. Maxwell said, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  There’s no pretending.  People know when you genuinely care.  They appreciate it and respect you for it. And, it’s often the little things that count.  Make sure they are happy with their schedule, treat people fairly, inspire learning, be consistent and clear, provide support that gives them confidence, etc.
Balancing the needs of many stakeholders
Good leaders must constantly think about the team and what’s best for everyone. Many reports about employee turnover cite ‘not getting along with the boss’ as the top reason people leave a job.  With the physician shortage becoming an increasingly critical factor, you don’t want to be your own worst enemy and lose good people.

Of course, being a good leader can also mean recognizing when you have to get the wrong people off the team.  Everyone is relying on you to build a strong, effective team and a productive work environment. 

Physician leaders have a lot to balance in considering the needs of many stakeholders: patients, families, clinical teams, administration, the community, etc.  A physician leader must have the desire and ability to simultaneously ensure the effective operation of the team, the hospital and the company in providing high-quality patient care. It’s also important for medical leaders to be aligned with the interests of the entire hospital in improving care to the patient. 
Lateral leadership
Physician leaders must be capable of making the transition from directing patient care to directing teams.  Expectations and duties evolve to influencing outside the boundaries of patient care. Physician leaders will work with multi-faceted groups of people ranging from interdisciplinary committees to the hospital Board.  The varying organizational relationships are no longer hierarchical.  The horizontal versus vertical reporting structure requires an even greater ability to explain, collaborate, persuade and inspire. Plan to excel at the art of lateral leadership.
Interdepartmental and lateral leadership, or leading those who do not report to you, is important for achieving a successfully integrated health care delivery system. 

Organizational leadership
At one time, hospital departments had become so specialized that they tended to work in isolation from other departments.  Each department had an internal focus ignoring the fact that the patient viewed the hospital experience as a whole.  Now all realize no one department works in a vacuum and patient-centered care and processes are now the focus.  Each department must learn to function as an integrated part of the health care delivery system. 

For example, if you have a backlog in the emergency department, everyone understands that you can’t fix the E.D. problem without all departments working together.  Something as simple as housekeeping being short-staffed one night can lead to patients boarding longer in the E.D. Creating the greatest efficiency starts with looking at the process from the person’s home, to pre-hospital, to the E.D., to admitted, the transition back to home, etc.  The more people who are working together to achieve the same goals, the more efficient the process becomes which impacts patient care.  Great physician leaders are able to develop shared visions and promote collaboration to achieve system wide goals.
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About Dr. Stern: Joel Stern, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, serves as an executive vice president with EmCare’s South Division.  His experience in clinical leadership roles includes various medical director and assistant director positions in hospitals ranging from moderate volume suburban settings to high volume urban sites. Dr. Stern is a past president and founder of the Florida State Chapter of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (FLAAEM) and currently serves as a Past Presidents Council Representative for the FLAAEM Board of Directors.  He is also on the Board of Directors of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians where he has held numerous leadership positions.

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