A New Model for CPE? Leader CPE at United Hospital

By Shawn Mai, ACPE Supervisor  |  August 2016


Author Kevin Cashman writes in his book Leadership from the Inside Out:
“Our ability to grow as a leader is based on our ability to grow as a person. We will not analyze the external act of leadership into a formula of . . . quick tips. Rather, we will take a reflective journey to foster the personal awakening needed to enhance our leadership effectiveness.

Kyle Vlach and I began working together as ACPE Supervisors three and a half years ago at United Hospital in St. Paul, MN (a component site of the Allina CPE Center). We both supervise out of theories of gaining choice from greater access to self. Recognizing our complementary theories, we began developing a co-supervision model that served the students and allowed for a more balanced day-to-day involvement in the hospital. Instead of one of us being entrenched in a unit of CPE and unavailable for hospital work, co-supervising allowed us to share supervisory responsibilities and stay integrated in the hospital.

Co-supervising led to creative thinking about how the process method of education might be applied beyond training ministers. Among other possibilities, we began a conversation with a medical resident group.

Then Katie Westman, a clinical nurse specialist and process improvement leader at United Hospital, approached me about how self-awareness might help hospital leaders in their leadership development. Our conversations led to interest with hospital directors in exploring CPE. The directors gained their vice presidents’ support of the effort. Initially a group of six leaders enrolled but one had to withdrawal before the unit began.

Kyle and I began by discerning the outcomes for a unit of CPE conducted with a group of hospital directors/leaders. Articulating themes from one’s religious tradition was broadened to philosophy and values. Focus was placed on developing awareness of themselves as leaders and developing an awareness of how their attitudes, values, assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses impacted their effectiveness as leaders.

The unit began with a philosophy, theology, and values reflection overnight retreat that included sharing stories and developing goals.

Group time is spread out over an eight-month period thus an extended unit. Clinical work is drawn from their work with employees, patients, and families. Individual supervision happens twice a month. Presentations have included role-playing difficult conversations, verbatims of meetings that they have led, individual meetings with their direct reports, and a variety of inner spiritual dialogue work.

Participants in the group include the Director of Care Management, Director of Process Improvement, Director of Surgical Services, and two leaders from nursing at United Hospital. United Hospital is the largest hospital in the Twin Cities east metro area and a part of Allina Health, the largest health care provider in the state of Minnesota.


Back row from left to right: Melissa Fritz, Director of Neuroscience; Katie Westman, Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist; Cindi St. George, Director of Care Management; Bror Herrick, Director of Process Improvement

Front Row from Left to Right:
Tyler Lindquist, Director of Surgical Services; Shawn Mai, ACPE Supervisor; Kyle Vlach, ACPE Supervisor