QUESTION: We have several clinical departments that have either weak chairs or chairs who are there entirely by “default.” These individuals are relied upon to perform a really important role. How can we get stronger leaders interested?
ANSWER: In many hospitals, it has been traditional to rotate the department chair position so that everyone in the department gets his or her turn. However, not every physician has an aptitude for, or interest in, medical staff leadership. And to be perfectly honest, many do not even know what the role will require of them before they assume the position. One answer may be to develop stronger qualifications for serving in medical staff leadership roles, including officers and department chairs, and to provide compensation for department chairs. Another question to ask is if there are too many departments. Consider including guidelines in the governance documents that provide factors for the medical executive committee to consider when deciding whether to eliminate (or establish) clinical departments that explains the functions that the individuals within such a department have to fulfill. On that basis, you might consider consolidating departments or doing what many hospitals have done, which is moving to a service line model. By having fewer positions to fill, you then have a larger pool of qualified people who want to serve!