Feature Interview

HRS Leadership and Education for Allied Professionals (LEAP) Program

Interview by Jodie Elrod

Interview by Jodie Elrod

In this interview, EP Lab Digest speaks with Jill Schaeffer, MSN, CRNP, FHRS, CEPS, CCDS about the inaugural Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) Leadership and Education for Allied Professionals (LEAP) Program. 

What can you tell us about the LEAP program?

LEAP is a new 12-month program offering leadership skills and networking opportunities to allied professionals. I am the chair of the LEAP committee, and the co-chair is Amber Seiler, NP, FHRS, CEPS, CCDS. LEAP will consist of various in-person meetings as well as webinars throughout the year. Much of the content is still to be determined, but universal issues such as negotiations, and work/life integration will be addressed. We want to provide strategies and support as well as networking opportunities. 

There will be 20 people in the inaugural program; candidates will be selected after review through the nomination process. After the first year, the LEAP program participants will meet each May at the HRS Scientific Sessions; we hope in the future that all the former classes will come back and share what they’ve learned. 

How did this program come about?

HRS leadership recognized that while allied professionals make up a large percentage of our membership — almost 30% — they face different challenges than our physician colleagues, including that many have less ability to get off of work to attend meetings. So, there has been a lot of discussion in our strategic planning process this year on how to meet those needs and how best to accomplish this at the leadership level. This includes increasing digital reach and continuing education opportunities. 

Patricia Blake, CEO of HRS, has had experience leading highly successful annual leadership programs in her previous organization, so she wanted to offer this opportunity to HRS members. In addition to the LEAP program, HRS is launching Growth and Leadership Opportunity For Women In Electrophysiology (GLOWE) for early career women electrophysiologists. To offer both is a significant resource allocation, but Pat and HRS leadership are very committed to providing allied professionals with this leadership opportunity. I applaud the entire HRS team for that, and I think our allied professionals will be grateful that there is a strong stand to provide career resources to our care teams. 

Why is it important to offer these services to allied professionals? 

In the end, it gets back to our patients — that is the ultimate goal. If team members are given leadership skills, they are better set up to negotiate problems with their leadership. The goal here is to not only improve leadership opportunities so that our members who go through this program will hopefully see avenues for themselves at HRS, but to also help them develop leadership skills that they can take back to their organization and have a better toolkit to work with their administration.

We hear a lot from allied professionals who say, “How do I communicate with my leaders?” We know what the problems are, and we want to help allied professionals have more meaningful communication and negotiation with their upper-level leaders in terms of what is needed to improve patient care and how to accomplish that.

Who is an ideal candidate for this program?

That question came up when creating this program: is this simply designed for early-career allied professionals, or can advanced career folks who are looking to update their personal leadership style also be involved? For this first year, we are not differentiating that. Because this is an inaugural program, we’re not setting up barriers — we just want to get it started and build the network. Therefore, we welcome everyone at this point.

However, the ideal candidate may be someone who is looking for more information on how they can better their leadership skills. For example, folks that really want to be involved and do more, but are not sure how to proceed. We have had a lot of interest in this program, and have heard from a lot of people who are really enthusiastic and excited about the concept. This year, we will only be able to accept 20 candidates, but will look forward to providing more programs in the coming years.  

What activities will the inaugural class take part in?

The first event will be a networking reception at Heart Rhythm 2020. After that, there will be various webinars throughout the year that participants will take part in. There are also two in-person meetings, including a retreat in Washington, D.C. in June and a half-day session at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in November. In May 2021, we will begin with the second class; the first class will also be there to reunite and meet with the new class. We’re just starting these discussions, so those details are still coming together.

What are your long-term expectations and goals for this program?

There has been a long-term goal from our Allied Professional Council to have a growth program, mentor program, and succession planning to identify leaders for placement on committees. In the past, this was always done internally or by word of mouth. However, the difficulties with identifying future leaders, from my perspective, is that we don’t know who we don’t know. So, by putting the word out to the masses, it’s an opportunity to find folks that we never knew were interested in getting involved in the organization. As I said, participants will then have the opportunity to take those skillsets back to their own workplace. Thus, I’m looking forward to this program helping to enhance the programs that we offer, and I think it will be very complimentary to what we already have in place with our allied professional leadership.

We are very excited about how much resource is being invested into this. To put that investment into the allied professionals and team-based care says a lot about HRS. 

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