Should You Consider Formal Physician Leadership Training?

June 25, 2024 by
Should You Consider Formal Physician Leadership Training?
MedGeo Ventures, Allison Schwartze
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As the healthcare industry increasingly recognizes the value of physician leadership, the need for strong physician leaders continues to grow. Traditional medical training offers little to develop leadership skills or an understanding of the business of healthcare, so multiple programs have arisen to fill this void. So, what kind of training is needed to become a physician leader? And which programs are most impactful? 

The ROI on physician leadership training is difficult to measure. Yet, physicians and their employers (who may be investing in the training) deserve confirmation that the training is worth both the time and expense. The American Association of Physician Leaders (AAPL) took an important step toward quantifying the value of physician leadership training in a recent survey, the results of which are published in the new report, “Profiles in Success”: Certified Physician Executives Share the Value and ROI of their CPE Education. The findings overwhelmingly support the need for physician leadership training and document numerous examples of positive changes resulting from competency-based training.

The Physician Executive Path 

From undergrad and medical school to residency and fellowship, the path to becoming a physician requires extensive education and training. Even after the completion of training, continuing medical education is a must for all practicing physicians, and for those considering physician leadership, even more training is advised. The increasing prevalence of dual MD/MBA programs suggests the growing popularity of this path. According to one study, the percentage of programs now offering a dual MD/MBA program increased from 26% in 2002 to 61% in 2022, and the number of graduates from such nearly tripled in the same time period. 

These dual MD/MBA or MD/MHA programs are great for students who are planning for a future as a physician executive, but many physicians don’t start thinking about a leadership path until they have at least a few years of clinical practice under their belts. For this group, an online or part-time master’s program may be an option. However, a master’s degree is not always required for leadership roles. Some employers offer an internal leadership development program to prepare physicians for bigger roles. Competency-based leadership training programs, such as the one offered by the AAPL, are another popular option. More than 4,000 physicians have earned the AAPL’s Certified Physician Executive (CPE) credential since the program’s inception.

Measuring the Value of the CPE

This group was the target of the AAPL’s recent research. Alumni of the CPE program were asked to evaluate its impact on their careers in leadership as well as on their organizations. More than 90% of the 365 respondents said the AAPL CPE program empowered them to achieve leadership goals both individually and organizationally. Also encouraging, 70% of alumni respondents attributed the changes they had implemented at their organizations to the knowledge acquired in the AAPL program. 

Alumni were asked to share the most significant outcomes resulting from their AAPL training and, when possible, to quantify those results. The AAPL report reveals these open responses, specifically noting improvements in the quality of care, patient safety, financial performance, physician performance and satisfaction, culture change, and crisis leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report concludes with certainty that the AAPL training and CPE credentials have positively impacted both alumni and the organizations they serve.

Must-Haves for Physician Leadership Training

The survey of CPE alumni did well in documenting the value of the CPE program, but the AAPL also sought to understand the common components of the most impactful physician leadership development programs (PLDPs). For this, the AAPL analyzed multiple peer-reviewed studies evaluating the influence of PLDPs. One notable study of 35 PLDPs concluded a PLDP must 1) help physicians acquire self-awareness to improve people skills, 2) encourage network building, 3) incorporate quality improvement projects supported by the physician’s organization, and 4) tailor the content to the individual needs of the physician in order to affect change. This curriculum is the most likely to produce leaders who implement positive changes in the areas of culture, quality improvement, and the leadership pipeline.   

AAPL’s analysis also revealed the importance of having a healthy leadership ecosystem within an organization. A physician leader, regardless of his or her training, can only be as effective as the leadership ecosystem allows. The administration must buy into the value of physician leadership if the leader hopes to effectively transfer the skills and knowledge gained in a PLDP to the workplace. That is, a healthy leadership ecosystem must be present for a physician leader, regardless of training, to successfully implement change in the organization.

Is Formal Physician Leadership Training For You?

The answer to this question largely depends on your professional goals, but if you are serious about becoming a physician executive, you should plan to pursue some kind of formal leadership training. Can physicians take on leadership roles without formal training? Absolutely. However, additional education in this area can only help you perform better. Most employers recognize this and will encourage physicians with leadership potential to pursue some kind of training, even if only through a mentor.

If you do choose to enroll in a program outside of your organization, there is no shortage of options. While you can’t go wrong with an MHA or MBA from a respected institution, there is solid evidence supporting the value of the CPE credential as well. Whichever path you choose, you’ll want to remain connected to the recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search for assistance finding the right physician executive job when the time is right. 

Jackson Physician Search is an Executive Alliance partner of the American Association of Physician Leadership and provided support for this study and the resulting report. If you are considering physician executive opportunities, the Physician Executive recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search can connect you with opportunities all over the country. Reach out today or search physician jobs online now.


Have more questions about the physician job search? 

The Physician Career Resource Center provides articles, whitepapers, and infographics designed to help physicians through all aspects of the physician job search. 

Visit OEM Explore today!

This article provided by Jackson Physician Search

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