Deakin University
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The challenges of becoming and being a clinician manager: a qualitative exploration of the perception of medical doctors in senior leadership roles at a large Australian health service

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-01, 00:00 authored by Didir Imran, Karen Rog, John Gallichio, Laura AlstonLaura Alston
In Australia, activity-based funding models have emphasized the need for hospitals to be accountable for their clinical performance. Clinician managers, with medical backgrounds are essential to ensuring high quality clinical performance and operational management of hospital services. The purpose of this study is to 1. Identify factors influencing doctors to become clinician managers in the Australian healthcare setting. 2. Understand the pathways and challenges faced by doctors in becoming clinician managers.

We undertook a qualitative study with semi-structured interviews of 18 clinician managers (who have medical practitioner backgrounds) with formal leadership administrative roles. Interview transcripts were analysed with systematic text condensation.

All eligible participants approached in this context, agreed to participate and over 80% of the participants were male. We identified five themes: ‘Motivations for leadership’, ‘Pathways to managerial role’, ‘Challenges faced in management roles’, ‘Credibility through clinical practice’ and ‘Management skill cultivation and support’. Clinician managers progressed from being doctors to leadership roles through being encouraged to take on roles, while others felt pressure to take on leadership roles even if this was not a personal goal. Clinician managers described challenges such as feeling under-prepared, maintaining respect form colleagues through still participating in a clinical load, along with juggling priorities such as administrative tasks, managing budgets and performance managing other doctors.

There needs to be an intentional and more structured approach to training and supporting clinician managers that considers the complex challenges faced by individuals (especially women) as they progress into these roles in the Australian tertiary health services context. There is a need to consider ways of supporting clinician managers to focus on management skills, effective mentorship and address perceptions around losing respect from colleagues if clinician managers cease their clinical loads. Further research is needed among the female medical workforce, along with research to understand if maintaining clinical loads when undertaking a clinical management role in fact leads to better effectiveness in contributing to better patient safety and quality outcomes. Such evidence may assist in addressing these social pressures among clinician managers, and contribute to addressing gender inequality among the clinical management workforce.



BMC health services research



Article number



1 - 9


BioMed Central


London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal