December 2011

A Year of Formation for Clinical Leaders


Chief medical officers and chief nursing officers from across the system gathered at CHI’s first CMO/CNO Summit, October 12-14 in Henderson, NV, to launch a full year of formational experiences. The summit, organized through CHI’s Center for Formation and Organizational Effectiveness, also gave clinical leaders the opportunity to develop closer working relationships.

Developing Dyads

Pat Patton, RN, vice president of clinical leadership development, and Manoj Pawar, MD, vice president of clinical operations improvement, believe that CHI is unique in its focus on effective clinical leadership dyads. “A dyad forms when two individuals work as a pair,” said Pawar. “CHI’s chief medical officer, Steve Moore, and chief nursing officer, Kathy Sanford, are an excellent example of a clinical leadership dyad. They collaborate every day. CHI is the only health system I’m aware of that is actively developing its clinical leadership as intact dyads, with physician and nurse executives experiencing their development together, rather than in parallel.”

“Dyads of clinical leaders with strong relational skills will be essential to the success of CHI during the next 10 years,” said Patton. “Health care is a very challenging business. Our clinical leaders need to be nimble, adaptive and collaborative in order to contribute to CHI’s goals and serve our communities in the best way.”

Preparing Through Assessment

“We prepared for the summit in a very effective way, by completing an online assessment that inventoried our individual leadership behaviors and styles,” said Suellyn Ellerbe, RN, executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at Saint Clare’s Health System, Denville, NJ. “The Strategic Talent Management Group helped us understand the results, which prepared us to attend the summit knowing which leadership skills we want to develop.”

The summit focused on skills and abilities that CHI had previously identified as essential for clinical leaders: leading as part of a dyad, conflict management and self-care. “With so much turbulence in health care, we need our clinical leaders to take good care of themselves so they can be innovative and resilient when faced with new challenges,” said Patton. Attendees also learned how Catholic Identity relates to clinical leadership. “Integration of the mission-based aspect of leadership in Catholic health care is critical to this program,” said Pawar. After the summit, 90 percent of attendees said the material presented was relevant to their roles, and 93 percent said it was of value to them.

Building Stronger Relationships

Ellerbe attended the summit with Saint Clare’s chief medical officer, Alma Ratcliffe, MD. “We already had a strong working relationship, but the summit showed us ways to make it even stronger,” Ellerbe said. “We talked about how physicians and nurses often use different jargon to describe the same things. We learned some common language that will help us improve communication, especially when we’re dealing with a difficult situation.”

CHI’s clinical leaders will continue through a series of educational and formational sessions that will further develop skills such as conflict management and communications. In the second half of the year-long program, they will expand their skills by choosing from a number of educational electives.

“It was really wonderful to begin this process by pulling all the CMOs and CNOs together for the summit,” said Ellerbe. “It was valuable to spend that time together and begin to learn new ways to work together to achieve the results that we all want.”