Everybody’s busy. But, clinicians feel that they are busier than everyone else! They are certainly too busy to attend ‘meetings’ at the drop of a hat. For some managers, this comes as a bit of a shock. They themselves are used to responding to urgent calls on their time and being ‘summoned’ by a superior. Doctors, however, prioritise their time around clinical work, anything else is a distraction and nearly always a waste of time. So, if you’re a manager, don’t be surprised when no-one turns up to a ‘clinical engagement’ meeting you’ve arranged. This is, in fact, a favorite and extremely effective ruse that clinicians use; just ignore management requests, simply don’t engage. It works so well because it’s passive aggression. It doesn’t involve unpleasant confrontations or having to find rational arguments. It is astonishing how often new initiatives fail simply because the clinicians avoid them. (You will have noticed this phenomenon with some types of email. If you let it sit in your inbox for a few weeks, it slowly loses relevance. Eventually, you can delete it without having done anything!)
But, if you’re serious about clinical engagement you should:
- Go to where the clinicians are. Get in their faces! You must be seen to be believed. Management by walking about is absolutely true.
- Ask to attend their own meetings, e.g. audit sessions, lunchtime meetings, postgraduate lectures, find out!
- Use “clinical champions”, but show you support them by your presence
A really useful technique is to arrange for other groups to be present, such as ‘lowly’ A+C staff. If you can get the Consultant’s secretary on board, it will be much easier to get the Consultant. Similarly, patients and patient groups can be powerful allies. Clinicians dare not contradict them, at least not in public. Patient stories are very disarming and can make points that would be very difficult for a manager to get across.
A lot of this stuff is just straightforward change management. However, as we know, common sense is not common practice.