Why Medical Leadership Training is Crucial in the Clinical Setting

As evidenced by the pandemic, medical leadership has never been more important. Successful healthcare organisations are defined by their highly qualified leaders who have the knowledge and understanding of applying different leadership styles to support patient care, in order to get the best outcomes. Effective leadership in healthcare settings influences the organisational performance, patient care and finances. Hospitals which identify and address this deliver higher quality care and have better clinical outcomes with lower mortality.

Doctors are considered as natural leaders due to the position they hold within clinical teams and therefore accountability for patient care and welfare, whilst the more overarching and organisational leadership roles are for the managers. This has encouraged the culture of “us” and “them” with physicians focusing on patient care and managers focusing on business performance. The potential risk with this model is developing a culture in healthcare organisations that is centred around targets and finances rather than quality and safety. Interestingly, hospitals with higher quality care are those that have a larger proportion of medically qualified managers. 

Medical leadership and management is defined as the engagement of doctors in the matters concerning individual patient care, the day to day workings within a department and the organisation as a whole. Doctors are already clinical leaders, directing patient care and quality improvements within their teams and organisation. This means that all clinicians, regardless of seniority, are required to possess management and leadership skills. Knowing this, an effort has been made in embedding leadership development within medical education and training.  

The General Medical Council (GMC) has listed leadership and team working as a core competency, expecting all newly qualified doctors to recognise their role in contributing to the management and leadership of the health service by the end of their programme. This has led to universities embedding leadership and management in undergraduate programmes, however there are limited settings to integrate this in a meaningful way due to a busy curriculum. 

The evidence for medical leadership is present as is the accepting of this concept by the medical Royal Colleges. Despite this, leadership development is seen as a competency that only requires addressing and development much later in a doctor’s career, once they are near the end of their training. This reinforces the current perception of medical leadership, not as a core competency, but as an extra skill as it is not integrated into training. 

In order to gain leadership development, trainees are having to seek alternative routes to gain this skill, such as; fellowships and postgraduate education in management and leadership, courses and conferences. Returning to training from having had a few years out of programme can have a negative impact, with some clinicians not understanding how the trainees can utilise their newly acquired skills in changing the service and influencing the quality of the standards. 

Medical training is focused on acquiring theoretical knowledge and clinical skills. However, fundamental leadership skills such as; leading a team, how to coach and conflict resolution are not addressed to the same extent. Trainees are often given the impression that training courses, programmes and postgraduate qualifications are only available to those seeking to work in management positions. However, we have learnt that the benefits of possessing such skills is greater in those whose daily practice is in the clinical setting. Medical leadership and management development must be integrated throughout a doctor’s career, the importance of addressing this in the undergraduate stage is critical for raising awareness, professional identity formation and ensuring that doctors in training understand their wider responsibility.

To conclude, we have discussed the importance of effective medical leadership and its benefits to patient care and organisational outcomes as a whole. However, it is essential to highlight how possessing these skills also has a positive impact on physician well-being with less burnout and higher job satisfaction. 

About Generation Leader

Generation Leader provides the most innovative, relevant and impactful online healthcare management and leadership programme for healthcare professionals and ambitious medical students. Utilising the latest technology, the world’s most trusted on demand content and globally recognised certifications, learners have the tools, flexibility, community and the confidence to stand out and be successful.

The Medical Leader Programme is an online management and leadership programme made specifically for healthcare professionals. The programme has been created by medical doctors who know how the healthcare sector works from years of experience. The programme is applicable, relatable and impactful and helps all learners succeed in gaining essential skills to excel in day-to-day work activities, such as; communicating with colleagues and patients, conducting difficult conversations, knowing how to lead and motivate teams and problem solving.

References

Rotenstein L, Sadun R, Jena A (2018). Why Doctors Need Leadership Training. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/10/why-doctors-need-leadership-training

Till, A., McKimm, J., & Swanwick, T. (2020). The Importance of Leadership Development in Medical Curricula: A UK Perspective (Stars are Aligning). Journal of healthcare leadership12, 19–25.  https://doi.org/10.2147/JHL.S210326