Why It Matters
Former Chapter Leaders share five tips on how the Open School can help in your career.
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Using the IHI Open School to Jumpstart Your Career

By IHI Open School | Wednesday, March 22, 2017
(Global Call presenters from left to right: Sara Goldsby, Lakshman Swamy, Amanda Hobbs, and Josh Liao).

For thousands of students every year, the Open School serves as an introduction to quality improvement and patient safety. Students take our courses, apply the skills in projects, and take on leadership positions with their local Chapters. By graduation, many learners are looking for advice on how to use what they’ve learned as they transition into their roles as early-career professionals.

In January on our quarterly Global Chapter Call, the Open School asked four former Chapter Leaders to share how the Open School helped prepare them for their careers.

Amanda Hobbs, MS; Joshua Liao, MD; Lakshman Swamy, MD; and Sara Goldsby, MPH, MSW, contributed their perspectives on how the skills and knowledge they gained through the Open School have been critical to their success and growth in the early stages of their professional development.

Below, we summarize five key takeaways from our conversation. To hear more, check out the full recording of the call.

  1. Take your quality improvement expertise with you wherever you go.

It can be difficult to transition to an environment in which quality improvement isn’t top of mind for your colleagues or organization. The key is to think about how you can apply the concepts you learned through the Open School in new ways.

Improvement science is relevant to many professions. Amanda Hobbs studied industrial engineering at Clemson University and Purdue University, and she credits the Open School for expanding her education beyond the traditional curriculum. Her exposure to the application of improvement science in health care, through the online courses and her time as a Chapter Leader, helped her develop a vocabulary and clarified her career trajectory. Now, as a Healthcare Operational Planner at an architecture firm, she works to improve building designs in the health care sector.

As Acting Director at the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, Sara Goldsby plans to leverage the skills she learned from the Open School in every step of her career. Her leadership positions with the University of South Carolina Chapter helped her build the confidence to introduce and incorporate systems thinking in her efforts to address opioid misuse in her current role — even when state and policy leaders don’t always share her background in health care or the science of improvement. Goldsby also takes lessons such as the community organizing framework, which she learned through the Open School course Leadership and Organizing for Change, to ground her relationships in a shared understanding of the experiences, values, and assets each person brings to the work.

  1. Never worry alone.

Improving health and health care is not an easy task — especially if you try to take it on by yourself. It’s important to surround yourself with a community that keeps you energized to lead change.

In fact, Lakshman Swamy credits, as he put it, “the ‘us’ of the Open School,” for his success. Through the Open School, he said he discovered a powerful international community of students passionate about improving health care. Coming from a smaller medical school, connecting with this virtual community broadened Swamy’s horizons and helped him uncover opportunities he would not have found otherwise. Knowing he was supported by fellow Open School students motivated Swamy to persist in leading change, even when the going was slow. He continues to reunite with this community at IHI conferences such as the National Forum every year. 

  1. You can be a leader regardless of your position or title.

It’s easy to wonder if you can really lead change from a position at the bottom of a hierarchy in a new organization. But don’t be discouraged. Take confidence in the credentials and credibility you developed through your involvement with the Open School, and remember that your sense of optimism and fresh perspective can be invaluable to your institution’s improvement efforts. 

One way to jump in right away? Volunteer for an opportunity that isn’t directly offered to you — you never know where it may lead.

  1. Look for small wins, and don’t accept the status quo.

No matter your setting, there are likely improvements to be made. Be present and mindful about what you’re seeing, and offer up your ideas — others will likely be receptive to your initiative, especially with your background in quality improvement. Even if you start small, remember that every contribution to health care improvement is a step in the right direction. 

Quick wins may be closer than you think, too. Take the opportunity to bring people together who think differently about quality; once you find the natural alignments in your work, success is sure to follow.

  1. Approach your work with an eye for continuous learning.

Change is not a static process, so keep an eye out for opportunities to continue developing your skills and experiences in quality and safety. This includes connecting with those who come from different professional backgrounds and embracing the diverse perspectives they bring to the table. Not only will this help you in your work together, you’ll grow as a leader, too.

IHI offers a number of development and learning opportunities to help support health and health care professionals. Some are in-person, some are virtual — but all are meant to help individuals expand their understanding and skills in leadership, organizing, quality improvement, equity, and safety.

Every quarter, the IHI Open School hosts a Global Chapter Call. These calls provide an opportunity for Chapter Leaders, Chapter members, and Faculty Advisors to connect and discuss their work. Learn more about our Chapter Network here.

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