<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

What Motivates Physicians?

December 17, 2015

Aligning with physicians, either employed or independent, continues to be one of the top concerns of hospital senior leaders. Hospitals struggle to get key physicians to engage with initiatives and don’t understand why. For instance, a hospital might propose a clinical co-management model that has proven beneficial to the physicians and hospital in another market, only to get a lukewarm response from their docs. Similarly, hospitals need to do a better job identifying which physician candidates will be a good fit for their organization, and how to help them to develop and maximize their potential once they’re on board.

describe the image

A client of ours is developing a physician leadership development program. The discussion turned to why physicians, particularly independent practitioners, would want to participate. The question raises a broader issue: Why does any physician engage with a project of any sort and what will motivate them to grow and develop? Hospitals often fail to dig deep enough in this regard, and propose something that doesn’t match the motivations of the physician. This list is not exhaustive, but having interviewed over 1,000 physicians in these situations, we can categorize the common motivators:
  • Esteem – Some physicians want to participate in a program or take a leadership position because of the professional recognition it may provide.

  • Patient Outcomes – Physicians may be motivated by the opportunity to improve the quality of patient care.

  • Innovation – Some value the opportunity to create something new – a new care delivery model or program, or to be a change agent in an era of healthcare reform.

  • Control – Physicians are often frustrated by a growing lack of control over their world. Some projects can give them a “seat at the table” and a role in determining the future of the organization, and their own career.

  • Finances – Physicians are in the business of practicing medicine. Sometimes, a primary concern is creating or protecting a revenue stream.

  • Lifestyle/Burden – Some are simply looking for anything that alleviates their daily frustrations, be it organizational inefficiency or the burden of being on call or working longer hours than they believe is really necessary to meet their goals.

  • Career Development – Developing leadership skills or learning about non-clinical operational topics will appeal to physicians who are thinking about their own career path.

Examine your situation. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? Now – what are the goals of the physicians and what might motivate them? Your organization needs to align these variables.

This approach goes hand in hand with the foundational work of defining new behavioral competencies (leadership, collaboration, business acumen, etc.) that you need in your physicians, and then implementing ways to identify and develop these critical traits.


Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.