Physicians Need Talent Development Too

By: Allison McCarthy, MBA  |  amccarthy@barlowmccarthy.com

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”  -John C. Crosby

The accountable care evolution has prompted much discussion on leadership development for physicians. Healthcare reform has triggered increasing need for doctors who have the skills and acumen necessary to lead their peers through changes in care delivery patterns. In fact, hospitals and health systems are increasingly investing in talent development for those physicians they believe have the attributes and aptitude to be a leader.

But leadership is not the only area where physicians need talent development support. Throughout the various stages of their professional careers, physicians need support across various subjects and skill sets. We invest time, energy and effort to recruit them, but spend little time providing the kind of development support needed as they evolve from trainee to retiree.  For example:

  • Post-Residency – For a newly minted physician, the focus is on developing clinical skills. While residency programs try to offer some education on the business aspects of medicine and evolving health policy shifts, these learning opportunities are often provided as an occasional lecture. When residents complete training and enter practice, they need more guidance on how to be successful in practice. From coding and reimbursement to marketing and time management, talent development needs at this stage are significant.
  • New Practice – A national turnover rate of six to seven percent means there are many doctors each year who decide to change practice venues. These transitions may be triggered by personal needs, career opportunities or a decision to leave private practice and become employed. No matter how experienced the physician may be, they still need support that helps them to understand the new systems, culture, market and even how to shift their mind set from private practitioner to employee. Despite their clinical expertise, they still are on a significant learning curve that needs the right kind of support for the physician to be successful.
  • Clinical to Administrative Role – Physicians often move into administrative roles because they have strong interpersonal skills, chemistry or organizational tenure. Beyond these aptitudes and experience, physician administrators need education, orientation, and coaching in the management disciplines of finance, human resources, and operations. While they may have had exposure to some of this as a practicing physician, more in-depth learning and a broader vision is needed to be able to fulfill organizational expectations.
  • Succession – By the time a physician reaches their sunset years, they have learned how to start up and manage a clinical practice. But those experiences haven’t taught them how to shift from practice leader to practice alumnus. These physicians can hire expert advisors to work through the business transaction, but coaching support is also needed to help the physician come to terms with what he/she wants to see happen, to identify the right party to ensure those needs are met, and to work through the emotional adjustment of leaving clinical practice.

A variety of individuals, across multiple organizational disciplines, can support the talent development needs of physicians. The first step is to realize that physicians need more than ongoing clinical education. They also need formal learning, mentoring and general guidance to be successful in other aspects of their professional roles – whether as a practice builder, patient influencer, team member, professional leader, or satisfied retiree. Unless proactively provided for them, physicians don’t receive enough learning in the interpersonal, organizational or business-related knowledge they need to thrive professionally and be successful organizational partners.