Do Expert Clinicians Make the Best Managers? Evidence from Hospitals in Denmark, Australia and Switzerland – BMJ Leader

Hospital quality rests on the morale and productivity of those who work in them. It is therefore important to try to understand the kinds of team leaders that create high morale within hospitals. Methods This study collects and examines data on 3000 physicians in hospitals from Denmark, Australia and Switzerland. It estimates regression equations to study the statistical predictors of levels of doctors’ job satisfaction, their intentions to quit or stay in their current hospital and their assessment of the leadership quality of their immediate manager.

A particular concern of this study is to probe the potential role played by clinical expertise among those in charge of other physicians. Results When led by managers with high clinical expertise, hospital physicians are (1) more satisfied with their jobs, (2) more satisfied with their supervisors’ effectiveness and (3) less likely to wish to quit their current job. These findings are robust to adjustment for potential confounders, including age and job seniority, and pass a variety of statistical checks (including clustering of SEs and checking for omitted variable bias). They are replicated in each of the three nations. Conclusion Physicians are happier with their jobs when led by outstanding clinical experts. It is not sufficient, it appears from this evidence, for leaders merely to be clinicians. This suggests that—though only an idealised and presumably infeasible randomised experiment could allow complete certainty—there is a natural case for managers within a hospital hierarchy to be drawn from the ranks of those who are themselves outstanding clinicians.

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