DALLAS—As health systems survey candidates for executive roles, experience, academic achievements and other measures of scholarship typically top the priority list.
Leadership qualities, “coachability” and emotional intelligence are often overlooked, particularly at academic institutions. That represents a fundamental flaw in the hiring process and the medical education system, which hardwires doctors to be self-interested and autonomous, said Dr. Peter Pisters, president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“Our search committees have been anchored in a series of biases that include an overemphasis on scholarship and an underemphasis on leadership capabilities, especially emotional intelligence,” Pisters told the audience during Modern Healthcare’s Workplace of the Future conference last month. “That has created real challenges.”
MD Anderson has brought in psychologists specializing in emotional intelligence and incorporated that metric into the selection process. It mandates implicit bias training to ensure objectivity. Like many systems, the academic medical center has also pushed for more diverse leaders and has cast a wider net to attract more applicants.
This was a massive departure for MD Anderson, Pisters said, describing the past process as a group gathering in a room, typically white males, making the best decisions they could for the organization.
“Everyone has a blind spot—things everyone else knows about you that you don’t know about yourself,” he said. “Our job is to shrink it.” The challenge is creating a culture that facilitates feedback, and then holding leaders accountable to adapt accordingly, Pisters added.
Healthcare executives shared a variety of strategies aimed at reinvigorating the workforce. Billing requirements, regulatory checklists, order entry and other administrative tasks have stripped purpose from healthcare employees.
Technology is too often viewed as the answer to workforce problems, rather than an enabler, leading to higher levels of burnout.
Healthcare recruiters and executives hope new succession-planning processes, streamlined reporting structures, mission-driven investments and a team-based approach to healthcare will create a more fulfilling work environment.
“We’ve got to reestablish the joy of medicine,” said Dr. David Williams, CEO of UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home, the ambulatory division of UnityPoint Health. “If we can get people to focus on why they got into the business in the first place, it is well worth it.”
Healthcare employers are at an inflection point. Healthcare has twice the number of job openings every month compared with the number of hires, said Barry Asin, president of Staffing Industry Analysts, owned by Modern Healthcare parent Crain Communications. Staffing costs are surging as health systems are trying to lower costs.
The healthcare temporary staffing industry has grown into a $17 billion industry, made up of more than 1,000 firms that are trying to fill the void of a nationwide nurse shortage, among other workforce needs.
This has given more power to the employee and caused employers to rethink and improve their corporate cultures, benefit programs and infrastructure.
“We are in a moment of crisis in finding the help we need,” Asin said.