spring 2009

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Teaching physicians to lead the PMI way


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When the CMA launched its Physician Manager Institute program almost three decades ago, the goal was simple: to give physicians the knowledge and skills to effectively participate in the management of issues that had traditionally been dealt with by health care managers and administrators.

By Steve Wharry

When the CMA launched its Physician Manager Institute (PMI) program almost three decades ago, the goal was simple: to give physicians the knowledge and skills to effectively participate in the management of issues that had traditionally been dealt with by health care managers and administrators.

Twenty-seven years later the goal remains the same, but the methods to achieve it are changing.

“When PMI began in the mid-’80s, health care management was evolving from what was essentially a cottage industry and docs were looking for tools to develop an effective and influential voice in administration,” said Dr. Briane Scharfstein, who heads the CMA’s Professional Affairs Directorate. “Before that physicians often felt ill-prepared to participate fully in administration and management roles.”

Today’s complex health environment challenges physicians in many ways. Initiatives such as the Royal College’s CanMEDS professional development model emphasize that being a good physician requires more than clinical expertise and competence.

The newly re-designed PMI has evolved to support learning across the full continuum of professional activities undertaken by physicians, as outlined in CanMEDS. These core competencies for physicians include medical expert, communicator, collaborator, health advocate, manager, scholar and professional, and this CanMEDS model now serves as the foundation for all leadership courses within the PMI curriculum.

“PMI training targets the capacities that physicians need to develop beyond clinical expertise,” said Dr. Scharfstein. “Some physicians attend to gain the fundamentals of management, leadership skills and techniques, and some come to learn about advanced, cutting-edge theories and practices. Everyone leaves with new career tools and insights.” CMA President-Elect and PMI graduate, Dr. Anne Doig, recently completed Foundation Level 5 of the PMI, 16 years after taking levels 1-4. She says the training stands the test of time.

“I enjoyed the first course as much as the last,” said Doig. “It was just as engaging and as useful as I remembered. I felt comfortable immediately.”

Designed collaboratively with physicians, the Physician Manager Institute’s interactive approach transforms the ways physicians think, manage and solve problems. Courses are designed to allow participants to absorb knowledge fast. Whether lessons are delivered in a classroom, online or on site in a hospital, the MD students learn from leading faculty and from peers registered in the course.

“Our goal is to offer more than traditional content,” says Don Briscoe, the CMA’s director of learning and professional development. “PMI is a series of highly interactive workshops with a focused, results-oriented approach to learning.” The program has three distinct levels: Foundation (1 through 5), Focused (1 through 4), and Advanced (1 through 4).

The Advanced courses represent the evolution of the PMI program over the past 20 years, and are targeted at physician-managers and leaders who have completed the Foundation courses but are seeking more training in specific areas.

The 2.5-day courses are offered throughout the year and feature training in strategic planning, health human resource management, finance and economics, and increasing strategic influence.

“Physicians are committed to lifelong learning on the clinical side of things, and the PMI program offers professional development opportunities on the leadership and management side,” adds Scharfstein. “Most importantly, the PMI program provides these learning opportunities within the health care context.”

For further information and/or to add your name to the mailing list, email professional development at the CMA.

CME credits have been granted to the PMI program by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, and PMI courses also qualify for credits from the Canadian College of Health Service Executives. The Royal College has also designated the CMA as a limited accredited provider of continuing professional development.

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