Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Accelerating Change in Healthcare - Part III

This article is a portion of the following publication:
Sorenson, T.D. (2016). Accelerating Change in Healthcare: Considerations for the Health Professions Pipeline. The Advisor: Journal of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, 36(3), 9-13.

 Implications for Future Health Care Professionals

So what does all of this mean for future health care professionals? For one, it may mean considering a broader scope of traits desired in "ideal" candidates for the health professions.

What traits do we typically seek? When I did a cursory search of advice to potential candidates for the health professions, I found the following traits described as being most desirable: strong communication and problem solving skills, empathy, emotional stability, flexibility, attention to detail and mature interpersonal skills. It's hard to argue with this list. At my school, we would certainly like to see all of our incoming students hold these traits. So when we think about the "ideal" candidate, we aren't thinking about changing the list of traits we look for. What we need to do is add to it.

After reading my description of the evolving dynamics in health care delivery (Part I & Part II), what would YOU add to this list? 

Here are the four characteristics I would add: 
  • Understanding that lines are blurring - Students seeking a career in the health professions should understand that professional roles are changing. Overlap in responsibilities between types of practitioners is becoming more common. As a result, students should take a broad perspective when evaluating career options to find the best fit. Someone who thinks they want to become a physician may want to also look closely at nursing or pharmacy. Both of these professions are assuming roles that have traditionally been associated primarily with physician roles. And this may not be apparent unless a student goes out of their way to discover how these roles are evolving. Additionally, students should understand there are disciplines in health care they may not have heard of previously in part because they are new and emerging. An example might be health informatics -- because it is not traditionally a public facing role and is a relatively new discipline, it may not be on the radar of individuals for whom a career in health care is a goal.
  • Demonstrate a Team Mindset - The ideal health professions candidate of the future will have a fundamental belief that teams can achieve more than individuals. They will genuinely express an appreciation for the process of teamwork. The days of any health care practitioner working in isolation or being fully responsible for care are diminishing. The best candidates will have demonstrated through their curricular and extra-curricular activities that they are about team-oriented goals, shared successes, and demonstrating a faith in the abilities in those with whom they work.
  • Commitment to Challenge Process - In an adaptive environment, the status quo is not sufficient. The way we do things today will not likely produce the success desired in the future. The ideal candidate will have demonstrated that they constantly seek to make things better, they are willing to assume responsibility for finding new ways of producing success. When we consider extracurricular involvement of candidates going through the admissions process at my school, we don't simply look at what candidates did with respect to extracurricular activities, but HOW they did it. Were they someone who was simply involved and engaged in work that was the norm for the group? Or were they someone who felt compelled to help all of the groups they worked with commit to excellence even if that meant a need to invest the time and energy necessary to find new ways of working. We are looking for people who are committed to "making things better," not simply "getting things done."
  • Adaptability and Versatility - Because no one can predict with specificity what the future of health care will look like, candidates should be comfortable with the fact that change is inevitable. It is an exciting time to be in the health professions if one embraces the opportunities that are emerging. Vision and imagination will help one take advantage of these opportunities. Resilience will be necessary when things inevitably don't go specifically as planned. Adaptability and versatility underlie these skills. Those who have traits will likely be most energized in the dynamic environment of health care. They will be those front line "adaptive leaders" who help produce systems improvement that support optimal health care for the patients served. 
The environmental changes sparked by the Affordable Care Act are disrupting the roles of health care professionals. This dynamic influences the skills required of practitioners in the future. A dynamic and rewarding career in the health care requires candidates to see beyond, "I like science and I want to help people." 

The author of this article, Dr. Todd Sorenson, is Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems, College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.