3 Surprising Hospital Leadership Trends

April 1, 2015
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diversity leadership in hospitalsOver the last two decades there have been dramatic shifts in the composition of the country’s demographics. There have not, however, been significant advancements in the representation of minority leadership in our nation’s health care and hospital systems. Meanwhile, the increasing role of women has introduced several noteworthy changes to c-suites and board memberships.

diversity leadership in hospitalsOver the last two decades there have been dramatic shifts in the composition of the country’s demographics. There have not, however, been significant advancements in the representation of minority leadership in our nation’s health care and hospital systems. Meanwhile, the increasing role of women has introduced several noteworthy changes to c-suites and board memberships. Some of these have come alongside and because of the recent move towards clinicians as leaders.

Below are three surprising trends United State’s hospital and health care leadership are experiencing in 2015.

1. Per the American Hospital Association’s National Healthcare Governance Study an estimated 47% of not-for-profit hospital governing boards had no racial or ethnic minorities in 2013. The survey results, published in 2014, further indicate hospital boards average nine out of 10 members as Caucasian – a statistic that has remained unchanged since 2011.

Despite efforts by some systems to tie incentives to diversity efforts, greater emphasis in minority recruiting efforts and growing recognition that hospital leadership should reflect the communities they operate in, little progress has been made. Too many boards still do not recognize the importance of diversity. For example, the Institute for Diversity in Health Management concluded in a 2012 report that only 14% of executive leadership were minorities, and that an alarming number of hospitals do not rely on reports of their diversity-related goals or recruit underrepresented groups to their workforce (70% and 62%, respectively).

2. Women made up only 28% of hospital and health system c-suite hires in 2014. Further, a study by the Women’s Leadership Center in the Kennesaw State University Coles College of Business – a joint venture with Diversified Search, an executive search firm – found that compensation for female executives was, on average, 35% lower than their male counterparts. The report concluded a, “significantly greater number of women than men were promoted from within their organizations, while men were more likely to be hired from outside.” Although internal versus external hires were different, the salaries reflected pervasive pay differences between the genders.

Although the study claims, “women derive significantly more satisfaction than men do from a sense of meaningful work/contributing to society,” in their leadership roles, compensation matters. When health system CEO turnover is at an all time high (estimated 20%), hiring practices and retention rates can make or break an organization. Additionally, when research indicates that companies perform better when women are in leadership positions, it is surprising that competition for female executives is not a top financial investment.

3. In an uptick from previous years, physicians accounted for 14% of c-suite hires in 2013. As clinical quality becomes an increasing goal for hospital success and cost-savings, the trend is not too surprising. However, what is novel is that Chief Nursing Officers (CNO) had the best chance of being promoted to hospital COO, accounting for 17% of leadership placements – indicating the focus on clinical hires is spread throughout leadership positions.

A trend in clinicians as leaders has also led to significant advancements in and out of health systems for training and education. For example, Brigham and Women’s Hospital has partnered with Harvard Business School to create an entire Leadership Program for mid-career clinicians who would like to transition. While these clinical appointments are expected to continue, the role of an MBA as executive leaders is not expected to become obsolete, as hospitals and health systems are still big businesses.

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