In early 2016, fifteen nurse-doctor pairs from hospitals around the Commonwealth formed the inaugural cohort of the University of Virginia’s new Leadership Partners in Healthcare Management (LPHM) program, a collaboration between the School of Nursing and Darden Executive Education specifically targeted for physicians and nurses working together in high-stakes environments.

Though great strides have been made in recent years educating nurses and physicians together during their formal learning – called interprofessional education – many gaps persist for more senior nurse and doctor leaders who were educated in silos without a proper sense of how to work as a healthy, functioning team. Such a segregated style of education means that many hospital staff experience breakdowns in communication, are poor collaborators and unable to function as members of the healthcare team in an era where medial errors cost some $400 billion annually.

The Leadership Partners program – which comes in an era where patients, insurers and regulators expect ever more cutting-edge, safe, reliable care that is more efficient and costs less – focuses on practical, purposeful collaboration, communication and service leadership techniques that improve the professional environment, reduce waste, error and attrition and engage clinical leaders in a frank conversation about their respective work environments.

Using both business and healthcare thought leaders to convey the criticality of strong communication, collaboration and mutual respect  to clinician-participants through case studies, workshops and role-playing activities and simulated scenarios, LPHM aims to buoy those skills to improve interprofessional understanding and optimize efficiency.

“Today, clinicians and hospitals are expected to do more with less,” explains associate dean of nursing Ken White, Leadership Partners’ co-founder, “and most of the pressure for those efficiencies come down to decisions made by nurse and physician leaders. And while we’ve made strides in teaching 21st century nursing and medical students how to best collaborate with one another, many senior clinicians – especially those who’ve been out of school for some time and who occupy leadership roles in healthcare organizations – aren’t trained exactly how to do this. That’s where our program comes in with its emphasis on and development of interprofessional clinical partners who lead highly effective, productive teams.”

The program will provide six three-day modules for nurse and physician leaders with courses that merge healthcare, business, financial and leadership topics. In the final month, each nurse-physician team will complete and present a final scholarly project or culminating capstone. RN-MD pairs attend class once a month from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, attending lectures and workshops while studying, eating and sleeping on the Darden’s expansive grounds.

In a tag-team approach, four School of Nursing faculty – Ken WhiteValentina BrashersPamela DeGuzman, and Rick Mayes – will partner with five Darden faculty, including June West, Elliot Weiss, Mike Lenox , Greg Fairchild, and Michael Schill to teach classes and lead the three-day modules focusing on everything from collaborative practice to finance, medical ethics to technology and operations management.

Over the program’s term, topics will include three-day discussions centered on:

  • Developing, leading and assessing interprofessional teams
  • Healthcare organizations and the history and concept of dyad leadership
  • Managing others, and managing oneself in the face of crisis, moral or ethical dilemmas
  • Budgeting and measuring performance
  • Aligning, designing and strategizing to creative on-unit innovations and real-time solutions
  • Improving quality and safety in real time

Student pairs will also complete a final scholarly capstone project and present it to their cohort and professors.

“This partnership marks the beginning of expanded offerings we plan to launch with the School of Nursing,” explains Scott Snell, senior associate dean for executive education at Darden. “Leveraging the joint capabilities and expertise of both schools’ top-rated faculty, we’re able to provide critical business and leadership training that’s specifically geared toward healthcare, helping drive industry-wide culture change.”

The program is seeking nominations for RN-MD pairs from health systems around the US through a letter of nomination. Contact the School of Nursing Continuing Education office for more information.