Learn to Step Up

Jonathan E. SchulzJonathan E. Schulz, PharmD

Staff Pharmacist, North Memorial Medical Center
LEA Class of 2011

By Ying Feng, LEA Class of 2013

In the process of completing his PGY-1 residency at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, FL, Dr. Jonathan "Jonny" Schulz thought back to the skills and concepts he learned in the Leadership Emphasis Area (LEA) curriculum1. When he identified an opportunity in health professional education at that VA Medical Center, he knew what he needed to do to lead change.

Before residency, he'd had some prior experience initiating new projects at established institutions. During his time at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, he started a hypertension monitoring program at Smiley's Clinic in Minneapolis as part of his LEA project. At the VA, his goal was to change the way the health professions interacted with and thought about one another. It was an adaptive challenge2, but Jonny knew he could use the same process at the VA as he'd previously used at Smiley's.

Jonny first learned about Kotter's 8-Step Process3 for Leading Change in Leading Change in Pharmacy II (Phar 6238), an elective that introduces pharmacy students to leadership concepts. Because of his Analytical signature theme, he enjoyed learning about a tried and true process he could follow to get results. While working on his residency project, he drew upon the 8 Steps of Change3. He started by building a sense of urgency--luckily, the project he choose was timely. A number of administrators and staff already prioritized interprofessional education and teamwork. However, Jonny still had work to get “buy-in” from some key groups. By talking with those groups to help them feel motivated to change the current system, he worked to build a sense of urgency.

Before the LEA, Jonny didn’t know how much he didn’t know about leadership. He’d thought of leadership primarily in positional terms--the leader is the one at the top of the pyramid with the large corner office. Today, he counts learning the distinction between leadership and authority as one of the most important lessons he’s learned from being involved in the LEA. As a pharmacy resident, he worked in a non-positional way to influence administrators, staff, and students. He could see that the most practical first step to improving interprofessional education was actually providing some interprofessional education. Luckily, his guiding coalition consisted of education program administrators—the very people who decided what residents learned, why, and when.

A few short months into his year at the VA, Jonny got the green light to start a series of learning workshops with new practicing nurses, and 1st year pharmacy and medical residents. Again, he drew on what he found had the greatest bang for the buck from LEA. The LEA wasn’t something Jonny intended to fall into; “I was talked into it,” he says about the introductory classes. However, he found much of the material thought provoking and useful. So much so that he brought in leadership training concepts to help his workshop participants think through the concept of teamwork and their individual contributions to a team. One of the workshops discussed the The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, a book used in various ways throughout the LEA program. Another workshop session focused on the use of the Strengthsfinder, the participant’s signature themes (4), and how they would use those themes to work together and improve patient care. These concepts helped the participants talk about what they brought to the table, especially during the final session when they worked through patient case studies.

Jonny knew that creating a short term win was important for the change process. He conducted a pre and post survey on interprofessional attitudes using the Interprofessional Socialization and Valuing Scale. Even though he only held four monthly sessions, the workshop participants' survey results showed improvements in 19 of the 24 aspects of interdisciplinary attitudes measured.

Jonny has moved back home to Minnesota since completing his residency. He’s excited to be close to friends and family, and to start a new position at North Memorial. As for his vision of interdisciplinary teamwork at the West Palm Beach VA, the movement lives on in the form of quarterly interactive, interdisciplinary grand rounds.

Jonny plans on using the principles he learned through the LEA program throughout his career. He particularly values the importance of self discovery, and the toolkit he received through the LEA. “It really works,” he says of the methods he learned in the LEA, particularly the 8 Steps of Change3. Though his career aspirations include moving into formal leadership titles, Jonny knows that he can affect change from any position in an organization due to the skills he learned at the University of Minnesota.

References/Further Reading

  1. The Leadership Emphasis Area

  2. Adaptive Change

  3. Kotter’s 8 Steps

  4. Descriptions of Signature Themes