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Physician Leaders will be Tested Immediately Upon Accepting a Job

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Are you a physician who would like to be in administration someday or are you a physician who is currently seeking an administrative position? What do you think your greatest challenge will be as a physician leader?

For Kenneth Flowe, MD, chief medical officer at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, Minn., the challenge he had when he first arrived at Rice three years ago was establishing consistent communication within his medical team.

Dr. Flowe had previously worked as a Master Trainer with Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS™) from the Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ). TeamSTEPPS™ is an evidence-based set of tools that fosters consistent communication and enhanced respect among care-team members.

Rice Memorial had experimented with the program before, but its initial experience was not great, Dr. Flowe said. The hospital knew of the program’s potential, but it was unsure about committing to the implementation of the program’s techniques.

He immediately set about to rectify the team’s misgivings about TeamSTEPPS™, first by determining which department was ready to implement TeamSTEPPS™. After a bit of research he settled on the OB department, mainly because he realized the OB care team was already using evidence-based strategies and the framework was already in place and the environment was right for TeamSTEPPS™.

He then pitched strategies for implementing the program to the OB leadership, including both physicians and nurses. The response was positive, and he received conceptual buy-in.

He followed this up by enlisting two nurse leaders to collaborate with him on the program. These nurse leaders, Lori Thorson and Amanda VanderHagen, had been involved in the OB Safety Team for a long time, and Dr. Flowe said they were wonderful evangelists who prevented TeamSTEPPS™ from becoming “just another program of the year,” as many technique rollouts are considered.

This team of three turned the OB team’s conceptual buy-in of TeamSTEPPS™ into actionable buy-in. Together, they were able to determine how long they were going to spend on each aspect of the implementation strategy, including the didactic elements and simulation activities.

“The three of us were able to go to several department meetings and also several nursing meetings and playact a lot of the techniques,” he said. “There was plenty of fun and joviality, but we were always teaching the point. We were able to keep people’s interest. And the two nurses were exceptional.”

As physicians who are looking for jobs, have you considered how you would approach the very first challenge you encountered in a new position? How do you think your past experience would inform and assist you?

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