Campbell Medicine students complete leadership training

BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – A group of 164 first and second year medical students volunteered to participate in a four session program on leadership theory and its application in the medical field – specifically applied to clinical and residency scenarios.

“We chose to participate in PaLMS because the program is about professionalism and leadership specifically as it applies to us not only as medical students, but as future physicians,” said Andrew Hayes, MS-II. “The benefits of being a good leader as well as a good physician are innumerable and this program helped us all to further that goal.”

The PaLMS (Professionalism and Leadership in the Medical Setting) program was started in 2014 at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) and was designed with input from medical student leaders and the non-profit Greenbrier Leadership Institute (   Mr. Jim Anderson, a career executive leadership coach and author of Principle-Based Leadership: Driving Your Success as a Leader (2013, iUniverse, LLC), and Dr. Steve Halm, chair of simulation medicine at Campbell, collaborated to design the program from standard leadership principles widely accepted in military and business training and adapted them to the unique features of the medical and healthcare fields.  When Dr. Halm joined the CUSOM faculty in 2014, he immediately made plans to implement the program at CUSOM.

“Standard four-year medical school education touches on leadership and professionalism, but does not delve into this important concept in a significantly formal manner,” said Halm.  “Many medical students are ill-equipped for the transition to clinical medicine in their 3rd and 4th years and first year of residency – leadership skills are acquired “on the job”.

Outside of dual degree programs that promote medical executives or alternative five-year programs that emphasize leadership, most leadership development in medicine typically happens informally in advanced years of residency in accordance with the advanced responsibilities.  Community and tertiary hospital systems have developed leadership programs for medical staff leaders, but Halm says they are teaching leadership skills in a reactionary way to the top few that have risen to a position of medical staff leadership for this exclusive education experience.   Also, many specialty colleges offer programs for their interested members (American College of Physician Executives, American College of Physician) – but Halm says they only reach a select few of interested physicians.

“Such formal programs create medical executive leaders, which we need, but not medical practitioner leaders which are also essential to the profession.  All physicians should learn basic leadership theories early in their career development,” said Halm.  “What is needed is an experiential leadership learning program that is a practitioner-based model and that is why we developed PaLMS.  The goal of the program is for students to gain time management, planning and organizing skills, communication skills, and their natural leadership style now through residency.”

The program is comprised of interactive discussion sessions, small group tasks, case studies, self-assessment and online sessions that complement the four live sessions.  Ten second year medical students volunteered to complete online training prior to the official start of the program in January and served as co-leaders of the program.  The small group tasks had participants tackle scheduling challenges of a resident physician and the case studies involved physician leader challenges in private practice office setting and chief of staff at a hospital.  The program also hosted two guest speakers:  Jim Anderson and Julie Orr, MSN, RN who addressed nurse-physician interprofessional relationships.  The self-assessment component of the program required participants to utilize the Greenbrier Leadership Institute’s Leadership Style Indicator to identify their leadership style and then learn how to apply their style when working in a professional setting with others.

“I think PaLMS was extremely beneficial for me as a future physician,” said MS-II Rachel Angstadt. “We spend most of our time in medical school learning the science behind the techniques that will help us to treat our patients, and sometimes the professionalism and leadership training is left out. PaLMS helped me to learn about myself as a leader and as professional. Taking the time to think about and discuss important issues in healthcare with my peers has helped me to feel more prepared as I approach rotations in the summer. I can now utilize my interpersonal skills in the best way possible as I move forward through medical school and in the future as a physician.”