As part of a unique leadership course at Orlando-based Florida Hospital, physicians travel to Gettysburg, Pa., assuming the roles of generals during the Civil War battle. Leading them in this charge is Mark Hertling, retired commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, who led more than 40,000 soldiers.
“We walk the battlefield to determine how people made leadership decisions under crisis situations,” Hertling says. “We talk about what made a difference, good or bad, and how to apply those same lessons to our organizations.”
Looking for an outsider’s perspective, Florida Hospital brought Hertling on as senior vice president, global partnering, leadership development and health performance strategies. Intrigued by how the military trains recruits to be leaders, executives asked Hertling to develop a similar approach for physicians.
The 23-campus system is trying to enlist more physicians in achieving the Triple Aim of improved quality, experience and costs. Leaders hope more physicians will take on management positions, but their primary goals are to teach physicians to engage patients and families and rally teams of caregivers to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Physicians typically do not receive leadership training, says pediatric anesthesiologist Frederick Mansfield, M.D., partner, JLR Medical Group. “It’s not taught in medical school. It’s not taught in residency. Then you’re thrown out in the world and automatically you’re a leader.”
Hertling’s approach, described in the book Growing Physician Leaders, focuses on essential leadership skills rather than business management or administration. Physicians learn how to present themselves as leaders, how to understand the motivations of others and influence them, and how to build teams and gain trust.
About 185 physicians have graduated from the program since 2014, in addition to nurses and administrators. Of those physicians, some have assumed positions of responsibility, such as institute directors and campus chief medical officers. Administrators, nurses and others report that these physicians are more cooperative. “They are more interested in contributing to [resolving] some of the challenges we face in health care as opposed to just doing their patient load,” Hertling says.
Since Mansfield completed the course, his medical group has started to think of him as a future leader, inviting him to attend a national leadership conference.
He has also noticed a difference in how he interacts with others. For instance, he recalls a case in which a neonatal intensive care unit nurse took longer than she should have to convey a critical detail. In the past, Mansfield might have gotten angry, but he ended up thanking her for speaking up. “She said, ‘I didn’t know if I was allowed to speak. It’s your operating room, not mine.’ I said, ‘No, you’re part of a team. Speak up whenever you want. You deal with neonates every single day. I deal with neonates a lot, but not nearly as much as you do.’ ”
The infant survived the crisis, the nurse was encouraged to speak up sooner in the future and Mansfield walked away a leader.