The concept of developing teamwork and leadership skills needs to be practised beyond the compulsory medical school curriculum, and that’s where a BSc degree in management can help. By Dina Saleh and colleagues
Not a day goes by when the topic of leadership in the NHS isn’t vehemently debated. Despite continuous dispute, very few tangible conclusions or proposals are drawn.
The NHS is facing a future of uncertainty, however, what can be guaranteed is the importance of doctors in shaping our future healthcare through leadership and innovation.
Although there is a huge emphasis on the clinical and communication skills of medical students, there is undoubtedly a lack of focus on equipping them with the skills they need to operate and manage the healthcare system they will be entering.
Although management and leadership is deemed important in medical schools, there is limited space and appetite to improve training in these fields, with little focus on moving forward
The General Medical Council instructs medical students to ‘develop teamwork and leadership skills’ in order to ‘demonstrate they are fit to practice’. But do students really have the opportunity to gain these skills through the compulsory medical school curriculum?
A recent article published in the Journal of Health Organization and Management suggested that although management and leadership is deemed important in medical schools, there is limited space and appetite to improve training in these fields, with little focus on moving forward.
However, some medical schools are perhaps finding a way to develop these skills. The undergraduate medicine course at Imperial College London is a six-year degree with a compulsory year out of medicine devoted to completing an additional intercalated degree in topics ranging from neuroscience to pharmacology.
Course modules for a vast skill set
Despite the majority picking a science degree, we opted for the Management BSc where the year is spent at the Business School. Year after year, this degree receives excellent reviews with students hailing it as “the highlight” of their time at medical school.
Why? The course consists of ten unique modules that provide a vast array of skills to complement our role as future doctors in the system:
‘Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management’ introduced us to the components of emotional intelligence which can help differentiate successful and unsuccessful leaders. We also learnt about leadership and organisational culture, including the different tactics and styles that exist.
Every future clinician should have an understanding about the strategy of their own specialty and how it fits into the broader aims of the service provided
‘Accounting’ and ‘Health Economics’ are relevant courses for all future clinicians. The skills taught are vital in setting the foundations for our future, considering limited resources in addition to evaluating and maximizing budgets.
The ‘Business Strategy’ course equipped us with the skills to assess and develop the strengths and weaknesses that lie in an organisation. Industry tools like SWOT and Porter’s Five Forces have helped to transform companies, is it time to evaluate the role that lessons from the industry can play in healthcare?
Every future clinician should have an understanding about the strategy of their own specialty and how it fits into the broader aims of the service provided.
Many innovative ideas in the NHS have stemmed from clinicians working at the front line. ‘Entrepreneurship’ was a creative module revealing the process of identifying and exploiting new opportunities; its applicability in performing improvement projects is evident.
Moreover, the skills and understanding developed in ‘Health Informatics’ has been invaluable to our understanding of how the NHS itself works; it seems absurd that despite six years at medical school, many of our peers will not truly get their heads around the complex system that is our NHS, and the challenges it continues to face.
In addition, we were exposed to the lessons that must be learnt from our own previous mistakes and successes in the NHS. This was further corroborated by the module ‘Managing Healthcare Organisations’: a brilliantly taught course by a working doctor.
The NHS is facing a future of uncertainty, however, what can be guaranteed is the importance of doctors in shaping our future healthcare through leadership and innovation
We were introduced to various leaders in global healthcare who successfully rebalanced their resources and implemented long-lasting change. Other modules in the course included ‘Social Research Methods’, ‘Sustainable Business’ and ‘Marketing’.
The BSc degree assessed us through ten individual exams and ten pieces of group work demonstrating the essential team working component. Furthermore, each group had to choose and execute a final project consisting of 25 per cent of our final grade.
Within our project ‘The Last Peace: Identifying the barriers and facilitators to achieving a home death and how they can be addressed’, we performed a systematic literature review and meta-ethnography in addition to primary qualitative research.
Through our research and new found understanding, our team of seven can all honestly say that we will approach the rest of our careers as healthcare professionals entirely differently with a new perspective on death - an inevitable component in not only medicine but life itself.
To conclude, after an incredibly challenging but rewarding year, we truly believe all medical students should apply to do an intercalated BSc in Management to learn the essential skills needed in the troubled NHS of today.
With experience being gained in vital attributes including leadership and team working, we are excited to be able to offer more to our wards and communities, with the aim of continuing to develop our healthcare service.
Dina Saleh (Imperial College School of Medicine Students’ Union deputy president 2015-16), Meelad Sayma, Shiraz Jamshaid, Samad Wahid, Aaniya Ahmed, Doa’a Kerwat and Folashade Oyewole