A new and rapidly changing health care environment is motivating more physicians to accept administrative and management responsibilities.  

Physician leaders are uniquely positioned in today's world to help identify the business and clinical needs of organizations that have a greater emphasis on clinical quality, clinical outcomes, and health system performance. Physician leaders have extensive knowledge about the “core business” of caring for human beings. Physicians in key leadership roles​ can help shape the decisions around what’s best for patients and the organization as a whole. 

Physicians interested in administrative positions should consider talking to the CEO of their health system about opportunities available andwhether a leadership role would be a good fit. The required skills in these roles can be very different from the ones that make a good clinician. Leadership roles require exceptional team and consensus building, while providing clinical care tends to be more independent.  

Physicians moving into leadership positions at hospitals and large health systems should be able to: 

  • See the big picture beyond the patient at hand 
  • Collaborate with people at all levels of the health system 
  • Incorporate multiple perspectives 
  • Think long term 
  • Convince a significant number of people of the validity of an idea without issuing orders 
  • Be comfortable making some people unhappy 
  • Communicate and listen well 

Physicians interested in these types of positions may benefit from advanced education that is specifically designed to help them tackle the different challenges they will face in these new roles.  

Various masters degree programs exist to arm physicians to be successful in administrative roles and help shape the future of tomorrow’s health care industry – some of these programs are created specifically for physicians, while others are open to a wider audience. 

Additional training, such as an MBA, Masters in Medical Management (MMM), or other advanced degree may be beneficial in some roles, while on-the-job mentorship or training could be sufficient for other positions.  

Another option is to pursue formal certification, such as through the  Certified Physician Executive (CPE) Programoffered through the American Association for Physician Leadership. A Certified Physician Executive is a licensed MD or DO with one year of leadership experience, 150 hours of tested management education or a graduate management degree, and is board certified in a clinical specialty with three years’ experience after residency and fellowship. 

Some physicians consider transitioning to administrative positions when they start to feel burned out. However, taking on leadership roles should not be made in response to being burned out by clinical work. The pay may not be greater, the hours may not be fewer, and the stress most likely will not be reduced.  At the end of the day, some physicians find satisfaction in a complete transition to an administrative or leadership role, while others enjoy a combination of administrative and clinical roles.  

AAP Section Membership

Interested in receiving support along your health care administration journey? Consider joining the AAP Section on Administration and Practice Management (SOAPM), the home for health care administration and practice management expertise and advocacy within the AAP. The 1500+ member Section shares valuable information and resources. This active section hosts a real-time listserv, business practice webinars, conference sessions and more. Whether you are starting up your own practice or looking to revamp your existing practice, SOAPM can help.

Other Pathways

Other creative medical career options are emerging. Here are some ideas that are popping up: medical writer/editor, podcaster, telemedicine consultant, certified physician career coach, medical expert witness, patient education teacher, medical educator live or via webinar, or medical start up entrepreneur. Explore these possibilities with career coaches or physician recruiters. Or better yet, be inspired to follow your own path.

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American Academy of Pediatrics