Partnership. It’s such a simple word, yet such a complex concept.

Last fall, key leaders from the American Hospital Association (AHA), American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), and the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) were joined by hospital and system chief medical officers and chief nursing officers from around the country with effective leadership models to understand what made their leadership stand out from the crowd. All organizations had clinical partnership – or dyad – leadership models in place. 

After a day of intense discussion, it was clear that these teams’ efficacy came not from a perfect blend of titles or tenure, but the collaborative relationships forged from shared commitment – finding better outcomes for their patients, families and hospitals. A common theme emerged: On the surface, it was as simple as hand washing, but at its core, it was as complex as the Medicare code. The work of building a successful dyad requires true partnership. 

Some dyads began with symbolic-yet-simple logistics such as placing offices side by side. Others made the leadership roles interchangeable with both parties addressing clinical issues involving nursing or medical staff – sometimes both. The work of sustaining a successful dyad required leadership and communication, trust, mutual respect and a deep belief that each member “has the other’s back.” One thing all had in common: a shared vision and clear goals to help staff teams see the partnership in words and actions. 

While each organization took a different path to develop this dyad-leadership model, all used three key questions as the base of all decisions:

  1. Does it help the patients?
  2. Does it help our team?
  3. Does it move our organization forward?

Each team maintained individual roles as CNOs and CMOs yet were able to move their organization beyond silo management often found in health care. Best practices include joint strategy planning, speaking with one voice by co-presenting and co-rounding, shared accountability, emphasizing dyad language, and getting to know one another as friends as well as colleagues. 

More learnings from this session are highlighted in a new report, “A Model for Clinical Partnering: How Nurse and Physician Executives Use Synergy as Strategy.” Look for more on this issue – podcasts that outline how you can create an organizational culture that drives this type of leadership and top takeaways that give your leadership team simple steps for starting or sustaining a clinical dyad. The AHA Physician Alliance will be working more closely with AAPL and AONE on additional leadership resources for health care leaders throughout the year.

I encourage you to sign up and join the AHA Physician Alliance if you haven’t already. As a member, you’ll have access to exclusive content and previews of tools, such as our dyad top takeaways, before the rest of the field. 

If you have a leadership story to share, please email Elisa Arespacochaga, vice president of the AHA Physician Alliance at elisa@aha.org, and help us spread the word about effective clinical partnership models.  

Jay Bhatt, D.O., is the senior vice president, AHA, and president, Health Research & Educational Trust; Sue Gergely is the acting CEO, AONE; and Peter Angood, M.D., is the CEO and president, AAPL.