(This guest blog is written by Jessica Churchill, M.D. an Orthopaedic Surgery Resident at The Cleveland Clinic .  Thomas E. Kuivila, M.D., the Program Director, is sponsoring a year-long “Pathfinder” program for the residents.)

We asked Jessica to give us her impressions. I think you’ll find them entertaining and a wonderful lesson in self-awareness!

After the second scolding reminder from our program coordinator, I begrudgingly opened my email to complete the “survey” before our upcoming education day.

Jessica Churchill M.D.

The emails leading up to our education session had been a bit vague – “series of workshops”, “leadership seminars”. Unsure of what to expect, I followed the survey link.

To my relief, a personality assessment filled my computer screen. “Excellent,” I think to myself, “I can tell you already what this will say: driven, comfortable taking the lead, organized.” The assessment only took 5 minutes, and I gleefully clicked submit, awaiting my reassuring, confidence-boosting results.

See: J3P’s Research Publication and Case Studies

Not What I Expected…

“The Networker – outgoing, laidback, curious.”  I frowned. Well, that was not what I was expecting, but ok, I guess I am rather outgoing. I clicked further through my results profile.

“Outgoing – Highly sociable people can sometimes be overwhelming and dominate the conversation.”  

“Laidback – People who score like you may be less ambitious.”

“Curious – Sometimes you may be carried away with an idea and forget to consider how relevant or useful it is to others.”

Talk about a mood killer. I was less than enthused with my results to say the least. I showed up to our academic session the next day ready to zone out and ignore the obviously misguided seminar.

Learning About Myself…

To my surprise, I spent the next three hours actively engaged with my co-residents learning surprising, insightful and at times, uncomfortable, things about myself and my leadership style from the team at J3P Healthcare Solutions. Apparently, being a good surgeon is not the only skill you need to make your operating room run smoothly – who would’ve thought?

Apparently, being a good surgeon is not the only skill you need to make your operating room run smoothly – who would’ve thought?

Also, apparently, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, are not always consistent with our actual personality tendencies.  But knowing those underlying tendencies are step one toward becoming more effective at managing relationships with patients, families, colleagues, and staff.

See: The Role of Self-Determination in Physician Success, by Alan Friedman, M.A.

The Program

This was the first session in a series that has us meeting every month or so to cover a different topic.  Learning about ourselves, was step one.  Then it’s been on to topics including Leadership, Building Effective Teams, Effective Relationships and Communication Techniques, Early Career Success (including finding that first job) Mentoring and Coaching, and Conflict Resolution.

The “Pathfinder” program is designed to help us with the skills that aren’t, necessarily, built into our training, but have a real impact on long-term career success and satisfaction.  We explore healthcare team dynamics and address common concerns and pitfalls that residents face when transitioning into practice.

We explore healthcare team dynamics and address common concerns and pitfalls that residents face when transitioning into practice.

The participants actually helped to design the curriculum.  We had a powerful discussion about our concerns, and about situations we’ve already seen that we may not have handled well.  It forced us to think about our role as leaders, and how to be effective in that role.

Assumptions and Career Challenges

Actually, the ACGME competencies were recently expanded to reflect that these skills are, indeed, important.  They now include, for instance, professionalism, and interpersonal and communication skills.  These are things we all, probably, take for granted.  “Of course, I’m professional, and have outstanding interpersonal and communication skills!”

“Of course, I’m professional, and have outstanding interpersonal and communication skills!”

Then the team at J3P told us stories of otherwise highly skilled physicians running into serious career challenges because they, too, assumed they had those skills.   The sessions have been a nice change of pace.  They are interactive, so we work with our colleagues to explore these issues and challenges, share stories and learn from each other.

See: Stop Labeling Physicians as “Disruptive.”

The Future

Although I did not go to that first session with a lot of optimism, the experience exceeded my expectations, and I look forward to the remaining sessions and then, maybe, avoiding some of the scary career stories.

I’ve picked up on the fact that this learning, like medicine, does not end with this program. In fact, it sounds like it never ends. 

Actually, beyond avoiding sheer career failure, I think I’ll be far more attune to how I can form productive working relationships with colleagues and staff, connect with patients better, and be an effective leader – all of the other stuff that goes into being a successful surgeon.

About J3P Healthcare Solutions

J3P Healthcare Solutions is a firm specializing in physician executive coaching, training and development, and strategic consulting.  You can learn more about their work at www.j3phealthcaresolutions.com

Alan Friedman, M.A., is the Founder and CEO of J3P Healthcare Solutions.