Hospitals prepare today’s teams as tomorrow’s leaders

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For Ontario hospitals, the recruitment strategy adopted by human-resource executives is complex. They must reap the benefits of professional development by creating new opportunities, and apply that knowledge to help improve patient care as well as assist health-care workers to become the best they can be. Preceptors are a necessity to hand down leadership skills and professional leadership development is key. It’s all about the right course of action at the right time.

“Do we need leaders? Absolutely. We need leaders in administration, in practice, (that’s where most of the nurses are,) in education, in research, and in policy,” spoke a contemplative Doris Grinspun, Executive Director, Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. “In order to be a leader, we need them to be the best at something. I wish all nurses were clinical leaders in their practice so all patients would get the best out of it.”

“When we’re talking leadership development, it’s across the whole system,” said Wendy Macdonald, Director of Organizational Development, Sunnybrook & Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. “It’s not enough to understand the tasks of management planning, and controlling activities of managementÉto me leadership is more the relationship you have with other people within the organization in so much that they want to follow.”

Leadership and team building is a definite priority for University Health Network. Last year, UHN implemented its Professional Leadership Development Program, created jointly with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. The program focuses on three major areas including relationship strategy, the management of change, and the third area is specific hospital management tools, such as the management aspect of patient safety and teamwork by developing high performance teams.

“We have a billion dollar budget within our organization and about a $150M of it is research,” said Tom Closson, CEO, University Health Network. “On our website, we have about 60 world-firsts that our organization has accomplished. We certainly have global impact by the research we do in this organization. These help achieve global impact.”UHN also puts a high priority on the training of international fellows. There are approximately 200 fellows, or clinical physicians from other countries, working and learning within UHN’s organization Ñ when they go back to their own countries, it creates a global impact.

According to Suzanne Gard, Director, Organization & Employee Development, UHN graduated fifteen managers, leaders, directors, and some physician administrators from the program. “It’s a cross section of manager level and above,” said Gard. “They learned management skills that had to do with performance management, labour relations, competency areas such as strategic leadership, safety and quality, etc. Senior management is involved in sharing their knowledge, and in role modeling, but it is not dictating.”

“Because I was a new manager,” said Deborah Davies, Nurse Manager, Emergency Department, Toronto General, “it opened opportunities for me to meet new people. It’s a very large organization and it brought together a whole lot of people from a whole lot of different avenues. I feel more confident now.” As a manager, Davies felt she learned how to move a message forward up through the administration and how to build an effective team.

” I think everybody has the ability to be a leader at different moments,” says Wendy MacDonald, Director, Organizational Development, Sunnybrook & Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. “Given the right environment, people will rise to the occasion to lead when that moment comes. If we can give then the skills and a sense of confidence, and self-esteem to do that, then the ground is ripe for leadership to emerge.”

“Training,” added MacDonald, “is something you do to someone. Learning & development is when you facilitate their learning & development so they take ownership for it – it’s more of an adult education perspective.” MacDonald confided SWCHSC is also working on the development of a Leadership Institute. “Basically we are looking at the continuum of leadership development. How we can attract and retain the best leadership development, clinical and non-clinical. It is a heterogeneous model across the organization of people learning and leading from each other.”

As for Closson’s vision, it is as important as his staff’s reality. “I can have all the goals and visions in the world but I have to be able to execute and be able to implement them. To be able to do that, we have to have really good managers that know how to manage well and provide leadership within the organization. Talking to frontline staff,… they really look to their manager to support them and to help them be successful.” It is the realization that as an organization, hospitals need to provide adequate learning opportunities for frontline managers and directors to get the education they need, in how to actually make things happen in an organization that is setting the compass of knowledge.