A problem that could occur as clinicians’ ranks grow on executive teams is resistance from other members of the C-suite, including the CEO, says Angood. “There might be a sense of distrust, jealousy, or loss of territory and influence,” he says. “That needs to be addressed up front and people need to be aware of it. It’s all about interpersonal relationships.”
When it comes to wider industry opinion regarding clinicians in the C-suite, Massingale has encountered examples of both extremes, from traditional leaders who don’t trust a physician’s ability to read a P&L statement to physicians and nurses who believe nonclinicians aren’t equipped to make decisions affecting patient care.
Looking at executive turnover as evidence isn’t necessarily fair, he notes, considering that the average tenure for any hospital CEO is about three and a half years. “If a physician happened to get a CEO job and is out in 3 or 4 years, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just one more average statistic and not an indictment against the clinician leader.”
For the record, Massingale holds the moderate opinion that either a “lay” leader or clinician can run a healthcare organization successfully, provided he or she has the right preparation and mindset.
Rubino, for instance, acknowledges that the 24/7 demands of running a hospital were a lot to take on at this stage in his life and career. “I’m 30 years in. I’m a grandfather,” he says. “My wife looked at me and said, ‘Really? At this point you want this additional level of responsibility?’ But I see it as an honor and privilege that I’ve been given the opportunity as a physician to serve in one of the highest levels of the organization and to have my concerns, thoughts, and values appreciated when we’re in this transformation. It meant so much to me to have that opportunity, which is why I embraced it.”
Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.