Diversity Leadership Initiative Aims to Develop More Minority Health Care Executives

Even though this issue of MN profiles several minority nurses who have broken through the glass ceiling to attain executive-level positions, the unfortunate reality is that persons of color are still severely underrepresented in the field of health care management. For example, a 1997 survey conducted by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) revealed that 35% of white female respondents held top-level management positions–such as CEO, COO and senior vice president–compared to only 23% of African-American women, 26% of Hispanic women and 15% of Asian-American women.

The good news is that a growing number of associations, foundations and universities have launched innovative leadership development initiatives to help level the health care management playing field and prepare more minority health professionals to move up to the executive suite. This summer, the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL), a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization, received an $80,000 grant from GE Medical Systems to develop diversity-focused educational and coaching programs designed to support the advancement of racial and ethnic minorities and women into senior management and leadership positions.

NCHL will work collaboratively with the Institute for Diversity in Health Management to create education programs that will bring together teams of racially and ethnically diverse mid- to senior-level leaders in health care management. The programs will focus on strategies that will teach aspiring managers and executives to be change agents within their organizations, creating and fostering environments that encourage and support diversity in health care. The target audience for the leadership training will be health professionals from a variety of fields, including nurses, physicians and administrators.

One of the new diversity initiative’s most innovative features is a coaching component, which builds on the belief that individual mentoring and coaching is an important part of professional development for all health care managers and is particularly essential to the career progression of minority managers. The coaching program will work in tandem with the educational programs, so that individual coaches and mentors will be available to alumni of the leadership training program to help support their continued growth and achievements in health care management.

“The creation of these programs is in keeping with the NCHL’s overall objectives to improve health care leadership in America and to better prepare leaders to address the extraordinary challenges that have been expounded in recent reports by the Institute of Medicine,” says Gary Mecklenburg, president and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and co-leader of the NCHL’s Advisory Council on Recruitment and Diversity. “The network of leaders who will emerge from these programs will be better equipped to address these challenges, including the troubling racial and ethnic disparities in treatment and health outcomes in America.”

 

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