Effective communication is key
Rashmi Koul, MD
STORIES FROM OUR CCPES
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I feel strongly that a key factor in the success of physician leadership is to create good relations between physicians and organizations, which can only be nurtured with open communication and a shared vision.
My story in the health care system goes back to 1990 when I completed medical school in India. Even then, I had a passion for health leadership, but in those days leaders in the health care system were mostly non-physicians. Doctors were taught to go to the hospital before dawn, focus on the needs of each patient, and not worry about anything else. It was someone else’s job to look into our needs. I had no idea how complex the health care system was until I began my leadership journey.
I received my CCPE in summer 2013 when I was lead physician for thoracic and central nervous system malignancies in Saskatchewan. Later that year, I interviewed for the job of medical director for CancerCare Manitoba’s radiation oncology program. The interview covered many components of physician leadership, and I quickly realized how difficult the job was. However, I am able to provide insight and useful perspectives that are valuable even outside the scope of medical practice. As both a respected member of the community and a key player in the health care system, I have the opportunity to get involved and make a difference at many levels: individual, community, and society.
My leadership role at CancerCare Manitoba, as well as health care in general, has grown in complexity. I act as a bridge, filling the gaps between clinicians, managers, and organizational leadership. This is a big challenge as well as an unprecedented opportunity for me. I use various tools that I learned during Physician Leadership Institute courses, and one that has come to my rescue often is physician engagement and effective communication. Top
Effective communication is a key interpersonal skill that has many benefits. Communication is a two-way process, involving both how we send and receive messages. I learned that it’s sometimes better to say nothing until you’re certain that your actions will ring true. I learned to adopt strategies that are simple and easy to implement. I learned to make time for myself despite my busy schedule. Although emails serve a valuable purpose, in no way are they a substitute for face-to-face communication.
However, there are days when things don’t work the way you want them to. Sometimes barriers, such as holding on to preconceptions or making assumptions and ignoring details or circumstances, create a poor environment. No matter how genuine, open, and honest you are, there will always be colleagues who will never be “on same page.”
I learned to focus on issues, not singling out a difficult colleague. Over time, I have improved in terms of various skill sets. Poor planning, inexperience, stubbornness, and lack of vision are the worst enemies of a leader. Even if you fail, always choose to respond well. Sometimes moving on is not a bad idea. Top
I feel strongly that a key factor in the success of physician leadership is to create good relations between physicians and organizations, which can only be nurtured with open communication and a shared vision. I felt very humbled when the physicians in my department nominated me for an award of excellence, as they truly felt that I am their honest voice. They felt that I have good skills in directing and motivating people and that I know how to interact with staff in ways that motivate them. That meant a lot to me.
I feel that my challenges are similar to those of any other leader, whether he or she is working in an integrated hospital delivery system, a large multispecialty physician group, or a small physician practice. Although the tactics may vary from one setting to the next, I believe that the core and broad roles that physician leaders need to assume will not change.
Rashmi Koul, MBBS, DNB, MD, FRCPC, CCPE, is head of the Department of Radiation Oncology and clinical director of the Radiation Oncology Program at CancerCare Manitoba. She is also an associate professor at the University of Manitoba.
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