Finding and keeping the best and brightest talent in healthcare is a subject I've written and talked about many times. This field has been blessed with extremely gifted and committed professionals, both on the clinical and management sides. However, it's no secret that many healthcare professionals are disillusioned with some of the trends that are occurring: too much paperwork, too much government interference, too much competition and all the other things that stifle and discourage.
Some physician executives think the answer to their frustrations is moving to the top executive post of their organizations, but this may be a case of being careful of what you ask for. CEOs seemingly have a lot of power, and in many ways they do, but in today's healthcare climate the challenges faced daily by the man or woman at the top are overwhelming. I've heard everything, and much of it is downright nasty.
Take, for instance, the talented CEO who brought about the merger of a county hospital and another large institution in a major northeast city. She was subjected to death threats, her car was set on fire, many physicians and middle managers rebelled, and local advocate groups questioned her integrity and competence.
As a result of such pressures, there is an exodus of CEOs. They leave for a variety of reasons, including trouble with their boards, disagreements with physicians and other colleagues, and burnout. No wonder CEOs sometimes throw in the towel. The pressure sometimes isn't worth the hassle, and life, after all, is simply too short. It makes you wonder why outstanding individuals still come into the field.
And it's quite obvious healthcare isn't alone in terms of CEOs exiting their disciplines. For instance, in the first half of this year, 555 chief executives vacated their offices, according to a new report by job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's a 22% increase over the 456 in the first half of 2000, according to the report. In June alone, 82 chief executives left.
According to the firm, it was the ninth month in the last 10 that departures rose over the year-earlier period. Another significant finding was that experienced executives are the ones leaving (12.7 years of tenure compared with 4.8 years for those who left in May).
John A. Challenger, CEO of the company, put this spin on the findings: "Some of the June CEO departures may be related to poor performances turned in by a growing number of companies in second-quarter earnings reports." He believes the real fallout will occur as the year progresses.
It isn't easy being a CEO in this or any other field. Life in the executive suite isn't all that it's cracked up to be. In years to come, more physician executives will be running the nation's healthcare institutions. They will be subjected to the same pressures and stresses that all CEOs have to endure when running a business.
Coping with healthcare's complexities will become even more grueling in the future. Consequently, it is imperative that anybody wanting to attain the top job work harder to prepare him- or herself by absorbing all of the experience and training possible.
It will pay off for you, your institution and your customers.
Charles S. Lauer