3 Universal Behaviors of Successful Hospital Service Line Leaders

Specific responsibilities of service line leaders will depend on the service line — whether it is cardiology, oncology, orthopedics or other specialties. However, there are three universal behaviors that successful service line leaders demonstrate across all specialties. Ira Kirschenbaum, MD, chairman of the department of orthopaedic surgery at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York City, explains why the following three abilities are key to driving a high-performing service line.

1. Negotiating with people. The ability to negotiate with people — physicians, staff and other leaders — is one of the most important skills of a service line leader, Dr. Kirschenbaum says. "If you can get a six-year-old to eat vegetables, you can be a great [departmental] chairman," he says. Persuading people to buy in to new initiatives and change old habits is necessary to make progress in meeting short- and long-term goals of the service line. In addition, defusing arguments in a constructive manner helps promote a productive and safe working environment.

2. Understanding finance. Understanding finance is another important skill for hospital service line leaders because it helps them run a sustainable operation. Understanding finance can also help guide service line leaders in making decisions that support the overall financial and operational goals of the hospital. "You can't run a service line if you don't have at least a basic understanding of accounting, profit loss statements and how the money is flowing into the department and hospital," Dr. Kirschenbaum says. "As chairman [of the service line], you have to educate yourself on finance."

3. Managing projects.
"Being a service line manager at a hospital is a combination of hundreds of smaller projects. The ability to complete projects in a bureaucratic setting goes on the hit list of the very important things to know," Dr. Kirschenbaum says. Executing projects correctly the first time is essential to implementing programs in a timely manner. For example, Dr. Kirschenbaum says a service line leader's projects are often part of a larger project. If the smaller projects do not get completed correctly the first time and have to be reworked, they could delay the larger project. "You don't have unlimited resources in a hospital environment to absorb the inefficiency of having to solve a problem too many times," Dr. Kirschenbaum says. "Rework will kill a hospital-based service line."

More Articles on Hospital Service Lines:

Choosing the Right Service Line Leader: Q&A With Renown Health EVP David Veillette
Herding Bengal Tigers: How to Manage a Hospital Orthopedic Service Line

Structuring Hospital Service Line Management for Success

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