Are you a healthcare professional with high career aspirations? Before you take over the hospital (or, heck, the whole healthcare system), you’ll first need your bosses to recognize you as a rising star. Experts offer six tips on how you can stand out from your peers and get noticed.
1. Focus on Your Individual Talents
Rather than attempting to improve in every aspect of your job, rising stars often excel in specific areas. Contrary to popular belief, “you don’t necessarily need to look at what you don’t do well and try to improve in that area,” says R.M. Carpenter, manager of the medical intensive-care unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center. “Instead, you should identify your strengths and play on those strengths.”
2. Propose Solutions
Healthcare’s rising stars are “solution people,” says Quint Studer, a former hospital CEO who is now a healthcare management consultant and author. “It’s easy for employees to come up with a problem, but if you really want to stand out, bring a solution,” he says. “Instead of saying, ‘We ran out of linen this weekend,’ say, ‘We ran out of linen the last four weekends, because the census is up. Maybe we should readjust the inventory.’” According to Studer, “high performers bring solutions, middle performers bring problems and low performers blame people for the problem.”
Adds Diana Halfer, administrator for clinical and organizational development at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago: “Notice what problems your boss is working on and try to come up with solutions. Think about what you or your team can do to solve that problem.”
3. Ace the Unpleasant Conversations
Healthcare professionals headed for the top aren’t afraid to confront their peers and address contentious issues. According to Halfer, it could be as simple as shutting down a colleague’s griping with, “It sounds like you’ve got real issues. Maybe you should talk directly with the staff member about that issue or have this conversation with your manager.”
Or it could be as tricky as addressing concerns over patient safety. “Patient-safety issues sometimes arise, because clinicians are afraid to say something because they’re afraid of upsetting people,” Studer says. “High performers put the safety of patients first and are respected for it.” Avoid being accusatory, however. High performers usually address patient-safety concerns with nonaccusatory statements like, “Help me understand why you do it this way” as opposed to, “You’re doing it wrong,” Studer says.
4. Communicate Effectively
Besides the ability to broach tough topics, rising stars also need to communicate effectively and diplomatically with a wide range of constituencies, such as physicians, patients’ families and transportation aides. “You need to be able to speak different languages” depending on your audience, Carpenter notes.
It sounds obvious, but another way you can be seen as a go-getter is by participating in opportunities for process improvement, such as helping out with staff continuing ed or helping your team implement new regulatory standards. “It always makes someone look very proactive and demonstrates leadership when they get involved,” Halfer says. “If you produce good results, you’ll get noticed and called upon for other projects and opportunities to advance,” she says. Healthcare professionals who are very active contributors on their units can step up to take on projects that involve other departments; such projects will offer greater organizational exposure, she says. The bottom line: “If your boss asks for volunteers, volunteer,” Halfer says.
6. Be Proactive about Your Professional Development
Healthcare professionals with lofty professional aspirations need to take control of their own career development. “Most leaders in healthcare administration admire someone who wants to be developed and who can accept feedback,” Studer says. Studer recommends sending an email or note to your boss requesting a meeting to discuss four questions:
• Can you tell me what I’m doing well?
• What are some things you feel I could do better?
• Are my priorities in place?
• What training or education would you recommend?
Discussing these four points periodically can help an up-and-comer skyrocket to the top quickly. “Healthcare leaders always feel that employees who take control of their professional development are very mature,” Studer says. “They’re shocked that the employee is open to development.”