Depending on the organization, front-line leaders may receive minimal leadership education upon hire or throughout employment. Literature suggests leader development improves the leader’s competency and increases engagement and retention. Summit Health provides coordinated care across urgent care, primary care, and multispecialty practices with more than 2,800 providers and 13,000 employees in over 370 locations in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. The organization is expanding rapidly, requiring innovative and exceptional front-line leaders to navigate an everchanging healthcare environment. This pilot’s purpose was to create a clinical operation leadership development model that would support the organization’s mission, vision and goals, providing a creative and collaborative learning environment to promote self-reflection, continuing education, and personal and professional growth.
The pilot focused on front-line leaders in three service lines: dermatology, endocrinology, and rheumatology. The program launched in September 2021 and consisted of 20 participants. Each monthly meeting consists of organizational initiatives presented by other departments within the organization to communicate new or revised policies, protocols, and/or processes; departmental initiatives specific to the service lines; a book club discussing leadership topics; team-building activities to develop interpersonal relationships; and an open forum providing each leader an opportunity to share successes, provide peer support for challenging issues, and brainstorm future initiatives.
First goal: Promote service line autonomy and accountability, enable registered nurses to work to the top of license, and contribute to service line initiatives. The first initiative was to improve managing medication prior authorizations. A unit was established to complete prior authorizations for the three service lines, reduce denials, and allow more time for the clinical team members to focus on provider support, telephone triage, and patient education. In the past seven months, authorization denials decreased by approximately 7%. Clinical time gained from this initiative is focused on quality improvement. The nurses are developing telephone triage protocols and collaborating with the clinical team to create reference binders for new hires and the float team. Endocrinology nurses are developing a diabetes protocol to track patients who receive insulin dose adjustments. We received an innovation award for this initiative and plan to expand the unit to other departments.
Second goal: Mentor professional development. Front-line leaders regularly meet with their supervisor to review accomplishments, discuss opportunities for improvement, and establish goals for professional growth. Each front-line leader is encouraged to join and be active in a professional organization, achieve national board certification, and attend at least one conference per year. To date, all 20 front-line leaders have attended or have registered for a conference.
Future opportunities: Provide time and encouragement for more front-line leaders to actively engage in a professional organization. Offer resources and support to increase national board certification. Develop a formal mentorship program.
The Institute of Medicine in its “Future of Nursing” report stated that leadership development and mentoring programs should be available to cultivate leaders to effectively foster change and advance healthcare. Although this pilot was performed on a small scale, evidence suggests that the concept is successful and scalable to other service lines.