While the details of healthcare reform remain uncertain, it is clear we are at the threshold of unprecedented change. At no other time in our history has strong, ethical and visionary leadership been more critical to the delivery of quality patient care.
Commitments for change
Leaders must focus on excellence, developing others in dynamic times
The American College of Healthcare Executives has long been a partner, resource and guide for healthcare's leaders. Collectively, we share a commitment to integrity, lifelong learning, leadership and diversity. It is living these values as leaders that sets us apart as a profession.
For me, leadership begins with responsibility, authority and accountability—and accountability is the key. Leaders who accept accountability also accept ethical business practices and open communication—something we see lacking far too often in today's business world.
Ethical, accountable leadership is imperative today. The ACHE's Code of Ethics, Ethics Self-Assessment and Ethical Policy Statements are tools healthcare leaders can use to measure their actions and to build and maintain a culture of ethics in their organizations.
Board certification in healthcare management is another way the ACHE sets the standard for healthcare leadership excellence. Attaining and maintaining the fellow of the ACHE credential requires a commitment to continuing education and the ongoing honing of management and leadership skills. Lifelong learning is essential for healthcare leaders today given the dynamic nature of our environment.
The ACHE provides myriad resources, including books, journals and educational offerings, to provide healthcare executives with the knowledge they need to be effective leaders. The ACHE's Senior Executive and Executive programs specifically aim to prepare healthcare executives for the next level of healthcare leadership. And the ACHE's partnership with its 82 local chapters brings educational and leadership opportunities to the local level.
The ACHE's Fund for Innovation in Healthcare Leadership continues to strengthen healthcare leadership by providing scholarships and learning opportunities on important healthcare trends and issues. Later this year, the fund will offer its annual ethics program and a program exploring innovations in medical technologies.
As healthcare professionals, we all have a responsibility to develop leaders for the future. The ACHE fosters leadership development by connecting mentors and proteges through its Leadership Mentoring Network. The ACHE's Higher Education Network, made up of 170 health administration programs, offers programs and resources—including interaction with ACHE elected officials and chapter leaders—that enhance student networking and learning opportunities. And the ACHE's healthmanagementcareers.org Web site is designed to provide information to high school and college students about the healthcare management profession.
Our communities are changing, and we must change with them. Fostering diversity and cultural competence is yet another value we share as leaders. The ACHE takes a number of steps to carry out this commitment and to encourage diversity among the healthcare leadership ranks. To help educate the profession, the ACHE conducts and releases research on the career attainments of healthcare executives by race and ethnicity. The ACHE also offers scholarships and an annual internship to minority health administration students. In addition, the ACHE actively supports the Institute for Diversity in Health Management and its key member groups.
As leaders, we touch many constituencies. That is why the ACHE collaborates with many healthcare organizations to further leadership development. For example, the ACHE continues to educate its members about critical policy issues by regularly highlighting the work of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Center for Healthcare Governance and Governance Institute in Healthcare Executive magazine.
As healthcare faces certain and momentous change, each of us has the responsibility to build and refine our leadership skills and to develop the skills of others. To this end, I encourage you to:
Enroll in formal educational offerings to refine your management and leadership skills.
Achieve certification in your profession and encourage others to do so.
Mentor other aspiring leaders who can benefit from your knowledge and experience.
Support diversity and inclusion among the leadership ranks as a means of strengthening our organizations and the service we provide our communities.
Participate in your professional societies and their local chapters to network with others; enhance your knowledge and contribute to learning across the field.
Educate yourself about critical policy issues and how to influence public policy.
Become involved with state and national trade groups to improve your understanding of issues affecting your organization and community.
Build strong partnerships within your organization to improve the delivery of care and optimize the use of resources.
Seek out opportunities to collaborate in your community to care for and improve the health status of the population at large.
Speak to students about healthcare career opportunities, and share your passion for your profession.
By demonstrating a commitment to leadership excellence and taking an active role in developing others, we can ensure healthcare has the leadership required to meet the challenges ahead and, most important, help those who are at the center of our work—our patients.
Christopher Van Gorder is chairman and a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, as well as president and CEO of Scripps Health, San Diego.
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