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Doc execs: Moving from white coat to suit jacket

Posted Aug 26 2013 5:04pm

by Rebekah Apple

While landing your first executive role is exhilarating, the effort to land such a coveted position can be challenging. When I talk with physicians about making this transition, I emphasize the need for going over their professional inventory. This means taking an objective look at quantitative experience and demonstration of business acumen.

Many physicians believe they could do a better job than their current administrators, and they may very well be right. Physicians often ask how they can get experience without having the job, and how to get the job without experience.

Below is a checklist that will help you determine if you're on track, ready to apply for a job or have some additional boots-on-the-ground work to do:

1. Are you heading up committees within your organization? This means directing initiatives with strong, visible impact throughout the system. Membership on such committees is important, but that membership should, at some point, lead to strategic decision-making as well as tactical implementation.

2. Have you gotten budgetary experience? Hospitals, health systems and organizations in non-traditional sectors such as biotech and pharma must see evidence not only of your ability to manage money, but also how to grow it.

3. Money isn't the only resource you'll need to have managed. Some understanding of IT is critical. This doesn't mean you need extensive experience launching an electronic health record system or serving as a liaison between technology and administration, but it does mean you have to gain an understanding of data. What data is important? How is it gathered? How have you applied data to improve outcomes?

4. If you haven't had the opportunity to get involved in utilization review (UR)--and there's no opportunity where you currently are to do so--have you investigated managed care options? Many companies look for physicians to work remotely, part-time, on UR. This experience is critical and provides the opportunity to demonstrate real metrics to share with hiring managers.

5. What projects have you undertaken to increase physician alignment? What were the results of those projects? The goal of administration is to gain buy-in across the board of the organization. As a clinician, you have the credibility to influence (not manipulate) your peers. Start doing it to the benefit of both the organization and healthcare delivery as soon as possible.

In addition to the above recommendations are the "soft skills.: But what is often referred to as "soft" can prove quite hard to many clinicians, who haven't had the opportunity to flex active listening muscle or practice conversations that foster the understanding of underlying motivations. Of course there are courses and books available on these topics, but emerging leaders involved in the aforementioned activities may not have the time to dedicate to additional endeavors.

Finding a mentor --either formally or informally--can be of assistance in this area. Many seasoned administrators are interested in “giving back” by nurturing the interests of rising leaders. Seek out such opportunities to glean knowledge from others and you will find in yourself exactly what you need to lead yourself--and other physicians--to success.

Rebekah Apple, M.A., is manager of Physician Services and Support at the American College of Physician Executives.

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