Standing in your Shadow

By Rhodie Milller

As a specialist healthcare search consultant from a non-clinical background it was important to me better understand the world our clients and candidates live in. To better know the daily work demands, the challenges they face and how some actions impact on them. Following a casual conversation with a client, that desire progressed to one of the most valuable learning experiences I could have wished for –Shadowing senior managers and clinicians in a world class, busy hospital.

Most often used by pre-medical students to assist with career choice or third year students seeking a broader perspective on the multidisciplinary team, Shadowing is a highly effective approach which I can now add my voice of support to.

I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to Shadow staff at the Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. My desire to shadow health professionals in their roles caring for women to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions that affect them and their newborns would allow me to gain valuable exposure in an extremely important field in my scope of practice, and at the same time, give me great depth of insight into the culture of a system that we support through recruiting leaders of the right caliber and with the right experience to make a positive impact.

Shadowing is an observation technique that provides an opportunity for a third party to experience and record what happens during interactions along a patient’s pathway or within the corporate office of the hospital. It is a very powerful method of learning that allows us to better understand the “current state” of how healthcare is delivered, and offers an opportunity to see reality rather than make assumptions about how things really work.

What became particularly clear to me after spending three days with six different members of the team including administrators and clinicians, is that their shared passion, commitment, experience and insight in raising the standards of patient care should never be underestimated. It was evident that they focus on remembering the patient in all that they do – all day. This fact defines a typical day for a nurse or an obstetrician. I was reminded of the human side of health care and the tough decisions and responsibility that are entrusted to each of the individuals I Shadowed. I witnessed — and better appreciated — the complexity of the system but also the passion and care that each of the team members provide.

My shadowing experience helped crystallize the fact that the work I do in supporting a client in executive search assignments has an impact that ultimately affects the care provided to patients and assists in creating healthier outcomes for all of society.