As Chief of Staff, I appointed a new Vice Chief of Staff a month ago to serve out the term of an ill elected Vice Chief. The new Vice Chief made negative comments about another physician (who is in a competing group) in an elevator where he was overheard by a family member of a patient. After learning of these remarks from the family member, the physician about whom the remarks were made asked for an investigation into what he sees as defamation. We had a hard time finding anyone willing to serve; this Vice Chief has not yet had any leadership training. What can I do as Chief of Staff?
You, along with one or more other Medical Staff leaders and perhaps the CMO, could try counseling the new Vice Chief and follow up with a written statement of expectations. Disparaging comments in a public area are never acceptable. Leaders have a responsibility to set a good example for others. If this new Vice Chief (or any physician) has information relevant to clinical performance or professional conduct of any other physician, he should direct that information into the peer review process. Discussing such issues publicly might be grounds for removal from office, but if he is cooperative, leaders might be willing to give him a chance to learn and improve. If leaders are convinced that he is sincerely committed to appropriate conduct in the future and wishes to continue to serve, it would be a good idea for this physician to obtain some leadership training. The physician who asked for the investigation cannot be told the outcome of the counseling, but leaders can advise him that the process is confidential and that leaders take the concerns seriously.