Why Junior Doctors Need to Develop Leadership Skills
In Medical School the emphasis is on acquiring theoretical knowledge and developing clinical skills.
It turns out however, that we are not taught one of the most important skills to succeed in our industry – management and leadership skills. During our undergraduate training in medical school, we are being taught how to tackle medical emergencies and practical procedures in order to prepare us for our first hospital placements as doctors. Quickly we start understanding the amount of responsibility and the number of teams we are involved in and interact with on a daily basis. Not having any prior experience in leading teams, we fall back on the only way we know how to lead – giving orders and expecting our team and patients to comply. This method will shift the majority of the responsibilities of patient care on us but most importantly we will fall short in coping mechanisms during those times that this model fails. It is not surprising that skills such as; knowing how to communicate with patients, relatives and colleagues, prioritising our jobs, ensuring patient safety through innovation, leading our own teams effectively and delegating are essential and if remain unrecognised, will lead to physician burnout and job dissatisfaction.
“Developing Management and Leadership skills benefits the patient, the team, the organisation and our own personal growth as healthcare professionals.”
As doctors we are seen as leaders in the eyes of other allied healthcare professionals. It is therefore essential for us to understand medical leadership, learn skills to effectively lead functioning teams, learn and adopt the many ways of different leadership styles and knowing when to use them. This will help us in realising our team’s skills and experience and will thereby optimise their performance and improve sharing of the workload.
“Medical leadership skills can be taught similarly to acquiring knowledge in clinical subjects.”
The benefits of developing management and leadership skills:
Empower your team and utilise their expertise
As doctors we are trained to look after medical issues. Subjects regarding patient flow, emergency room waiting lists and dealing with underperforming colleagues might feel unfamiliar to us. All of these matters are part of our job and with seniority we are expected to find a resolution to some of them. However, implementing treatment plans and looking after patients is reliant on a whole team of multiple experts. We must realise the importance of creating a healthy, positive working environment, which allows the expertise of all involved to focus on the ultimate goal of optimising patient care. Interaction with allied healthcare professionals and managerial colleagues will build an understanding for how the organisation works. This will train us to further our interpersonal skills and strategic thinking .
Share responsibility to ensure enhanced patient outcomes
Clinicians might have a dissociative feeling of identity or a lack of belonging to other clinicians by taking positions of leadership. However, being at the frontline to patient care, we are all part of an important team and carry the responsibility to convey the experience and knowledge we have in improving patient care. In turn this will not only enhance patient outcomes but also financial targets for the healthcare organisation at which we work.
Practicing medical leadership is a process of your own personal development
Medical leadership skills can be taught similarly to acquiring knowledge in clinical subjects. We should all seek opportunities to experience medical leadership in our organisations as it should be regarded as a process of our own personal development and learning from experiences and work-based challenges . Our learning will be enhanced through coaching and mentoring from senior colleagues.
Next time you go in to work, what opportunities to develop your leadership skills will you be looking for?
Nicol, E. D., & Cowpe, J. (2016). Barriers to doctors successfully delivering leadership in the NHS. Future hospital journal, 3(1), 21–26. https://doi.org/10.7861/futurehosp.3-1-21
Swanwick T on behalf of the NHS Leadership Academy. Leadership Development for Doctors in Postgraduate Medical Training. NHS Health Education England.
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