Dissertation: Significant career events support doctors and nurses in their growth as a leader

Uutisen oletuskuva
Hospitals need motivated leaders. According to Stiina Vistbacka´s doctoral thesis, hospital organizations can support individual growth as a leader by providing developmental career events and strengthening the motivation to lead. Based on interviews of chief physicians and head nurses Vistbacka identifies preliminary types of growth narratives that she calls “the five prototypes”.
Sankari, pidättyvä arrogantti, sitkeä etenijä – lääkäri- ja hoitajajohtajiksi kasvetaan eri tyyleillä.

In a University of Vaasa Industrial Management doctoral thesis, Stiina Vistbacka examines the career narratives of managers in a hospital organization focusing on significant career events and growth as a leader.

Different sources of leadership motivation also emerged in this doctoral research. Based on these outcomes Vistbacka identifies five preliminary types of growth narratives: ”persistent, focus on career advancement”; ”humble, trusting professional competence and hard work”; ”heroes/fighters”; ”those focusing on leadership as a profession” and ”reserved and arrogant”.

The persistent that focus on career advancement have a professional background in nursing. The humble ones that rely on their professional competence and hard work are both nurses and doctors/physicians. For them, it is important to be recognized for their professional competence and achievement. Fighters/heroes describe their leadership growth through “battle stories”, they are willing to defend their position.

Those focusing on leadership as a profession have embraced leadership identity, they are doctors that share their leadership experiences. The reserved and arrogant, however, are not that open in describing their leadership. They find it more difficult to name any individual significant career events. They are experienced and seem calm and even somewhat arrogant.

A supporting boss and feedback are required for growth as a leader

According to this doctoral thesis, hospital organizations can support individual leadership growth both by offering significant career events and strengthening (leadership) career-related motivational factors.

Regardless of profession, everybody seems to need support from the boss and feedback. Learning from challenging situations and the opportunities for career advancement that follow organizational changes are regarded important. The perceived importance of some events is profession-based: individual-level significant events matter for the doctors, while nurses emphasize collegiality and group support.

Recognize the sources of leadership motivation

– In addition to providing developing career events and opportunities, it's important to recognize who benefits from what kinds of situations. Identifying motivation sources helps in engaging managers. For instance, it´s worth offering new challenges such as change processes to heroes/fighters, says Vistbacka.

If you have a strong leadership identity and therefore see yourself as a leader, you are more willing to seek challenging tasks and develop yourself as a leader.

– It would also be worth investing in the development of leadership identity in leadership development. Developmental reflection can be supported by coaching and narrative work. It´s possible to build a self-supporting leadership career story by exploring one´s own experiences, Vistbacka notes.

The case organization is the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS)/HUS Helsinki University Hospital and the 22 interviewees were mainly chief physicians and head nurses in the middle and upper management. Vistbacka has long experience in leadership development and as manager and supervisor.


stiina vistbacka low res.jpg
Stiina Vistbacka will defend her doctoral dissertation on Thursday, 13th of June.

Further information

Stiina Vistbacka, email: stiina.vistbacka(at)kolumbus.fi

Vistbacka, Stiina (2019). Työuran merkitykselliset tapahtumat ja kasvu johtajaksi sairaalaorganisaatiossa. Acta Wasaensia 420. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Vaasa.

Publication pdf: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-476-855-9

Publication orders: https://verkkokauppa.juvenes.fi/tuote/24757/

Public Defence

The public examination of M.Sc. Stiina Vistbacka doctoral dissertation ”Työuran merkitykselliset tapahtumat ja kasvu johtajaksi sairaalaorganisaatiossa” will be held on Thursday 13 June 2019 at noon in auditorium Kurtén, University of Vaasa. The field of dissertation is Industrial Management. The language of the defence is Finnish.

Docent Paula Asikainen (Satakunnan sairaanhoitopiiri) and Dr. Jouni Koivuniemi (Lappeenranta University of Technology) will act as opponents and professor Josu Takala as a custos.

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