By Barbara Schmidtman, PhD
In her monthly leadership series, Dr. Barbara Schmidtman—vice president of cancer health operations at Corewell Health West—offers her perspective on addressing workforce-related issues through effective leadership practices. Find all her posts in this blog series on the ACCC website.
Early this year, when I was asked to write for the Association of Community Cancer Center’s (ACCC’s) blog, I was so excited to think about the various ideas, challenges, and opportunities we are often faced with in the oncology community that I could discuss. The possibility of being able to share any lessons that I have learned and experienced along my journey as a healthcare administrative leader was certainly exciting to me. I thought about leadership, authenticity, trust, change management, joy, recognition, employee engagement, and burnout, just to name some topic ideas. These quickly became the focus for my leadership blog series throughout the next 12 months, and I’d like to take the time in this post to reflect on each these blogs.
Going back 10 months, in the blog “Leading With My Heart,” I wrote about vulnerability and how it takes courage to show our authentic selves. By being true to ourselves and loving ourselves, we can create an atmosphere where our teams feel comfortable doing the same for themselves and their teams. This isn’t always easy, and we know that, at times, we can be our own worst critics and overly hard on ourselves. As we go into the winter months, focusing on how we embrace love and bring positivity into the workplace can help us better love ourselves and the environments in which we work.
This then led me to think that in order to fully create this level of camaraderie within our teams, we must ensure that we trust others and that others trust us. In “Leading Through Trust,” I walked us through how to establish trust by doing “little things”—listening, following through, asking meaningful questions, creating a safe space to disagree and resolve—which are the “little” moments in life that define our relationships and trust with one another.
“Leading in Oncology Through Change” helped identify ways in which our teams can build from authenticity and trust to navigate small and big changes. Change is hard for all of us, and one thing is for certain, change is inevitable. To prevent ourselves from becoming stuck, focusing on the trust that we have with one another will help you, your teams, and the greater oncology community adapt to change with grace.
But sometimes, change is much more complex. When this is true, how we can continue to find joy amid change? In “Life Lessons: Finding Joy in Challenging Times,” I gave a personal example of how I was experiencing difficulty finding joy in my personal life due to some unforeseen events while on vacation with my family. The truth is, we can let defeat and sadness take over our mindset, but where does that get us at the end of the day? Likely feeling more sad and more defeated? Finding joy in change and in our present moment truly helps us become better leaders and better versions of ourselves.
Recognizing these moments, both within ourselves and others, led me to write a blog on recognition: “Leading in Healthcare: The Importance of Recognition.” By recognizing a job well done and doing some self-reflection, one can build a positive team atmosphere. Alternatively, poor leadership can destroy team morale, so ensuring you find the ways in which your team members desire to be recognized is important for effective staff engagement.
This leads me to my last blog, where I discussed the results of the ACCC Mini Z burnout survey. I first presented the results of this survey at the ACCC 39th National Oncology Conference in West Palm Beach, Fla. I had the privilege of serving as the ACCC Workforce Subcommittee Chair in 2022, and, as such, evaluated the survey on behalf of this subcommittee. As I read through the 2022 Mini Z survey’s comments and quantitative analysis, it became clear to me that our oncology communities need stronger, more effective, and caring leadership. I believe our cancer programs and practices’ leaders and physicians can inspire our teams out of the burnout they are experiencing and help all of us remember why we are here in cancer care.
As we look ahead into 2023, I am even more excited to find topics that inspire you (ACCC’s membership) to be the best leader in oncology that you can be. I hope 2022 was as tremendous a year for you as it was for me and my teams. Looking ahead, I see so much hope for our future, including new research and new treatments that will save lives, an oncology community that is committed to finding ways to restore joy in our caregivers despite burnout, and a continued remembrance of why we are all here fighting—so we can fight alongside our courageous patients. May you have a safe and festive season, and I look forward to writing more blogs and sharing more experiences with you in 2023. Best wishes.
Barbara Schmidtman, PhD, has worked in healthcare for more than 20 years in a variety of professional and clinical roles. Currently, she is the vice president of cancer health operations at Corewell Health West in Grand Rapids, Mich. Dr. Schmidtman is the Chair of the ACCC Governmental Affairs Committee and the Workforce Subcommittee Chair, a subgroup of the association's Governmental Affairs Committee. Dr. Schmidtman earned her PhD in business administration from Northcentral University, where she specialized in industrial organizational psychology. Her doctoral studies focused on physician behaviors and how demonstrated physician leadership affects individuals and teams—either positively or negatively. Dr. Schmidtman has a passion for speaking locally and nationally on leadership styles and approaches.
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