The Specialist Services Committee recently undertook an evaluation of the Physician Leadership Program (PLP) to assess the impact that the program has had in developing the participant physicians’ leadership abilities. The PLP was developed in 2013 by UBC-Sauder, Vancouver Coastal Health and Provincial Health Services Authority, and is funded by the Shared Care Committee (SCC) and Specialist Services Committee (SSC).
The evaluation results were overwhelmingly positive. Over 90 per cent of physicians who participated in PLP are currently in leadership roles with over two thirds attaining more responsibility since completing the program. Over 80 per cent of the participants indicated that PLP had a significant impact on their interest in formal leadership roles with 52 per cent of physicians having taken further formal training after PLP to enhance their leadership skills. One participant noted, "it opened many doors for me and started me on a journey that I had not expected, but find challenging and rewarding."
Originally designed to help senior physicians move up the leadership ladder within their health authorities, the program slowly evolved to also include less seasoned physicians in helping them develop leadership skills.
The key areas of impact, related to effectiveness in communication and relationship-building such as being a confident leader, building relationships to influence change, being more persuasive and adopting more collaborative approaches to problem-solving and inspiring others. One participant sums up their experience with these words, “PLP actually has the capacity of influencing how you view the world and interact with others. It can change what you do on a day-to-day basis, even outside of medical leadership – powerful.”
“It let the genie out of the bottle in terms of finding out how interesting leadership is.”
In order to participate and receive funding for PLP, physicians must obtain approval from their health authority’s VP of medicine. Health authority sponsors and other stakeholders who were interviewed as part of the evaluation all broadly supported its work – one HA representative said, “it’s hard to say, measurably, because there’s such a spectrum of starting points for leaders. It gives people a lot of background and seeds ideas… and it has made people better in their roles.”
Action Learning Projects
As part of the program, each physician is required to undertake an Action Learning Project (ALP) as a way to apply their learning, by collaborating directly with a team of operational or administrative counterparts from their organization (usually the health authority) to influence real change in their department.
The evaluation found that just over half (54 per cent) of participants were able to fully complete their ALP as planned; a further quarter (25 per cent) were able to partially complete it and 11 per cent are still in progress. A majority of participants and sponsors (60 per cent and 62 per cent respectively) indicated that their ALP led to a change that improved patient outcomes. Well over one third of the participants (40 per cent) mentioned that their projects led to changes that were at the health authority or regional level, or higher.
Challenges and Recommendations
One challenging factor in the evaluation was measuring the organizational and system-level impact made by the program. This was challenging because there was a lack of clearly articulated organizational or system-level objectives, baseline data or an embedded measurement system.
Areas identified for further improvement included considering two separate streams of training (e.g., team-based leadership training and/or leadership training for potential leaders), more measurable program outcomes and monitoring, as well as better integration of ALPs with organizational structures and priorities. Support for health authorities to create a systematic approach for PLP selection and internal reporting after training, to provide opportunities for coaching/mentoring PLP graduates and peer networking/shared learning. And finally, the proverbial need for effective data access and use by PLP participants and graduates.
SSC will continue to support the PLP based on the positive evaluation results, and is going to use the evaluation recommendations to improve the program further in partnership with UBC-Sauder and the health authorities.