Re: Who wants to be a department head?

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 55, No. 5, June 2013, Pages 231-232 Letters

Dr Verchere has captured the frustration and challenges of the role of a department head in BC [Who wants to be a department head? BCMJ 2013;55:134]. What are the problems that need to be solved to change this situation?

Firstly, physicians are trained as clinicians, not managers or leaders. Leadership is a science that needs training, cultivation, and experience—as much so as medicine. While the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Society of Physician Executives provide many leadership courses to help aspiring physician leaders, we can start to change this culture by building leadership training into medical school and residency curriculums.

Influence is a vital quality that physician leaders require in order to improve the system. We can only influence those with whom we have relations. The longer the commitment, the more time to develop and show skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, project management, and process improvement. The longer the commitment, the more time to develop relationships.

Managers in the health authorities are under enormous pressure to maintain staffing, reduce overtime, control costs, improve productivity, and deal with the latest crisis. Their ability and time to work on system improvement is limited. 

Lastly, the role of any medical leadership position requires a commitment of time and energy for which we are often not appropriately compensated. This needs to change, so that there is a financial incentive to pursue further training, build experience, and commit to long-term leadership goals. 

In the right environment, with the appropriate training and experience, and with suitable compensation, phy­sicians can combine clinical and leadership skills to influence how we deliver care to our patients, and be rewarded with the satisfaction of contributing to system improvement. It’s a slow and often frustrating process—but it’s worth it.
—Andy Hamilton, FRCP
Canadian Certified Physician Executive

Andy Hamilton, MD,. Re: Who wants to be a department head?. BCMJ, Vol. 55, No. 5, June, 2013, Page(s) 231-232 - Letters.

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