Eye on Integration
Stepping up to the Challenge of Multidepartmental Management
By Lynn Nace
Wanted: A take-charge, open-minded, financial wizard needed to motivate radiologic technologists, clinical laboratory scientists, respiratory care practitioners and other health care personnel. Individual must also be a team leader, responsible delegator and one step ahead of regulatory issues in various allied health disciplines.
Does this fictitious want ad describe you? If you’re interested in multidepartmental management, it should.
Dwindling reimbursements coupled with escalating overhead expenses are forcing more and more hospitals and medical centers to restructure both personnel and entire departments. For the institution, this often means a smaller workforce with a larger workload. For the middle manager, it often leads to cross-over into disciplines of which the individual(s) has little to no knowledge.
That was the case for Bill Morse, BS, ARRT, CRT, director of Radiology and Laboratory Services at Watsonville (CA) Community Hospital. After managing the radiology department for nearly seven years, Morse was approached by upper management with a proposition to also oversee laboratory operations. Feeling a bit apprehensive and concerned if he had the right skills and knowledge to manage another department, he accepted and is now thankful for the opportunity.
“Because my professional background is radiology, there was a tremendous learning curve for me to understand the day-to-day operations that occur in the lab,” he recalls. “However, the transition was successful. I soon realized the similarities of each department and used that to my advantage.”
Noting that “all managers who go into a technical realm with no understanding of what the staff does makes the individual very vulnerable,” Morse highlights a few key characteristics that all multidepartmental managers must possess:
* the ability to juggle several tasks at the same time;
* good communication skills;
* good delegation skills with the ability to follow-up on all projects;
* the ability and interest to stay one step ahead of regulatory changes;
* strong team leadership skills;
* a willingness to receive suggestions from the staff, particularly on making departmental and/or procedural changes; and, most importantly,
* the ability to hire reliable operational supervisors who will oversee some of the day-to-day tasks in each department.
“[A multidepartmental manager] is judged before he/she even gets into the department,” adds Morse. “Therefore, you must have these qualities or you will fail.”
And while stepping into the position may be frightening, interdisciplinary management definitely advances one’s career and makes you extremely marketable in the long run, says Morse.
“It proves that you, as a manager, are capable of crossing the imaginary internal walls that are sometimes built between departments, and that you can lead others across those boundaries to reach the common goal of patient and physician satisfaction,” he explains.
One way to break down those barriers is to always stay in touch with the staff by holding regular meetings and communicating with them on a daily basis.
“Having one manager who also oversees other departments can be very frustrating for personnel,” Morse says, adding, “They may have a sense of lost leadership when they don’t see the manager very often. You must have the ability and leadership skills to continue to guide them in the right direction.”
Looking ahead, Morse predicts that within five years most managers will be responsible for overseeing at least two departments. This may include areas outside of the individual’s technical expertise as well as same-discipline departments located in satellite clinics, off-campus practices and the like. National organizations can better prepare professionals to accept and flourish in these new roles by offering on going seminars and workshops on regulatory updates, financial issues and communication skills, he suggests.
But above all, the individual must have the desire to succeed. It’s a challenge, says Morse, well worth the effort.
Lynn Nace is editor of ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory.
QUALITIES OF A SUCCESSFUL MULTIDEPARTMENTAL MANAGER
* the ability to juggle several tasks at the same time
* good communication skills
* good delegation skills with the ability to follow-up on projects
* the ability and interest to stay one step ahead of regulatory changes
* strong team leadership skills
* a willingness to receive suggestions from the staff, particularly on making departmental and/or procedural changes
* the ability to hire reliable operational supervisors who will oversee some of the day-to-day tasks in each department
Eye on Integration is sponsored by theCertification in Clinical Systems Management online graduate program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The certification program, which leads to a master’s degree in Clinical Systems Management, has been developed in collaboration with CLMA. Visit http://www.umdnj.edu/chsweb/ for details.