Why Interim Healthcare Leaders Are More Than Just Stand-Ins

Identifying, vetting, and attracting top healthcare talent is a hurdle that hospitals and healthcare systems will always face. This issue becomes even more complicated as turnover rates increase due to vacant executive, c-suite, and management positions. In those cases, the challenge moves from simple staffing to minimizing organizational, financial, reputational and operational risks that can lead to serious issues.

The average length of replacing a permanent leader is somewhere between 16 to 24 weeks but can be significantly longer depending on how specified the position is, the resources at hand, and even the geographic location of your healthcare organization.

A vacancy that lasts such a long amount of time can be detrimental to patient safety, turnover rates, operations, patient satisfaction, and…of course… the bottom line. Because of all these reasons, it makes sense that healthcare systems are looking to interim healthcare talent to see themselves through these challenging times.

Interim Healthcare Leaders More Than Just Stand-Ins

interim healthcare management
Professional Interim healthcare leaders can offer more than just a bridge during a vacancy

If your healthcare organization has not utilized the services of an interim leader in the past, you probably have plenty of questions. You are wondering what type of person becomes an interim manager, director, or c-suite executive. You are probably also wondering why someone would choose such a challenging lifestyle, a lifestyle that is constantly changing, that is based on putting out fires and coming up with solutions. These are great questions to ask. Let us delve deeper into the types of people who become career interim healthcare executives, directors, and managers.

Professional interim healthcare leaders possess skills, abilities, and a temperament that allows them to adapt easily and take charge in what others may find to be uncomfortable situations. Because of their non-traditional roles, they come equipped with not merely the education and certifications required for their interim roles, but with diverse skills and comprehensive experiences that will assist them in whatever c-suite role they need to fill, be that of a Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Operating Officer or Chief Financial Officer.

However, career interim healthcare leaders aren’t exclusively used in c-suite roles. Interim leaders can be of great benefit when organizations are faced with vacancies in clinical settings such as infectious diseases, case management, laboratory, and emergency services.

When working with an interim healthcare leader, you will have goals and projects assigned to them according to the particular role they are assigned to, but, in the long run, their goal should be to stabilize the department and look out for challenges that can be rectified during their engagement with the final objective of improving patient care, safety, and experience while improving the department’s bottom line.

Effective interim healthcare leaders should aim to reach those goals by first observing the organization to get a full understanding of internal processes, culture, and the workings of the healthcare system as a whole. Once they understand its strengths and opportunities, they will be able to apply their knowledge and previous experience to stabilize the organization, implement solutions to current issues, and set up a structure that allows the permanent leader to seamlessly integrate into the organization upon his or her arrival.

Unlike traditional leaders, interim healthcare leaders are accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle. They have systems set up that allow them to move anywhere in the country to step in when needed regardless of the situation at hand. Interim leaders are fast, adjust quickly, and are more than simple stand-ins. Interim healthcare leaders are meant to provide solutions.

Professional interim healthcare leaders are problem solvers and are incredibly valuable when assigned to special projects and initiatives. For example, when an organization is undergoing an EMR transition during which the organization will require the skills of an Information Technology Leader who has already assisted other organizations with this type of project and has already experienced the hurdles and unforeseen risks that come along with this type of project. They will have in-depth knowledge of the various software and systems that are available, will know which will suit the organization best, and will be able to put programs in place to train leaders who can in turn train those who will be using the system throughout the organization.

Ultimately, career interim healthcare leaders do significantly more than just fill in for a role and stabilize an organization during chaotic times. Throughout the duration of their interim engagement, they will be able to identify and remedy issues in areas that affect efficiency, productivity, finances, patient care, and team satisfaction.

Interim leaders are also a great solution to energize teams that may have begun to stagnate. They can impart knowledge and train managers and their teams to help them to defeat stubborn roadblocks. They can analyze the status quo and then suggest and implement processes to help you to go beyond regulatory standards to offer flawless patient care.

Because of their impartial point of view, interim leaders can be incredible assets when it comes to evaluating the productivity of your current staff. This ability can be incredibly helpful as they may recognize and prepare someone already within the organization who may be close to ready to step in and become the permanent leader for that critical vacant role. While conducting this process, the interim leader may also identify team members who may lack particular skills that can be easily acquired with training as well as those who may simply be better suited for a different position. They can act as a consultant who can identify both strengths and weaknesses in your current team and draft a plan to correct and improve their performance.  

To complement the above roles that interim healthcare leaders can play, interims also serve as mentors and coaches by assisting with the development of training programs and suggesting conferences that will help the team to enhance care delivery and patient satisfaction.

If you think an interim healthcare leader could be an ideal solution for your healthcare organization, contact us. The healthcare executive search experts at Summit Talent Group look forward to learning more about you and your organization’s needs to help you place the perfect interim for your needs.