South Florida Hospital News
Thursday August 6, 2020

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July 2008 - Volume 5 - Issue 1

Developing a Learning Organization to Create a Winning Cardiovascular Team

As we face the dog days of summer, one can look to the analogies between professional baseball and healthcare organizations. Corazon believes that just like a major league baseball team, a hospital must continually evaluate talent and develop a version of a farm system where "players" are able to develop the skill sets necessary to move-up within the healthcare system. We recommend these strategies for creating a winning team:

Effective Organizational Framework

Team and individual triumph can be rooted in a clearly-defined organizational configuration. Each player must know their place on the team and have a clear job description with goals tied to a strategic plan and/or department objectives. Publicized career ladders can also contribute to a ‘learning culture’ in that they not only incentivize staff to take on new and expanded roles, but also reward them for working in cross-trained positions for flexibility and clinical depth. This strategy requires detailed job descriptions that outline a progression of duties and responsibilities, which can chart a career path that dually promotes long-term employment and job satisfaction.

Regular Skills Gap Analyses

A very deliberate approach to skills gap analysis must be undertaken at all levels within the organization. As deficiencies are identified, individual and team development plans should be put in place to raise the level of competency, thus closing the skill gap. At the program management level, clinical and business skills, including an understanding of new technology, an understanding of the financial parameters important to profitability, and the ability to BOTH operationally and strategically manage can be important to success. Likewise, an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, lead change, and build high-functioning work teams should be assessed.

For unit managers, formal competency evaluations must be in place for staff and regularly assessed. Skills check lists and other annual competency tools should be rigorously employed with particular attention to high -risk procedures or situations. The goal is for standardized care day or night, weekday or weekend, etc.

Program Medical Directors also must be assessed for the skill sets they bring to their leadership positions. Since their clinical skills are usually top-notch, skill gap analysis for this group typically revolves around assessing their ability to lead and navigate tough medical, quality, and political issues.

Ongoing Professional Development

Many vehicles can be employed to drive professional growth across all levels of an organization. Formal educational programs can be developed internally. In fact, Corazon advises clients to develop regular organizational-sponsored sessions on topics that are pertinent to clinical and financial changes and challenges related to the heart and vascular specialty. For instance, the new MS-DRG changes that were enacted in October 2008 present challenges (and opportunity) for programs as they strive to accurately document patient severity of illness. Corazon recommends that regular educational sessions be held with coders, case managers, and physicians so that all have a clear understanding of documentation that can assure appropriate hospital payments.

Corazon also recommends that programs seek formal external courses to elevate the skill sets of key team members as they face the challenges of the job, or to prepare them for new roles. This can take the form of conferences and seminars, or programs such as The Corazon Academy, a unique leadership and management training program hosted by Corazon over a four month period.

During The Academy, members of the Corazon team of ‘Heart & Vascular Experts’ guide participants using a combination of hands-on experience with programs throughout the country, information from industry literature and other sources, case studies from progressive organizations, and didactic materials. Attendees are then able to apply these lessons learned to current issues at their own organizations as part of a Corazon-mentored project.

Learning from Others

Other strategies that can support a culture of continual learning include site visits to best practice programs. Corazon often arranges such visits and accompanies the client in order to facilitate the mutual learning that can happen for all physician and administrative participants. Likewise, many networking opportunities are available through participation in professional societies or through the development of industry contacts who can be tapped for information about industry trends and challenges.

All organizations should strive to create a culture of learning and continually work to develop internal talent—but, this direction must come from the top. With the support of hospital and program leadership, individual and team advancement is possible. Ralph Nader once said, "I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."

Is your team ready to compete? Batter up …

Susan Heck is a Vice President at Corazon, a national leader in specialized consulting, management resources, and recruitment services for heart and vascular program development. For more information, call (412) 364-8200 or visit
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