Last September while attending the 2016 NAMSS Educational Conference in Boston, my manager, Vicki Searcy and I, observed many of the attendees were senior Medical Staff Service Professionals (MSSPs) who had been in their leadership positions for several years. This prompted a discussion of succession planning, how we can encourage young professionals entering the work force to work in the Medical Staff Services environment and how to (eventually) plan for retirement.
“Succession management is the process of identifying those jobs considered to be at the core of the organization – too critical to be left vacant or filled by any but the best qualified persons – and then creating a strategic plan to fill them with experienced and capable employees.” (Wikipedia)
The role of the Medical Staff Services Director/Manager certainly fits this category of job/position regardless of your organizational structure, be it a hospital, a credentials verification organization (CVO), managed care/provider enrollment position or any of the myriad of positions Medical Staff Services Professionals (“MSSPs”) now hold.
So how do you do Succession Management?? Are your staff Certified Professional Medical Services Management (CPMSM) or Certified Provider Credentialing Specialist (CPCS) certified? If not, are they seeking certification? Are you actively training your Medical Staff Manager or Coordinator to fill in your position when out of the office, whether it’s for a day or an extended period, such as vacation or an unexpected medical leave? Would they be able to answer the countless questions posed by the medical staff or facility leaders? Are they familiar with the regulatory and/or accreditation standards associated with your facility so if a situation arises during your absence they know how to obtain the answer? Are they conversant with your facilities’ legal experts, so they know who to call if a legal response is required? Often if a legal situation arises it cannot wait for your return, but may have a reporting requirement associated with it.
It is vitally important to cross-train your staff so they can not only cover each other’s daily work load when someone is absent but also so they understand the “why” of the job. What are the standards or regulatory requirements for Primary Source Verifications (PSVs) of state licenses, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or Controlled Substance, background checks and/or National Practitioner Database? Are they familiar with hospital medical staff bylaws and rules and regulations? Or your specific facility policy and procedures? If an impromptu survey was to take place would they know how to present a credential file under their responsibility?
In my previous director position, if a CMS or public health surveyor requested a credential file for review, the Medical Staff Coordinator responsible for the file would attend the review session with me so they would become familiar with what the surveyor’s questions and how to present the credential file.
“Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die. In dictatorships, it aims for continuity of leadership, preventing a chaotic power struggle by preventing a power vacuum.” (Wikipedia)
Although not a dictatorship, the Medical Staff Office is certainly one area of the hospital where a smooth transition would be ideal to avoid a gap in this vital leadership position.
Anne M. Mulcahy, former chairperson and CEO of the Xerox Corporation said, “One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”
This is exactly how I feel succession planning should occur in a Medical Staff Services environment. When a seasoned MSSP walks out of the door for the last time often it is with 20+ years of experience and historical knowledge, leaving a large void for the hospital leadership to fill. Historically most facilities would rather fill the manager/director position from within the Medical Staff Office in order to maintain current practices and have a smooth transition.
In speaking to many of my counterparts, we all have different methods on how we plan for succession. A good friend and past President of the California Association Medical Staff Services (CAMSS), Lynn Phillips, CPMSM, CPCS, who is looking to retire in early 2019 shared her thoughts with me when asked to give input on her successor.
“As I begin my plans for retirement in early 2019, I had to think who could transition into my position of Director of a Healthcare Delivery System CVO. How do I assure that our customers and the CVO team will see a seamless change in leadership? Even more important, from what source would or could I find the new leader? As we know, there is a shortage of experienced MSSPs and even more shortage at the management level. My manager, while extremely supportive, does not understand the day-to-day details of our department, the accreditation and regulatory standards which our department must comply with, the needs of the MSSP at the affiliate level of our organization and the ability to meet, present and answer questions of our Governing Body, Chief Medical Office and other administrative leaders in our organization related to credentialing topics. She tasked me with identifying a successor.
How do I begin succession planning and take 30 years of institutional and credentialing knowledge and pass that down? Given this luxury of time to identify possible succession candidates, I wanted to start internally with my team. I had not hired the majority of my team; I inherited many of them. My first step was to identify my top performers, those who consistently meet performance metrics, those who actively participate in quality assessment and lean events. Another key attribute for me was who the other team members seek out for assistance; I looked for those who are well respected by their co-workers and affiliates/customers. After this initial drill down I began asking poignant questions during 1:1 meetings. I wanted to identify those who have management as a career ladder. I might add that while the job description required certification and education, I did not let that be the only deciding factor in identifying who might be a possible candidate. You can be certified and have higher education, but that does not necessarily equate to the necessary skills to lead a department.
During my 1:1 meetings I was listening for transferable skills. Management experience, the ability to assess and find solutions to problems, a love of technology, sharing the same organization vision and not afraid of CHANGE. The experience did not necessarily come from a Credentialing based working environment. The candidate, if not certified, would be required to prepare and take the NAMSS certification test. The candidate would need to make this investment of time and money. Through all of this silent vetting if you will, I identified a great internal candidate. A veteran in his second career path. All along he was quietly, efficiently and effectively demonstrating the skills that would make a great leader. He just needed someone to ask the right questions. With the approval of my manager, we have embarked on a journey of mentoring and leadership training. Taking 30 years of my knowledge and passing the information on to the next.”
Both Succession Management and Succession Planning are vitally important functions of a senior Medical Staff Services Professional in a leadership role, whether you are seeking to change positions or looking at retirement somewhere in the future. From the very first day of your job in a leadership role you should be preparing your staff for certification and a future leadership position as a Medical Staff Services Professional.