‘World first’ interdisciplinary leadership training forum with computer simulation in Western Sydney Local Health District

Westmead FLASH program simulation. Prof Peter Hockey (Professor of clinical education)

Emerging leaders in healthcare gathered at the Innovation Centre, Westmead on Friday, 7 October for a unique training opportunity: a computer simulated Change Management exercise.

In something akin to a video game, participants took control of an IT company and were tasked with budgeting time and money to alter its trajectory and reinvigorate the business.

This session was part of the FLASH program, which stands for Fostering Leadership Across Systems in Health, and involved participants from all disciplines in the healthcare system (doctors, nurses and allied health) from right across the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

The forum, as for all of FLASH, was designed and delivered by WSHLD’s Research and Education Network (REN).

“This is an absolute world-first, as far as we can tell, because we are actually getting people to learn in the teams that they work in in the system to replicate those clinical teams,” Sandra Turner, Associate Professor and Radiation Oncologist at Westmead Hospital said.

“It’s empowering them to be able to make effective changes within the system to improve patient outcomes and their own wellbeing, and give them opportunities that aren’t available elsewhere in the health system.

“We’re hoping participants take away a better understanding of how the other health professionals work, what they can bring to positively influence teams, and how to cooperate and work collaboratively across the networks within our system, ultimately to improve patient care.”

The FLASH program itself is an innovative approach to learning, according to Acting District Director of Allied Health, Bobbi Henao Urrego.

“FLASH is a great opportunity for people to step outside of the clinical environment and really think about their leadership skills,” she said.

“The interdisciplinary communication is amazing and we can really see how people work together in different ways. Having a practical and hands-on approach to leadership and development has been a huge success so far.”

The simulation was run by Prof. Kevin Lowe, Professor of Leadership at the University of Sydney (USYD) Business School.

Participants gathered to listen to the brief: orchestrate a turnaround of the business while being mindful of timeframes and budgets. The groups had to work together to plan their strategy, knowing that less than one-quarter of the teams were likely to get it right the first time.

“Most healthcare training is necessarily focused on the science and medicine,” Professor Lowe said, “and so this program is designed to increase leadership capacity for those who need leadership skills as a part of their career path.”

The simulation enabled participants to interview “employees” at the company and test their strategy before committing the changes. This allowed the groups to work through their plans in a controlled environment – and even when running the change, they are doing so within the safety of the program. After the learning about change management processes delivered by Prof. Lowe at the end of the first round, all teams achieved a successful outcome in the second simulation.

“Good leadership creates a climate and atmosphere where people can live, work and learn,” Director of Education WSLHD Peter Hockey said.

“There is no good education without a good environment. Education is not just about learning facts; it is about learning to be a professional; a leader; and shaping the future of the health system.”

Participant Bryan Lusica, one of WSLHD’s Health Management Interns, said that this was a great opportunity to network with colleagues from other disciplines.

“In addition to getting to know each other, we have been working together and leveraging our experience to see how we can get the best outcome for patients and those working within it,” he said.