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Culture, management and the impact on safety

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | October 13, 2020
Rad Oncology Risk Management
From the October 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Cheryl Turner is the director of global education and training at Legion Healthcare Partners. She’s also a radiation therapist with more than 30 years’ experience and holds a doctorate in education. In other words, she’s had the opportunity to see a lot of the good and not so good that can happen in oncology and healthcare in general.

Turner has extensively researched some of those problems, with that research highlighting things like strong and weak management, positive and negative work cultures, employee burnout and how those factors impact each other.

Each of those issues can have a very direct impact on staff and patient safety and while the solutions are clear, being able to incorporate and implement sustainable solutions can be difficult.
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When it comes to those managing radiation oncology departments, many have experience either as radiation therapists or some other connection to the radiologic sciences. Other managers come from outside the profession, some with healthcare-related experience and others with none, Turner says.

So that’s a good start. The people directly managing those on the front lines are able to empathize and mentor. However, the buck doesn’t stop with them, and in fact, it’s those keeping their eyes on the bucks — the finance directors one or two levels further up — that may be managing some aspects that prove to be difficult in managing, without having a similar frame of reference.

It’s for that reason that an effective radiation oncology manager doesn’t just have the clinical knowledge and experience regarding the work their staff does, but also has strong communication skills, the ability to adapt, integrity, the ability to absorb and translate orders from on high and a little bit of professional and personal fortitude. All those attributes serve well for working with staff, but they potentially pay off in even greater ways when interacting with the upper tier leadership.

“At the end of the day, your main goal is to provide high-quality, safe patient care,” says Turner. “To do that, you need to take care of your employees and have the strength of character to not just stand up for your patients, but your providers/staff as well.”

While Turner is a strong advocate for formal education, she isn’t adamant about it being required in order to be a good leader. Just as having a certain management title doesn’t directly translate to an individual being good at that work, having a degree doesn’t necessarily make someone an expert in that field. “There are some very good leaders who may have a bachelor’s degree, but also 20 years’ experience. That experience has given them a very important education in being a leader. It’s probably as important if not more important than the formal education in many cases.”

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