9. Physician and non-physician health leaders – stronger together? Hell yes! The Canadian Forces Health Services experience with shared leadership (Panel)

Leadership is a critical element in systems transformation. This panel presentation, delivered by four senior military healthcare leaders of varying professional backgrounds, will demonstrate how the Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) adopted, implemented and supported a shared leadership model to replace the pre-existing physician-centric structure. As a result, the CFHS achieved a successful system transformation which has addressed a number of identified shortfalls and contributed in its ability to provide high quality care and successfully support to military operations.

Particular focus will be placed on the existing circumstances and conditions which led to the realization that a more inclusive and integrated model of healthcare leadership and professional development was required. Stemming from a comprehensive restructuring effort in the early 2000 that took place in the wake of military hospital closures, recognized care gaps and human resource challenges, the new approach called for military health organizations to be led by a formalized triad, typically composed of a non-clinical and a clinical (physician) leader, as well as a senior non-commissioned member. The leadership team would subsequently form part of a larger ‘Triad of Trust’ which included the patient, their units and the military medical system. As this leadership structure matured, increased opportunities for collaborative engagement were offered along a leader’s developmental journey, both within the military and taking advantage of organizationally-supported external opportunities, networks and alliances.

Initial obstacles and challenges will be discussed as well as the lessons learned during and after the implementation of the model. Observed, qualitative benefits will be highlighted but also its weaknesses and enduring challenges. Finally, next-steps including enhanced performance measures and supporting enhancement initiatives such as formalized succession planning will be addressed.

During this panel discussion, audience interaction will be actively sought in order to compare and contrast circumstances between military and civilian health leadership settings in order to demonstrate the overriding similarities, and pressing need, to develop managerial and clinical leadership together.

Expected learning outcomes for participants will include a greater appreciation of the roles and responsibilities of shared leadership as well as the conditions which can help or hinder success.

Drawing from this near-twenty-year experience, it is posited that similar efforts can be pursued by key leadership development organizations within the healthcare biosphere. The Canadian College of Health Leaders and the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders, for example, share a clear commonality in this regard. This purpose could be leveraged to encourage greater collaboration and leadership development opportunities so as to support a more symbiotic relationship between the various professions called upon to lead and manage today’s healthcare organizations. Better leadership, better healthcare.

This panel presentation will be bilingual.



Stephen Plourde, CHE – Canadian Forces


Marc Bilodeau, CHE – Canadian Forces

John Crook, CHE – Canadian Forces

Jules Bérubé – Canadian Forces

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