A small group of nurses sit at a boardroom table as they meet to discuss patient cases

Supporting clinical leaders in driving transformation

  • Education

Leading change in healthcare is complex, multifaceted and requires a real understanding of the challenges it creates for healthcare professionals and patients. RCSI is supporting the Irish health service in this ambitious and necessary transformation programme.

In addition to all they do to deliver excellent patient care, healthcare professionals, managers and administrators are vital in successfully delivering on Sláintecare – the 10-year corporate plan aimed at transforming Ireland’s health and social care services – developed with input and agreement across parliament.

This is a challenging and complex endeavour, with obstacles created by resourcing issues, time pressures and environmental barriers, such as the pandemic. To combat these challenges, the Health Service Executive (HSE) recognised the importance of bringing people together to contribute to the planning and leadership of these changes. 
This is why the HSE has commissioned several bespoke programmes from RCSI’s Graduate School of Healthcare Management (GSM).

These unique clinical leadership programmes are co-designed, meaning the two organisations –and the programme participants – collaborate together to decide the shape and content of programmes. This approach ensures that the programmes are rooted in a deep understanding of how the health service operates and where there will be obstacles to be overcome.

A planned approach

Reflecting the complexities and sensitivities of a health system, and how challenging it can be for clinicians and managers to lead change, the co-design approach ensures input from subject experts from across all areas of the HSE. To date, these have included the CEO of the HSE, the HSE’s Chief Financial Officer and the HSE’s CEOs of Hospital Groups and Community Organisations and many senior leaders and managers.

This approach ensures that all aspects and perspectives of the health system are considered when planning the course content and learning outcomes.

Each course is different, depending on the needs of participants, which can include clinical leaders – doctors, nurses and midwives, health and social care professionals, healthcare managers, finance, ICT, HR and support services.

Courses are flexible but have strong, evidence and research-based structure. Broadly, however, they help senior staff in understanding the complexity of healthcare systems and, ultimately, focus on developing their leadership skills.

New ways of thinking

One new programme, ‘Embracing New Ways of Working’, delivered recently to healthcare professionals focussed on how hospital staff and communities can work together to deliver change. The programme covered leadership styles, learning how to create a positive culture and exploring how to lead and manage change across boundaries. 

Each programme has something different, but generally includes a module on management and managing oneself, another module on being a clinical leader and managing others within high-performing teams, and a third on leading and managing quality and change in a health service environment where change can be disruptive.

To date, multidisciplinary programmes for staff from across healthcare have included unidisciplinary programmes exclusively for clinical directors; nursing and midwifery specific programmes; health and social care programmes for pharmacists, physiotherapists and speech and language specialists; and finance or HR specific programmes.

But, because real transformation requires multidisciplinary teams working together, there is an ambition for courses to have representation from a range of disciplines and backgrounds.

If this transformation happens, Irish patients will benefit from better, stronger and more localised primary care services and community care programmes, meaning that only the sickest people will be in acute hospitals.

It’s an ambitious and potentially delicate programme that could change Irish healthcare for good, but it requires the sort of technical know-how, systemic knowledge and collaborative teaching skills that RCSI is seeking to provide.

RCSI’s Graduate Health of Healthcare Management works across geographic and disciplinary boundaries to challenge and empower managers, clinicians, executives, policy makers and private sector leaders to engage with the latest ideas and practice. You can find out more about the programmes on offer here.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.