Dean of the new Curtin Medical School reflects on the culture of collaboration it needs to succeed.
I’ve just read Ric Charlesworth’s new book, World’s Best, in which he makes the point that developing a winning team culture is more important than hard training, individual skills or fine strategies. He reiterates the mantra that Culture trumps strategy or, as sometimes attributed to Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
Healthcare and health professional training, including medical school, is a team game. The day of the “rugged individualist” is over. We all need to collaborate. Learning to work as a successful healthcare team starts with working in teams at school – learning with, from and about each other.
So I’ve spent a long time pondering the best ways to inculcate this core value into medical education. In recently accrediting the new Curtin Medical School through to 2023, the Australian Medical Council made a point of commending us on our approach to interprofessional learning and collaboration. But even within the profession, working together to achieve a common goal requires building the right collaborative culture.
I’ve now helped establish two new medical schools (Monash Gippsland and Curtin). Teamwork and collaboration are intrinsic to getting these projects off the ground. Developing a winning organisational culture that will see a new school be sustainable is an important consideration.
What is the culture of the new faculty? What is the culture of the student body? How do the culture, values and behaviours of staff (the role models) influence the student body? This is part of the “hidden curriculum” and important in determining future clinician behaviours.
The recent Senate inquiry into the medical complaints process had a focus on behaviours associated with bullying and harassment. Such behaviours are clearly linked to organisational and professional culture. Most people state that they cannot be tolerated, yet they remain fairly common, apparently. The committee recommended that bullying and harassment be addressed in the first instance at medical school and that the curriculum incorporate “compulsory education” on these issues.
There is a focus on leadership in medicine these days. In my opinion, leadership which facilitates collaboration among teams is most likely to result in a sustainable culture of success. What does this leadership look like in practice? It’s motivational communication. Not “rah, rah!”, but respectful, guiding and facilitative.
According to Ric Charlesworth: “Great teams share the load, cooperate fully, critique one another, set high standards and are encouraged to participate. They are able to disagree and still share a common goal and they work together to solve problems and repair damage caused by mistakes.” That’s the kind of team I’d like to be part of; or maybe even coach!
ED: 320 interns were appointed to city and country hospitals last month – 307 graduates from WA medical schools and 13 from interstate. Another 18 junior doctors including 14 IMGs started work at Ramsay Health Care campuses under a Commonwealth agreement.