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Docs, Admin Don't Trust Each Other, Says Leadership Expert

Docs, Admin Don't Trust Each Other, Says Leadership Expert

Mark Hertling, a Retired Lt. General, was former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army and over the course of a 37-year career, he amassed a wealth of military honors and recognition. He retired as a respected authority in military matters, so much so that CNN uses him as an onscreen analyst on frequent occasions.

What does this have to with healthcare? Everything. Hertling's experience in the battlefield has given him new life in his second career at Florida Hospital Adventist Health System, where he serves as senior vice president of global partnering, leadership development, and health performance strategies. He runs the health system's physician leadership program, using the values he learned in the military to train doctors, nurses, and administrators in eight different courses.

Hertling, who authored a book called, "Growing Physician Leaders" recently spoke with Physicians Practice on his transition from military general to physician mentor in a two-part interview. Part one explored how he made the transition and how he teaches physicians in his program. In part two, Hertling talks about the biggest issues he sees  physicians struggle with in today's healthcare landscape and offers advice to members of the frustrated profession.

Below is part two of the interview.

What are the biggest issues you see with physicians in today's healthcare landscape?

The number one issue is a lack of trust and it flows both ways. That's a critical element of leadership; generating trust in an organization. Doctors distrust the adm
inistrators and the administrators distrust the doctors. Both think the other side is only after money and there is that disconnect. The things we are teaching, it's not PhD-level leadership…these are the basics. What I'm seeing, from the standpoint of a guy who has trained on leadership all my life....as we teach the basics [of leadership] and talk about the basics…these are really smart people, but they've never had an ounce of the kind of training that makes them look at themselves. They are so focused on others. They are overworked. Part of the reason they are overworked is they use some of the wrong techniques. For the most part, physicians don't communicate well. That's causing problems…from a patient experience standpoint and from how you generate answers to tough problems.

In the military, we have problems generating trust with our civilian masters when we talk in our military lexicon. It took me several years [as a] general officer to realize that you have adjust your communication techniques to who you are talking to. This seems simple, but unfortunately most people get stuck in their own profession. I see doctors who don't talk to well to administrators and because of that communication gap…not just with administrators but with patients…things don't get done and there is a constant disconnect and constant contribution to burnout.

What's been the result of your program at Florida Hospital?

We've had 250 people go through the course, 179 are physicians. We have 3,000 physicians at Florida Hospital, some are employed, most are serving at practices, some of which are in private [practice] and some in the hospital. What we try and do is get a mix of all of those and get a mix of the different sub specialties…We're seeing two major changes: Those who have gone through the course are starting to contribute more and [are] trusting the administration because they've got a look under the tent flap. The other change is that our administration...and we have a new CEO and he is hot on this… is saying [they] want physicians involved in the decision making and the task force, as opposed to people who don't understand the connection to the patients.

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