In a recent post for the New York Times Well blog, Dhruv Khullar, M.D., notes that, “Though new models of healthcare delivery increasingly focus on collaboration, medical education still does not adequately teach aspiring doctors how to work effectively with a team of caregivers”
Khullar is a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He notes that medical students don’t study or train with other professionals. They aren’t taught how to understand their fellow clinicians' roles and limitations. Training on collaboration, communication, and healthcare-specific emotional intelligence skills is also missing from most residency programs. If it happens, it’s informal and relies on individual initiative or supervising physicians and mentors who value these skills.
We often refer to the work of Dr. James K. Stoller of the Cleveland Clinic. Stoller is an M.D. and has a Masters in Organizational Development. In his article, “Can Doctors Collaborate”, he outlines why the way people are selected for medical school, the education process, and the professional culture, actually discourage the development of collaboration behaviors.
Over the past few years, more of our clients have asked us to help apply executive level behavioral competency concepts to physicians and physician leaders. We’ve used executive assessment tools to help select and develop physician leaders, created new physician interviewing tools to better understand candidate strengths and weaknesses, and implemented physician-specific behavioral assessment tools to improve self-awareness as the first step toward developing these behaviors.
Here are the steps we see as necessary to build the next generation of highly collaborative physicians and physician leaders:
1. Incorporate behavioral skills into medical school and residency training
emotional intelligence, communication and collaboration skills.
2. Define and communicate physician-specific behavioral expectations
3. Re-think the physician interview
4. Individual developmental plans
5. On-going medical staff discussion and training on collaboration and leadership skills
The medical staff, as a whole, needs to recognize the need and support efforts to improve individual and group performance. Physician leaders need to identify specific collaborative opportunities and lead frank discussions about why collaboration is important and how to improve it. Physicians we work with report that basic training, for instance, on group facilitation skills can be incredibly valuable. A culture of collaboration will only happen when physician leaders embrace it, and a deliberate approach to getting there.
This isn’t just an issue for hospitals who want to maximize performance reimbursement. In this new world, it’s an issue that goes to physician success and career satisfaction. Practicing medicine can be frustrating enough. Just like every other profession, though, those with behavioral skills and emotional intelligence handle change better, can navigate organizational challenges and are far more likely to find career success and become successful, and fulfilled, leaders.
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