Dr. Stephen Beeson: Creating the Ideal Practice
Stephen Beeson, MD, Founder of the Clinician Experience Project at Practicing Excellence, is an extraordinary physician and leadership coach with a message of hope for all clinicians.
He will be presenting at the Healthcare Burnout Symposium January 26th in San Francisco on “Care Team Engagement: Why It Is the Most Important Leadership Responsibility”.
While Dr. Beeson speaks primarily from the viewpoint of the front-line clinician, empowering clinicians to connect positively and directly to their patient, his message is more important for management.
As we grapple with the pandemic of physician and nurse burnout, organizations everywhere are challenged with the engagement and restoration of physicians, nurse leaders, administrators, and all healthcare workers. In his session at the Symposium, he will make the case for engagement as the antithesis of burnout, why engagement is required for all imperatives in healthcare, and what leaders say and do to create the sentiment of “this place is the best….and I am willing to do all I can to help this place succeed.”
As Dr. Beeson puts it, “I speak to clinicians from the viewpoint of what it’s like to be a modern-day primary care physician, supporting them in their transition from the realization that they have sacrificed so much just to become a physician, only to find their work filled with frustrations rather than being able to say, ‘This is exactly the practice that I’d hoped for.’”
Three Fundamental Drivers of the Clinician Experience
Dr. Beeson names three fundamental elements that are essential as a framework for clinicians to be able to say, “I’m looking forward to going to work in the morning” vs. “I’m dreading what tomorrow is going to bring me”.
Those three fundamental drivers of the clinician’s experience include:
Purposeful patient connection that provides rapid cycle restorative, difference-making feedback from patients to clinicians that can lift clinicians on the toughest of days.
Deep team collaboration at the microsystem level where teammates help, support, innovate, communicate, laugh, and work hard together as a clinical family so care team members never feel alone.
Effective leadership dedicated to listening, supporting, responding, lifting burden, appreciating, and developing those they lead as their greatest responsibility.
For care teams to thrive, they must reside in a place that positions them to be their best, with teammates who support each other, delivering high impact work consistent with their core values as healers.
Patient connection, team collaboration, and leadership effectiveness are intertwined and dependent on each other. The Practicing Excellence team surveyed 600 clinicians in multiple different organizations in 2018 regarding the impact of responsive leadership to patient connection. They found that where clinicians felt the administrative burden was not being addressed (less effective leadership), their capacity to connect with patient was reduce by 78%.
In such places, the administrative burden overwhelms clinicians, limiting their capacity to engage in a cycle that Dr. Beeson describes from the clinician’s perspective as, “I connected with the patient before me, and that connection gave me the positive feedback that gave me a surge of dopamine and a sense of restoration when I walked out of the exam room.” That positive feedback loop is capacitated by a work environment that lifts burden, taps team-based care delivery, and optimizes the connection to the patient at their knee.
Such environments have a palpable sense of collaboration, esprit de corps, and family at the clinical microsystem level. Everyone in that environment has a sense of belonging, safety, and care for one another. There are the environments with such positive connections that the team can “go through hell together” because they have built a culture of help, support, and care for each other at the clinical micro-system level.
The Leadership Opportunity
Leaders have an opportunity here as well. Those who understand and engage in this approach foster a culture of deep connection, collaboration, and capacity to lead in a way that empowers the teams at the front lines.
Where there is unlistening, uncaring, command and control leadership, purposeful collaboration and patient connection are stifled and replaced with care teams overrun with cynicism, despair, exhaustion and survival. The listening, responding, empathic servant leader who sees their role as “I am here to help my team soar, and I will hold myself accountable to take care of my people” creates the capacity for collaboration and connection of the front-line care teams.
Such leadership prompts people at the local level to feel valued, heard, respected, responded to with decision making capacity and trust, so they feel they have the capacity to engage in a way that can raise quality of experience for themselves and their colleagues.
Clinicians in such microsystems learn to appreciate and express gratitude to their teammates. What this does for them and their staff, changes the culture of team.
Conversely, such local positivity, hope, and spirit can be squashed by toxic leadership, an unfortunately all too common experience in healthcare organizations. In the current environment of burnout and “the Great Resignation”, such toxic leadership puts the entire organization at risk as clinical talent now demands environments and cultures where they are supported and cared for.
Individual clinicians, clinical teams and leaders have the opportunity to build a place driven by purpose, collaboration and servant leadership as a framework for meeting the profound challenges ahead. Dr. Beeson’s message provides the roadmap to for those committed to making healthcare better for all, beginning with those who provide care.
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