Encouraging the Clinical Benefit

14 Nov 2017

Encouraging the Clinical Benefit

Continuing the theme of our last newsletter about clinical leadership, we bring you part 2 of our exploration of this important subject. We meet many talented Chief Executives in the course of our work, and through our conversations with those who are clinically trained, we are getting a clearer picture of some of the significant motivators for making the move into management.

One of the key reasons that many clinical students cite for choosing to embark on a career in healthcare is the opportunity to help people. As a practising clinician, they can focus on helping the patients in front of them to find the best clinical outcome possible. 

This desire to improve the well-being of others is the same motivator that exists for many non-clinicians working in healthcare management. But for them, it can be on a broader canvas. Dr Chris Streather, the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Free Hospital, succinctly echoes what we have been hearing in the market. He comments “the big reward of moving into management is the chance to step from impacting on individuals in the work of a clinician to impacting on larger populations in the work of a manager”.

Equally, another of the core aspects of early clinical work is continued when clinicians move into management: working in multi-disciplinary teams. This is an aspect that so many enjoy – and at senior management level, the opportunity to work with and learn from colleagues who bring substantial knowledge and expertise in finance, strategy, human resources and other disciplines is hugely attractive.

Given that strong clinical leadership is so important for improving outcomes, what can be done to encourage more clinicians to enter management?

Firstly, there need to be effective leadership development programmes. Many such courses are available, through the King’s Fund and the Leadership Academy, as well as a number of business schools. As the central follow up to these is strengthened, their effectiveness will be deepened further. However, it is not merely about development opportunities.

Secondly, therefore, is support once in post. Mentorships are very potent, but so too is the support structure of the triumvirate of medical leader, nurse leader and operational leader. Not only is it important in terms of the complementary skills and learning opportunities that these relationships provide, but additionally as Dr Chris Streather comments “the mutual respect and support network is very powerful”.  

Thirdly, to encourage more clinicians into management positions, the move should not be seen as a "one-way street".  At more junior management levels, this might mean enabling individuals to be on a dual career path so that whilst they are undertaking management responsibilities, they are on a parallel clinical track. As they move up their career ladder, a choice needs to be made about whether to move across full time into management. Dr Streather sees encouraging signs that there is more openness amongst clinicians to taking that move – perhaps motivated by a change in society generally whereby individuals anticipate changing roles more readily than in the past. He is keen that clinicians have the chance to move around the health system, experience different facets, and have the opportunity to return to full-time clinical practice if they so decide. Others, like him, will find management so meaningful and motivating that they decide that is the track that they wish to remain on.

At Odgers Berndtson, we strive to support leadership development initiatives and the aspirations of the many talented individuals with whom we interact. As part of our Leadership Ladder series, we will be running a seminar for clinical leaders. Please contact us if you are interested in further information. 

Notes: Dr Chris Streather became the chief executive officer of the Royal Free Hospital earlier this year, following his role as a chief medical officer of HCA International. Chris began his career as a renal physician. He became medical director at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2004, and later director of strategy. Chris became the first chief executive officer of South London Healthcare NHS Trust in 2009, and later the managing director of the Health Innovation Network, leading to patient safety nationally.