Leveraging Your Clinical Experience

Approximately 5% of hospital leaders were physicians as of June 2014 according to data collected by the American Hospital Association’s Physician Leadership Forum.

This shift over the past few years has been a result of healthcare institutions implementing pay for performance measures and the increased focus on public health that is promoting quality over quantity healthcare.

Healthcare workers and executives in general are expected to have some experience in their organization’s area of specialty according to the Department of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, experience in the field does not automatically promise a role in management. Healthcare leaders specifically have to be knowledgeable about insurance terms, human resource issues and the general patient population instead of one specific patient group.

To keep an edge over the competition healthcare workers must strategically leverage their skills and experiences gained in the field.


Decision-making is one of the stand-out skills that make for an effective hospital CEO.

“When I’ve been hospital chief medical officer or CEO or chief operating officer, you have to make some tough decisions that don’t please everybody,” explained Bill Bithoney, chief physician executive and managing director of The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation, a healthcare consulting company. Bithoney has spent the last 2 years in this position but has worked a total of 35 years in various roles in healthcare leadership. “I think the main thing is to communicate the reason why.”

Beginning his career as a physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, Bithoney describes his management style as highly collaborative, taking all points of view into account. After all, physicians like him make decisions based on patient needs which in turn inform administrative decisions.

His clinical experience in pediatrics caring for malnourished children and those who were abused to the point of in-patient hospitalization is what gave him the desire to advance his career so he could improve overall care. Passion combined with the responsibility of decision-making for patients shows that a prospective leader can deal with choosing the course of action for an entire hospital.

SEE ALSO: Diversity in Healthcare

‘Outside the Box’

Historically great leaders have been innovative. This is similar to clinicians who are constantly dealing with new issues to diagnose and the task of drawing up effective solutions.

“An effective leader has to think outside the box,” said Maurice Chung, MD. resident of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons (SLS) “They have to be persistent and if anything doesn’t work-maybe there’s another reason behind it.”

Thinking outside the box led Chung, the current president of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons (SLS) to experience his own medical breakthrough in gynecology. Multiple patients with endometriosis came to him with the same symptomatic pains after having full hysterectomies. He decided to be open to exploring other areas of specialty to come up with a solution and ended up uncovering underlying issues the women had in common. In 2002 he co-authored The evil twins of chronic pelvic pain syndrome: endometriosis and interstitial cystitis which was published in the Journal of SLS.

Leaders similarly must think more generally and outside the box to arrive at solutions that will improve care across all departments.

Bithoney too does this in following clinical guidelines. Of course guidelines are taken seriously but when a physician breaks one of them for a good reason he sees that as an opportunity to get feedback from the physician and improve upon the guidelines which will benefit the entire institution.

“I think that people who aren’t clinicians will have more trouble understanding the point of view of physicians and assisting them to overcome the hurdles to attaining value-based care,” said Bithoney.

As a final note, leaders should not be arrogant explained Chung. They must be effective communicators and be able to get their point across by being able to relate to their staff just as clinicians are able to relate themselves to their patients.

Chelsea Lacey-Mabe is a staff writer. Contact: [email protected]

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