Encouraging Reflexivity in a Residency Leadership Development Program: Expanding Outside the Competency Approach

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Abstract

Problem

While leadership development is increasingly a goal of academic medicine, it is typically framed as competency acquisition, which can limit its focus to a circumscribed set of social behaviors. This orientation may also reinforce the cultural characteristics of academic medicine that can make effective leadership difficult, rather than training leaders capable of examining and changing this culture. Expanding leadership development so it promotes social reflexivity presents a way to bolster some of the weaknesses of the competency paradigm.

Approach

In 2013–2016, the University of Penn sylvania’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care (DACC) carried out a leadership development program for residents, which included seminars focused on developing particular leadership skills and annual capstone sessions facilitating discussion between residents and attending physicians about topics chosen by residents. The capstone sessions proved to be most impactful, serving as forums for open conversation about how these groups interact when engaged in social behaviors such as giving/receiving feedback, offering support after an adverse event, and teaching/learning in the clinic.

Outcomes

The success of the capstone sessions led to a 2016 DACC-wide initiative to facilitate transparency among all professional roles (faculty, residents, nurse anesthetists, administrative staff) and encourage widespread reflexive examination about how the manner in which these groups interact encourages or impedes leadership and teamwork.

Next Steps

Further work is necessary to describe how leadership program formats can be diversified to better encourage reflexivity. There is also a need to develop mechanisms for assessing outcomes of leadership programs that expand outside the competency-based system.

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