• Physician Coaching & Leadership Development Program

Ground-breaking Physician Program builds Leadership in Healthcare

By Dr. Chris Bourdon

During the past two years Health Sciences North has achieved remarkable growth, as we strive to become leaders, not only in healthcare delivery, but also in research and education.

Beyond the bricks-and-mortar improvements we've made to our facilities, we've broken ground on an innovative new coaching program - one that's generating some extraordinary results and setting best practice standards.

"We knew there were rapid changes to the way our medical facility was functioning, changes that were necessary, yet disruptive to our physicians," according to Dr. Denis Roy, CEO of Health Sciences North. "We understood that in order to become a centre for excellence in healthcare we had to manage the change in a positive, proactive manner."

After collaborating with Medical Affairs Director Ginette Vezina to formulate a vision of the best means to help our physicians embrace, and lead, the change, we sought out the expertise of Katherine Craig, CEO of Spearhead Executive Coaching, and the Physician Coaching and Leadership Development Program was established.

The program, designed specifically for physicians, takes a three-pronged approach to change management and leadership development. Participants have access to a series of confidential one-hour coaching sessions by phone, followed by an EQ 360 Feedback survey, and a one-day workshop to review, consolidate and reinforce the information, ensuring the physicians move forward at the same pace.

Now in its second phase, with a third and fourth already planned, the results of the program have been astonishing. Despite some early skepticism, 22 physicians, all members of our Medical Advisory Committee, committed to the process and were pleasantly surprised by the benefits they drew from the exercise. In fact, several physicians opted to continue one-to-one coaching with Katherine after Phase 1 was complete, and many physicians will be streamed back into Phase 4 to revisit their training and mentor colleagues who are new to the program.

Coaching is commonplace in the corporate world. Managers in other industries such as high tech, finance, and manufacturing long ago identified the value in training their staff to become leaders, in their department, their branch office, their organization. While our physicians function in a very different atmosphere from that of a telecom company or a financial institution, providing them with the tools to become stronger leaders gives us several advantages.

The first one, frankly, is selfish. I want to be surrounded by, and lead, the very best physician team possible. This program hones the skills of our talented doctors, giving them the tools to be better communicators and collaborators, which in turn leads to better performance.

I also wanted our physicians to know that Health Sciences North is invested in their long-term growth, personally and professionally. We're not just sending them to a one-day team-building workshop, or a lecture to accumulate CME credits. We’re helping them develop as leaders, giving them access to the proven expertise of a high-performance coach dedicated to elevating their skills and abilities.

In addition to being an excellent tool for engaging and retaining top-notch staff, the program aids in recruitment. Given the enormous success of the first two phases, and the momentum we’ve generated, we're setting ourselves apart as a progressive, innovative organization that will attract and invite physicians who share our vision of excellence.

The benefits are tangible, and are seen clearly by our physician team. Department heads have tapped into skills that make their meetings more productive and efficient. Those just launching their practice are learning to balance the demands of workload and their personal well-being after surviving the rigors of residency training.

Personally, I've learned to find the strengths in each individual on my team, and build on those strengths. It's extremely exciting and rewarding to see a group of thought-leaders, all striving to excel in their profession, investigating and sharing ideas, making the organization stronger in the process. No longer are the doctors simply diagnosing and prescribing to one another: they've become active problem-solvers, a dynamic team that communicates clearly across departments and disciplines.

We had several options when seeking a provider for this endeavor. We elected to use a smaller, more nimble organization that could respond to the unique needs of our team, and the results speak for themselves.

Communication is key to the success of any healthcare team. Under the guidance of our cutting-edge coaching program, we’re creating a culture of engagement, collaboration, and innovation among our physicians. Health Sciences North is rapidly positioning itself as an industry leader, thanks to the creativity and commitment of our exceptional team, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Dr. Bourdon is Chief of Staff and VP Medical and Academic Affairs at Health Sciences North, Sudbury, Ontario