How the Clinical Career Path is Changing
Nothing can replace the journey of being a frontline doctor. The camaraderie of medical school, the 100 hour weeks as a junior doctor, the long nights on call, the specialty training and those very distinctive, hospital smells. Every day is an honour and a privilege, every patient unique.
However, the number one concern for our future health and social care system is staffing. Recruitment and retention of staff are fast becoming an anathema for both public and private in both hospital and community settings. Locums are in high demand and the number of junior doctors rejecting higher specialty training has skyrocketed.
I am one of the statistics who left the front line; for me, there was no single light bulb moment when I decided to hang up my stethoscope. In fact, my personal journey was a very slow cross taper of careers.
Working part-time in management consultancy at Candesic, and part-time as a liaison psychiatrist for over a decade, it was in a different era when career paths were inflexible and gaining experience outside the hospital walls was hardly ever spoken about, let alone done.
However, the future generation of doctors have diverse opportunities beyond rigid rota systems and career options spanning from entrepreneurship to big pharma.
This article considers embracing the choice to be a management consultant.
Management Consultancy for Doctors
For so many doctors, the title ‘management consultant’ conjures up connotations, most leading to the question ‘will they borrow my watch to tell me the time’?
Sadly, many clinicians have witnessed ever younger management consultants coming in and out of their hospital, promising so much in terms of cost savings, mergers and restructures, whilst observing little change to front-line care struggles. However, until you have walked in the shoes of good consultancy teams who put both head and heart into delivering benefits for patients, clinicians and businesses; put your cynicism on pause.
It’s actually my personal plea to get more doctors involved in the management of healthcare to help guide positive change from within.
Management consultancy is a broad term covering everything from strategy, change management, financial, IT, human resources, and operational improvement. To be a strategy consultant, you need to deeply understand the market and be able to think outside the box to help solve your client’s problems, even in politically laden environments.
You also need to clarify and predict how the future will be different from the past, spotting the opportunities for improvement, growth and keep in mind cost savings and efficiency.
To do this, you need to work long hard hours to collect raw data, analyse it in a way that makes sense for the healthcare economy, and present the data in a logical and clear way to deliver the impact and change required. Thankfully there are plenty of transferable skills doctors possess that are relevant for management consultancy.
An Innate Knowledge of the Healthcare Economy and How to Communicate
- A passion for care and understanding of the care pathway. At the end of the day, the business and economics will only ever make sense if the product delivers high-quality patient centred care,
- Knowing how to do the right thing, even if this goes against the populist cacophony of thinking and lobbying,
The ability to communicate complex ideas and academic knowledge in plain talking language.
- Enjoyment of working in close-knit teams and knowing how to inspire the best from your teammates,
- A love of evidence-based data and a rigorous focus on outcomes,
- Knowing how to work to a deadline even if that means working late and weekends.
Open to continuous learning and creativity
- Inquisitiveness: No clinician can make a diagnosis without asking the right questions. Business can be very similar,
- Finding creative ways to create impact, and make the change fun,
- Developing and keeping up with new knowledge to progress the industry and profession.
The Doctors Dilemma
I am often contacted by disillusioned doctors stuck in the belief that they are nothing more than a cog in a wheel, not valued as an individual. Managers and politicians of the past have often used the mantra: divide and concur.
As soon as the team spirit is broken, individuals can become dogged by anger, bitterness and in-fighting. As a result, many doctors are left in a quandary, wondering if they should leave their profession after so much personal sacrifice to get there.
Yet it can be during this feeling of self-doubt that the strategic mindset should come into full force. There is an opportunity for doctors to join forces with management to bridge the divide between forward-thinking healthcare providers and develop new technologies, new partnerships and expand into emerging markets.
There is a need to become more outward thinking to solve the increasing demand tsunami of patients living longer with more long-term conditions. Key strategic challenges will be faced during this journey and team working will become ever more important.
In the past, doctors often left it late in their career to become business savvy.
Some waiting until they stepped into a Board level position, others finding their feet by developing their own business during the transition between NHS work and developing their own private list and private income stream. However, management skills will become paramount much earlier in the doctor’s career path and here are some examples of why:
- Big data:
Healthcare is changing, for example, a research team at the University of Nottingham have recently created Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict which patients will have strokes and heart attacks within the next 10 years. Although such use of big data is still in its infancy there is no doubt that such new businesses will need the guidance of experienced clinicians. It is likely that independent sector providers will want to be early adopters of technology, driven by more consumer-focused patient customers.
- Home care:
With Primary Care apps such as Babylon, Push Doctor, Doctor Care Anywhere and e consult, it is only a matter of time until more specialty interaction is delivered online. With such transformations, come opportunities not just for lawyers and data security experts, but also for clinicians to lead by example on what can be treated by smartphones, alongside the Internet of Things (IoT). This market has the potential to expand globally.
- Flexible Working:
To retain medical staff on the front line, working patterns are going to have to become more accommodating. Medical staff may be enticed by a career portfolio. The most forward-thinking providers are likely to encourage the next generation of clinicians, often eager to help yet buried under NHS bureaucracy, to come and solve managerial quandaries.
No matter which career path doctors choose, it is obvious there is no longer a conveyor belt career progression.
Businesses and clinicians will have to work hand in glove to answer the complex questions of how to prepare providers for the future.
To be future leaders and solve problems management consultancy experience will help. As with anything in life, you write your own story, and your destiny is in your hands. So if any of you want to get involved in management consultancy or want to learn some new skills, please feel free to drop me a line.
Do not choose complacency; choose hope and have faith that together we can make a change.
Please note: article originally appeared in September 2017 edition of Independent Practitioner