Everybody leaves their job sooner or later. And when they do, somebody has to take over and continue the job that the departed (not departed as in dead) person used to do. That is why, in hospital HTM departments we generally try to have a system of cross training BMETs to overlap responsibilities and skills. This is especially necessary when different people are on 24 hours on-call, having to cover sections of the hospital where they do not normally work.
Since there is this need for cross training and redundancy in the ranks of working BMETs, we usually have little trouble when someone leaves, either through retirement, job change or sickness. The main problem is finding time to do all that needs to be done until the next person is hired. But it is generally doable for a short period.
But what about when the director or manager of an HTM department retires? Nobody ever seems to prepare for this. This event is usually known months beforehand. Surely the individual themselves knows it years before the time comes to retire. It is certainly not a surprising event. But I cannot tell you the number of times that a very good manager or director retires and leaves behind them a department of individuals which has absolutely no one who is ready or able to take the leadership role of the department. They seem to have little concern for what comes after their tenure and just walk away, leaving it to administration to pick up the pieces.
I cannot imagine having a department – large or small – where there is not a strong number two person being constantly groomed and trained for the time when a planned or unplanned event causes the leader to have to step away.
I remember when I was abruptly discharged from a job when I was managing a large and very active department. My job was eliminated on very short notice. In my exit interview, I was able to tell my administrator exactly who should take over for me. This person was so well prepared that even in a very abrupt change, there would be no significant interruption in services to the customers.
This is the way it should be. It is one thing for a manager to run a good HTM shop on a day-to-day basis. But the real test of a successful program is: Can the department retain its success during and after the departure of the founding leader? This does not happen as often as I would like to see it happen. I can name three hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee where this very thing has occurred within the last 120 days. A manager left a large department and there was absolutely no one within the department who was ready or qualified to take over.
So, here is a word of advice to all managers and directors, begin today identifying who will take your place if you cannot work, or voluntarily decide to retire or change jobs. It is not your place just to run a good program today. It is important that you have prepared your hospital to operate seamlessly during any possible transition, and long after you are gone.
Please think about discussing succession planning with your administration and developing a plan that they can support. It will benefit everyone, as well as give you someone to take some of the workload off of you today.
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