Group of doctors talking about corona virus on conference

Developing Healthcare Leaders and Physicians During a Pandemic

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Even before the pandemic occurred, my team was already strategizing on more effective ways to develop skills for leaders and physicians in our health system. Many of our leadership courses were historically instructor-led, in-person offerings through our leadership institute. However, since many of our leaders are in clinical roles, it was difficult for them to attend a four- to eight-hour in-person session. Nonetheless, my team began designing a new suite of learning, which included microlearnings, on-demand e-learnings, live webinars, virtual book clubs, and learning cohorts.

Prior to the pandemic, my organization development and learning (OD&L) team, along with senior leadership, identified the need for leadership development for physicians, especially for those who aspire to increase their responsibility in their current or future roles as well as for those physicians who have been promoted into their first leadership position. It was obvious that physicians are exceptional in their clinical skills, but few have had any formal leadership training. In addition, many physicians are promoted into leadership positions within my healthcare organization and are set up to fail without the proper education, tools, and resources. Our desired future state was for physicians to be more prepared to take on future leadership roles, create a pipeline of talent for succession planning, and encourage physicians to be more effective and successful in their roles.

We conducted informal and formal needs assessments among the physician population. After gathering and compiling the data and presenting it to senior leaders, several recommendations were implemented:

  • A leadership program specific to physicians was developed.
  • A bundled curriculum was completed (resulting in a physician leadership certificate) and launched.
  • An infographic on topics that the physicians requested was developed, and online modules were created.

This leadership program specific to physicians was launched in January 2020. This six-month program was designed to meet once a month for full-day in-person sessions. The first two sessions went without a hitch, but in March, the pandemic hit. The March session never took place, and the April program was reconfigured to be a one-hour virtual check-in session. The May program was converted into a half-day virtual course, and we will continue to modify the sessions as necessary for the remainder of the program. This physician leadership program is one example of how my team quickly shifted to the ever-changing work climate during these uncertain times.


In addition to the programs specific to developing physicians, other offerings from our leadership institute were reconfigured to meet the needs of clinical and nonclinical leaders across the system. For example, in lieu of facilitating a four-hour in-person leadership development workshop, that content was converted to a one-hour virtual session. Even though this session is more of an introduction to the topics that would have been discussed during the in-person sessions, the feedback that my team has been receiving from the virtual sessions has been positive. Nonetheless, my team will be continually working on developing new virtual offerings and reworking the content that has been previously developed.

This pandemic has forced my OD&L team to think about doing things different in a much quicker timeframe. I can see that post COVID-19, many of these learning modalities and virtual offerings will be offered ongoing and will give more access to more leaders, especially physicians and clinical leaders. Many positives are coming out of this situation, so it is up to us to continue to develop our physicians and healthcare leaders in the most effective and timely manner possible.

About the Author

Sandra Vince is currently an organizational development consultant at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the healthcare industry for nearly 25 years. She has specific expertise in the following areas: coaching, leadership development, training, and facilitating; conducting needs assessments to determine learning and development needs; public speaking; creating and designing; program management; on-boarding & new employee orientation; enhancing corporate culture; organizational development responsibilities including strategic initiatives and promoting organizational growth.

Sandra collaborates closely with the HR leadership team to create, design, and implement OD philosophy, initiatives, programs, tactics, and processes that impact leadership development, employee engagement, patient/customer experience, career tracks and related areas. She facilitates, guides and advises leaders on organizational development issues and solutions including change management, leadership development, employee engagement, performance excellence, team building, customer service and related OD interventions. Sandra conducts assessments and uses data to provide consultation on interventions that will close gaps from current to desired future state. She also partners with HR colleagues, leadership teams and physicians to ensure optimal outcomes for key initiatives. In addition, she develops and leads OD projects and delivers desired outcomes.

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Thank you for the insights Sandra!
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