Question of the Week

We have several clinical departments that have either weak chairs or chairs who are there entirely by “default” and really seem to have very little interest in the position.  Our support staff then have to spend a significant amount of their time chasing down these chairs for the documentation and other input they are required to provide into our processes – which takes these folks away from their own functions.  Department chairs are relied upon to perform a really important role.  How can we get stronger leaders interested?

In many hospitals, it has been traditional to rotate the department chair position so that everyone gets (or is forced to take?) their turn.  However, not every physician, quite frankly, has an aptitude for, or interest in, medical staff leadership.  One answer might be to develop stronger qualifications for serving in medical staff leadership roles, including officers and department chairs, and to provide compensation for these roles.  Another question to ask is if there are too many departments.  Consider consolidating departments.  By having fewer positions to fill, you then have a larger pool of qualified people who want to serve.

That said, one of the biggest changes that we have seen in medical staff leadership in the recent past (and one which we now recommend strongly!) is to eliminate the use of “ad hoc” nominating committees for identifying medical staff leaders – whether they be officers, department chairs, or committee chairs – and the movement toward a standing committee dedicated to leadership development and succession planning that meets throughout the year.  Having a standing committee in place allows the leadership to take a more comprehensive look at the medical staff, identifying new members who might make good leaders in the future – giving them time for training, education, and development.