How to lead an ABS committee effectively

Contributing lab leadersNam K. Tran, Edward Septimus and Michael Broyles

Most hospitals go to great lengths to include professionals from a wide variety of disciplines on their antibiotic stewardship (ABS) committees. The idea, of course, is to get all stakeholders involved to ensure their differing viewpoints are represented in the final ABS solution. In practice, however, such efforts can be challenging: Even when committees are chock-full of the right professionals and departments are represented across the board, that’s no guarantee everyone is going to collaborate and agree on the direction an ABS program should take.

Are there certain leadership techniques those heading ABS committees can use to get members to click? Here’s a look at how three noted ABS leaders have driven their own committees to success.

Article highlights:
  • Most hospital ABS committees include a multidisciplinary team, with stakeholders participating from across the organization.
  • To make progress on important ABS issues, it's critical for committee leaders to foster interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Success depends on picking the right people to participate on the committee and on excellent communication and listening skills.

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Pick your people

To begin, recommends Nam Tran, PhD, MS, MAS, HCLD (ABB), FACB, associate professor of clinical pathology and director of clinical chemistry, special chemistry/toxicology, and point-of-care (POC) testing at UC Davis, be sure your ABS committee includes people who are likely to roll up their sleeves and get right to work. “Sometimes junior faculty are actually the place to go," he says, because they “have the energy" and typically have more time than those in senior positions. An ABS committee leader at the head of a team that's excited to make progress in an important area of healthcare will have a much easier time than one who is struggling just to bring that team together in the first place, Dr. Tran notes.

Lead from behind

In his opinion, says Edward Septimus, MD, FIDSA, FACP, FSHEA, clinical professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine, it's critical for the ABS committee leader not only to be a skilled communicator and respected by their peers, but also be highly passionate about their work. “People are really motivated by the emotional attachment, not necessarily the bland facts about why you're there."

In addition, Dr. Septimus says, if you're hoping to encourage participation and collaboration in a multidisciplinary ABS meeting, it helps to be a very good listener. “Because I have 'MD' behind my name, if I speak too soon I may actually suppress discussion by others because they're afraid to contradict someone who they think is the content expert." He's learned “to try to see if the group comes to consensus," he says, and “to put out the questions that you want them to answer, and even provide them with the medical knowledge to make that decision, but have them get to the decision themselves."

On being a good listener

Edward Septimus, MD, FIDSA, FACP, FSHEA
Professor of Internal Medicine
Texas A&M Health Science Center

Curb your enthusiasm

Michael Broyles, BSPharm, RPh, PharmD, director of pharmacy and laboratory services at Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas, Arkansas, agrees with Dr. Septimus that passion is important, but suggests being careful about not going too far. “What happens is people will perceive you as almost over-zealous, and they may think that you don't really have the ability to think through things clearly."

It's okay to care deeply about the committee's mission and to make your views known to everyone in the room, but also be sure to “step back," Dr. Broyles recommends, “and put forth the data" in a logical manner. “I think that works better sometimes, because certainly it's very easy for people to say, 'Oh well, he's just crazy about this; this is a big thing for him.'"

With the data on the table, Dr. Broyles notes, committee members can look at the relevant issues objectively; and hopefully, as they work together, "they're going to make better decisions."

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