One of the benefits of recent interest in interprofessional education (IPE) is an expanded definition of a successful health care practitioner, adding to the traditional characteristics of technical and diagnostic skill and scientific knowledge the abilities to communicate and collaborate with members of health professions different from one’s own in order to improve the health outcomes of patients. Model practitioners will, for instance, reflect on and learn from their and others’ experiences, combine their professional expertise with empathic understanding of others’ perspectives in developing treatment options, articulate recommendations and opinions in a clear and well-supported manner, critically assess ongoing scholarly research, be open to creative and innovative means of problem-solving, and exercise leadership in their practices and communities.
Many of the competencies we expect from future practitioners have traditionally been nurtured through the liberal arts. At a time in which an institution’s ability to generate revenue and the return on investment to the graduate take center stage, many liberal arts programs find themselves threatened and marginalized. Reframing IPE to be more inclusive by integrating the liberal arts in professional education can help health care graduates overcome the limits of specialized training, which results too often in knowledge without understanding, skills without character, individual achievement without community engagement, and career success without personal well-being. The liberal arts provide a foundation that underlies all professions (and careers in general), one built from critical thinking abilities, communication skills, intellectual curiosity, and a love of learning.
Inherent in the concept of a profession is a duty owed, a duty that is informed not only by the body of knowledge that defines the profession or discipline, but by moral character. Richard Freeland, former president of Northeastern University and current Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts, states well how the liberal arts can complement professional education to shape character: “We should help [students] see how the work they do can promote personal growth, intellectual adventure, social purpose, and moral development. We should show them how the values of intellectual honesty, personal integrity, and tolerance can strengthen the institutions in which they will work. And we should help them build bridges between the intellectual concerns they encounter in philosophy, literature, and history courses and the decisions they will have to make as business leaders, lawyers, and government officials. Properly conceived, practice-oriented education can provide at least as powerful a moral education as any purely academic study of ethics.”1 Health care professionals can be comfortably added to Freeland’s list of professionals, just as health professions education fits within his category of “practice-oriented education.”
National organizations are recognizing the important role played by the liberal arts in preparing graduates with 21st-century skills. In a 2013 report based on a survey of private sector and nonprofit organization employers in many fields, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) emphasized that graduates’ ability to enter, and especially to advance, in today’s economy depends on a skill set beyond technical knowledge.2 Nearly all those surveyed agreed that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important” than field of study, and more than nine in ten said “it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continued new learning.” Furthermore, more than three in four employers surveyed “said they want colleges to place more emphasis on helping students develop five key learning outcomes . . . : critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.”
The liberal arts should have a fundamental role in shaping not just undergraduate education but health professions education to meet these employer expectations. The Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), with representation from nursing, medicine, public health, dentistry, and pharmacy, has identified core competencies that IPE should develop in health professions graduates.3 The figure below shows IPEC’s four domains, each containing a number of competencies, in the context of patient care. In this case, practice readiness means that employers in health care systems, hospitals, and private practices will expect IPE to develop graduates’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values vital to collaboration and teamwork.
Interestingly, most of the IPEC competencies transcend the health professions, entering the realm of humanities and the liberal arts. Examples include the following:
Respect the unique cultures, values, roles/responsibilities, and expertise of other health professions. (Domain: Values/Ethics)
Forge interdependent relationships with other professions to improve care and advance learning. (Domain: Roles and Responsibilities)
Choose effective communication tools and techniques, including information systems and communication technologies, to facilitate discussions and interactions that enhance team function. (Domain: Communication Practices)
Integrate the knowledge and experience of other professions—appropriate to the specific care situation—to inform care decisions, while respecting patient and community values and priorities/preferences for care. (Domain: Teamwork and Team-based Practice)
Aside from the gains for individual graduates, incorporating the liberal arts into IPE can offer benefits for institutions. It can, for example, demonstrate involvement in collaborative, integrated partnerships and cutting-edge trends in higher education to their university/health science center leadership; expand potential for grants from a wider range of funding sources; provide efficiencies in instruction and research as courses serve multiple audiences and faculty contribute across disciplines; increase collaborations with other institutions nationally and internationally utilizing distance learning technologies; and enrich faculty members’ professional development and satisfaction.
An example of incorporating the liberal arts in health professions education appears in the way the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus uses its Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities as part of students’ IPE.4 Students take required courses with titles like “Seeing with Pictures: Improving Observational Skills,” “Illness, Disability, and the Individual: An Integrated and Longitudinal Humanities Seminar,” and “Healing with Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Medicine,” taught by faculty members with advanced degrees in literature, philosophy, law, and visual arts as well as health professions. Students may choose from such elective courses as “Art in Medicine, Medicine in Art,” “The Doctor-Patient Relationship in Literature and the Arts,” “Reel Psychiatry: Cinematic Representations of Mental Illness,” and “Imagining the Other: A Seminar in Creativity.” Students are also invited to participate in special lectures, arts exhibits, and discussion groups and to contribute to a literary and arts journal, The Human Touch. All these opportunitiesencourage students to take a humanistic approach to health care, understand cultural representations of health issues, and use reflection to find continued meaning in their careers and avoid burnout, guiding them to practice with increased appreciation of the multifaceted role they play as health care professionals. The Anschutz Medical Campus values a humanities focus for health professions education and practice that integrates the liberal arts into health care education and illustrates the rich potential that exists for reframing IPE in this way.
The liberal arts were once considered essential learning for a person to take his or her place in society. For a variety of reasons, many schools and programs in the liberal arts have become as insular and specialized as professional education. Ironically, in many places the arts from which we learn to think and communicate, the dialogue in which we explore our humanity, are becoming irrelevant to professional education. IPE is a movement to build bridges across the professions for a greater good. Health professions schools and programs are taking the leadership responsibility to explore new opportunities for collaboration. With respect to the enormous difficulties of bridge building, there are compelling reasons to continue building beyond the academic health center.
Executive coaching is a personalized form of professional development leaders increasingly are choosing to enhance their skills for managing others, addressing change, dealing with crisis or problem situations, and generally ensuring their leadership skills serve well the organizations in which they are engaged. What many do not know, however, is coaching also can be a great strategy for achieving that next big step in your career. Many of the requests I receive for coaching today have been stimulated by the job search — either a need to make sure of one’s preparation, or sometimes because of a failure to be selected for a coveted position. In both cases, executive coaching becomes candidate coaching.
If your dream job has become available — whether that’s a deanship, a vice presidential role, or a department chair — and you want to make sure of putting your best foot forward, you also might want to consider Candidate Coaching. Among the many ways in which a coach can sharpen your competitive edge are these:
Assessing your readiness for a given position.
Reviewing your curriculum vitae and letter of application to give tips and feedback.
Preparing you for first, second, and final interviews by anticipating questions and identifying potentially sensitive areas.
Preparing you to skillfully address problem areas, such as abrupt position changes or areas of less achievement, in your career history.
Reviewing and providing an expert sounding board for your candidate presentations.
Advising you on follow-up with search committees, search consultants, and/or hiring authorities.
Assessing your selection potential and your strategy for moving forward in a search.
Managing the unexpected turns in a candidacy and ensuring a winning response.
Responding to and negotiating an offer.
Planning for a successful beginning in your new position.
Whether you believe you need help with all of these steps, most candidates need expert advice at some point in the process of competing for a position. AAL coaches have successfully supported candidates for major leadership positions in all of these ways and more. We have experienced both sides of leadership candidacy, and we continue to work actively to understand the marketplace.
Although your credentials may be outstanding, and your experience will speak volumes, the value of expert advice and an objective sounding board is immeasurable when the competition is strong, or the unexpected occurs. Coaching helps you to avoid the mistakes that many other candidates will make. Among the more common mistakes I have seen candidates make, and that I work to help those I coach to avoid, are these:
Talking too much and listening too little; people want to make sure that a new leader understands who they are and what they envision.
Over-explaining past problems or mistakes; the simplest response is the best.
Focusing too much on what’s wrong; every department, school, or setting has its strengths, and these need to be recognized first if critique is to be heard.
Overselling oneself; selection of leadership is more about “fit” between the candidate and the organization than it is about credentials or experience in any absolute sense.
Being too specific about “vision” before fully understanding the strengths and challenges of the organization; this requires a careful balance.
Negotiating either too “hard” or failing to negotiate at all; once a match is agreed to, negotiating the terms of acceptance requires both skill and sensitivity.
When facing any important challenge, a strong leader always seeks the best expertise available to help navigate the course to success. And that’s what candidates who engage a coach are doing: ensuring they have the best advice and support possible, at every step of the way.
You’re working in your office, rushing to meet a deadline. And three other projects await your attention.
Then the phone rings, and a friendly voice at the other end introduces herself as a recruiter who would like to discuss an intriguing opportunity with you.
Talking to a “headhunter” might be the last thing you want to do, but, before you blow off the recruiter as an intrusion, a better strategy might be to explain that it is not a convenient time to talk, get a phone number, and call back when you are free.
You might also ask the recruiter if she has any written materials about her client and the opportunity, and then provide a confidential email where she can send it.
Why do this if you’re content in your current position? Because opportunity knocks unexpectedly. So why not keep a potential career-changing opportunity alive by taking the time to read the materials?
Also, do some sleuthing about the recruiter. Put her or her company’s name in a search engine, and see what you find. If the materials she’s sent are too generic (as job descriptions often are), jot down a few specific questions before returning her call.
Your first question might be, is the recruiter with a retained or contingency search firm?
A retained search firm is paid a retainer to do a systematic and thorough search of companies and organizations where an ideal candidate might be currently employed. When the client and the candidate agree on terms, and once the candidate is officially hired, then the retained recruiter is paid a final fee.
On the other hand, a contingency recruiter is paid only after a candidate has been hired. Since they are not paid to search systematically, and clients are not required to pay a retainer, a company will often ask several contingency recruiters to perform the same search concurrently. And because a contingency recruiter’s fee is contingent upon the candidate being hired, the process can be much less detailed, and even a bit slapdash.
Ask the recruiter if she is at liberty to tell you who her client is. And then ask how she found you: Did she or others at her firm do research, or did someone refer you?
Next, probe for detailed information about the job: Why is the position open? Is there an incumbent? Did someone leave, or is it a new job? Who does the position report to, and what staff would you be managing?
Discuss the main challenges of the role, get the recruiter’s take on what is going on within the organization, and how this impacts the department that has this job opening.
Ask how the recruiter would describe the culture of the organization. Get a sense of the opportunities for career advancement.
And finally, inquire about the compensation range and benefits.
Now you will have a clearer picture to compare the opportunity to your current situation.
But why even spend all this time on the phone with a recruiter if you are content in your current job?
Simply put, when you are happily employed, there is no better way for you to objectively evaluate an important employment opportunity, without any outside influences.
Think of it as the ideal time to envision your future.
What would you like to be doing five or ten years from now? What career challenges do you need to keep you growing personally and professionally?
If the recruiter has answered your questions to the best of her ability and gained your trust, consider taking the next step. After all, you can always say “no” and opt out at any step in the process.
No recruiter wants to be misled, but, if after your conversation your interest is genuine, a reputable recruiter will guide you through the remaining steps.
One important consideration: Pursuing candidacy on a search just to leverage a salary increase in your current position is not a good idea. Aside from bad karma and wasting everybody’s time, you will gain a reputation as someone who lacks professionalism. Studies have shown that if your current employer does capitulate to giving you a raise, you now have a target on your back. The chances are good that your boss will, on his or her timetable, replace you with someone regarded as more loyal.
If the recruiter asks for your resume, get her assurance that it will be handled in strict confidence. Reputable recruiters do not “float” resumes on the market in order to gain search assignments (see contingency vs. retained recruiters).
Does your resume need updating? Ask for a few days to spruce it up. Here are a few specifics a recruiter will want to know:
Organization names, your title(s) and the dates you held the position(s).
A brief institutional description of your department or section including size, revenues, purpose/mission/programs, etc. Please don’t assume that everyone is familiar with your organization.
A description of your position duties.
Three to four bullet points of your accomplishments in this position.
Education with years your degree(s) were conferred.
Significant associations/honors, awards/community service etc.
Make sure all dates are reconciled. Be prepared to discuss gaps in the chronology of your work history. Also be prepared to discuss reasons for position transitions (e.g., a promotion, a downsizing, etc.).
If after an exploratory call the position is not a fit, see if you can refer others to the recruiter. This will stand you in good stead, since the recruiter will remember you for your professional behavior, and as someone to contact when other intriguing and life-changing opportunities arise.
Abigail Jaye is the Senior Search Consultant within AAL’s Executive Search Group.
Is your organization undergoing change that requires new skills and leadership?
Contact us to learn how the AAL Executive Search Group can help you identify and recruit the most qualified and experienced people in your field.
Compass Program for Academic Advancement (Compass)
Online training for all early- and mid-career faculty to develop skills in conducting educational research, grant writing, writing for publication, and career planning. Live, weekly presentations discuss practical applications and strategies for overcoming obstacles, with weekly projects, readings, and presentation recordings available.
Live online sessions on September 17, 24, October 1, 8, 2015
Tuition: $350, with discounts for AAL alumni and for 3 or more registrants from same institution
One unintended consequence of the online revolution, it seems to me, is a kind of brain-drain on our college campuses.
By “online revolution,” I’m referring to the explosion in the number of online courses and the corresponding increase in the number of faculty members who offer them—especially the number of those who now teach online exclusively. And by “brain drain,” I mean that many of those faculty members are now rarely if ever on campus.
This thought came to me the other day as I was trying to contact a good friend, a faculty member that I haven’t seen in several months. Of course, he teaches online. Our institution actually has a fully “Online College,” with dedicated faculty who do not have offices on campus and show up only for things like convocation, faculty development day, and graduation–although some of them don’t even do that much because they’re not local. We have online faculty members from all over the country. But most of our online faculty are people I used to see every day but who now work strictly from home.
Anyway, as I was scanning the Online College directory, I was shocked to realize how many of those folks I literally haven’t seen in years. There were a lot of names I didn’t recognize on the list, too, but many of them are people I used to talk to on a regular basis. People I would consider friends. Smart, funny, talented people whose regular presence made my work life a little more pleasant, and who contributed much not only to formal committee meetings but also to those informal, ad hoc hallway conversations that are so vital to getting anything done in higher education.
(I should probably acknowledge at this point, lest I seem to romanticize, that a few of the names on that directory were people I’m very glad not to be bumping into much these days and whom I have little interest in talking to ever again.)
Of course, all those bright, talented people are probably still contributing their good ideas while serving on formal committees. I don’t know exactly what’s required of online faculty, but I imagine committee service is still part of the deal. Online committees, probably.
But I miss having them share their good ideas with me, in the hallways, whether those ideas had anything to do with the latest committee proposal or not. And I wonder how much intellectual energy—dare I say synergy?—has been lost on our campus due to their physical absence.
Ironically, I’m probably at least partly to blame for this. I was the first department chair at our college to allow a faculty member to teach all of her course load online.
At the time I made that call, I was more or less defying an unwritten college policy that faculty members had to teach at least two of their five classes face-to-face. I only knew that I had a faculty member who was demonstrably good at teaching online, I had several full sections that needed an instructor, and I decided to let her teach them. When the campus dean stormed into my office demanding to know why, I told him that, as I saw it, we could either force her to teach face-to-face and then twist somebody else’s arm to cover those two online sections, thereby making two faculty members unhappy; or we could bend the “rule” a little bit for her, thereby making everyone happy, not least the online students who would be getting an excellent and experienced instructor in the bargain. He thought about it for a second, said “Well, it’s your department,” and strode out.
From those humble beginnings, almost thirteen years ago, the college has gone on not only to embrace the idea that faculty members can teach their entire load online but to create an entire cadre of such faculty—including, of course, that original faculty member.
And the only negative, I guess, is that I don’t get to talk to her much anymore. Or a lot of other people, either.
I don’t know how widespread this problem is, because I don’t know how many other colleges have a large segment of their faculty dedicated to online teaching. Perhaps, at most schools, online courses are taught by regular faculty members who still teach most of their load face-to-face, or by adjuncts hired strictly for that purpose. But I imagine there are many colleges who, like us, have created an Online Campus staffed with full-time faculty—and I’m pretty sure the trend is in that direction.
Because, to be honest, the idea seems to work pretty well, from an enrollment standpoint. Or at least it has for us. Since we created our Online College about seven years ago, our enrollment in online courses has more than doubled—and not at the expense of on-campus classes, either, because our overall enrollment has continued to rise about 5% per year.
So the idea of employing professors who teach exclusively online is probably one whose time has come. It seems to work well, both for colleges and for students. I just can’t help thinking about what we might be missing with all those fine minds absent from the physical campus.
Hey, do you suppose there’s anyway we can recreate those impromptu hallway gab sessions online?