Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Healthcare Managers' Perceptions of Professional Development and Organizational Support

Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Healthcare Managers' Perceptions of Professional Development and Organizational Support

Article excerpt


In today's economic and healthcare environment, healthcare managers and organizations face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty. With increasing demands to redesign the overall U.S. health delivery system to provide accessible, integrated, effective, patient-centered, and error-free services, healthcare leaders must assure that both individuals and organizations possess the requisite traits to adapt and respond. Successful adaptation will require continuous professional and organizational growth. Healthcare managers need to remain current, updating their knowledge, skills and competencies. Likewise, organizations must "learn" to adapt and respond as well as to support the development of managerial staff. For only with a knowledgeable management workforce will healthcare organizations succeed in meeting the demands of today and the future.

The concept of a "learning organization" is not new. Building on the work of Argyris and Schon (1978), Peter Senge described learning organizations as places "where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole (reality) together" (1990, p. 3). The basic rationale for such organizations is that in situations of rapid change only those who are flexible, adaptive and productive will excel and that having a highly skilled and adaptable workforce is fundamental for the organization's survival. A learning organization does not rely on passive or ad hoc processes, but instead actively promotes, facilitates, and rewards collective learning. In other words, a learning organization is viewed as a culture of continuously integrating performance and learning. A learning organization "is not an end in itself, but a route to improved performance, productivity, and profit" (Evans, 1998, p. 203).

Learning organizations are skilled in five main activities: systematic problem solving, experimentation with new approaches, learning from their experiences and past history, learning from the experiences and best practices of others, and transferring knowledge quickly and efficiently throughout the organization (Garvin, 1993, p. 81). To develop these skills, Senge (1990) argues that organizations need to discover how to tap people's commitment and capacity to learn at all levels - at the individual, group, and organizational levels. In a learning organization, the individual's personal and professional development (PD) is viewed as crucial to the organization's success. A learning organization actively promotes, facilitates, and rewards learning.

Individual level PD is also recognized as critical to healthcare management by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) as well as other professional organizations in the field (e.g., Medical Group Management Association, Healthcare Financial Management Association and American College of Health Care Administrators). For example, attaining certification and earning the status of ACHE Fellow is widely regarded as a symbol of professional commitment and competence. ACHE requires continuing education hours (and other related professionalism activities) over a 3-year period for members to qualify for re-certification.

The appreciation of PD (i.e., lifelong learning) is a characteristic of the "knowledge worker"--a term coined by Peter Drucker (1959) four decades ago. As Drucker remarked, unlike industrial workers, knowledge workers own the means of production: their own brainpower. Their greatest potential limitation is obsolescence. Due to rapid changes not only in the health industry but also in the global environment, the knowledge worker appreciates that learning and work are not distinct. Success in the work of healthcare managers means keeping current with developments in the field and also keeping personal knowledge, skills and competencies current through PD. …

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