‘To be a physician is to lead’ is a famous saying. It includes leading various aspects in different stages of one’s medical career– care teams, seminars, triage, departments or even one’s health setup while practising. Before going forward, here are some questions for you– “Who can be a great leader?” “Who do you choose as your leader?” “What qualities do you look or want in a leader?”
The answer to this may be varied, but one thing that will be common is ‘Management skills’, contradicting the general opinion that management is of interest to the MBA grads and not others. Definitely not doctors! But in reality, the scope of management is much broader than this. Everyone everywhere needs to have management skills, including doctors.
Now, revisiting our question- “Do doctors need to have management skills?”
The answer is yes! But is it necessary? I would say yes, keeping in mind the ultimate goal of doctors, i.e., providing the best patient care.
Increasing competition, government pressure, limited resources, and increased demands from society have all shifted the onus of hospital management in the hands of non-clinician managers trained in the management but not in the medical profession, medical problems and caring for patients. A clinical person has a thorough understanding of what is needed by the community, their health needs, and what is/should be the priority of the healthcare system to achieve the ultimate goal of providing the best care to the patients.
A non-clinical person has less idea about these things, which affects the quality of decisions taken in a healthcare setup. Also, doctors prefer to be led by a like-minded individual, preferably a doctor who understands the management or clinical aspects individually and the interplay between them in every decision.
Having a Physician-Led Healthcare Facility
The most important thing in this world for anyone is ‘LIFE’. One can imagine the amount of pressure doctors have to work under daily; I repeat ‘daily’ because somebody’s life is at stake here. Dealing with peoples’ lives is not easy; the pressure one has when you are the one whose choices/decisions decide whether it’s a life saved or a life lost. In this, I feel stress management, resilience, preventing burnout, performing risk analysis and making an appropriate decision comes down to the interplay between ‘Management’ and ‘Clinical Knowledge’.
Managing time, taking breaks when needed, taking care of one’s mental health, learning how to manage stress, asking for help, knowing when to stop have an impact on the health and wellbeing of the doctor, and thus an indirect effect on the patient care. Strong leadership ensures less physician burnout and higher work satisfaction among doctors.
In a country like India, where the doctor-patient ratio is 1:1700 against recommended 1:1000, healthcare managers must know how to manage and allocate the resources for high-quality patient care. To enable physicians to give their best, they must be constantly motivated to work collaboratively, maintain good interpersonal relationships, handle conflicts, be open to new ideas, support and encourage team members.
Doctors are required to understand and have some training in professional management skills. Also, it is economically sustainable for a health care organisation to have a single, highly effective physician leader running the business and holding both clinical and administrative responsibilities. Also, to those doctors who want to make a significant impact on patient care and quality, management skills offer us to take patient care and profession forwards.