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The Evolution of Physician Executive Jobs

Jackson Physician Search
August 15, 2023

A physician considering a future in leadership might define the goal as eventually running a department at a hospital or owning and operating his or her own practice. Through years of working with patients while navigating the healthcare business, the physician would have the experience necessary for either of these physician executive jobs. 

However, there are many more roles aspiring physician leaders have available to them. We see physician executives not only running their own practices and departments, but they are also leading hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and more. 

At Jackson Physician Search, we have seen this firsthand. In recent years we have assisted our clients with numerous physician executive searches, including Medical Director roles and department heads at hospitals, as well as a Vice President for a healthcare tech company and a CMO for a non-profit health insurer. Organizations of all types and sizes are recognizing the benefits of physician leadership. As the role continues to evolve, we will no doubt continue to see more organizations hiring physician executives

But what has caused this expansion of opportunities for physicians on the business side of medicine? As healthcare as a whole becomes increasingly “corporate,” physicians are naturally paying more and more attention to this area of the profession. The combination of clinical expertise and business acumen brings a new and necessary perspective to a variety of healthcare organizations. 

The Benefits of Physician Executive Leadership 

The benefits of physician executive leadership are many, though often the first to come to mind is the ability to act as a bridge between the boardroom and the clinic. They bring a clinical perspective to administrative conversations, ensuring decisions are made with the patient in mind and an awareness of how staff will be impacted. In the same way, physician executives can convey administrative directives to staff, ensuring the motivations for new policies are clear. Because physician executives have direct experience with patients, they may garner more trust and respect from patient-facing staff, making it easier for them to get buy-in on new initiatives. 

As mediators, physician executives are certainly helpful, but today’s physician executives are increasingly called upon to set policies and launch initiatives designed to grow the patient base. In a competitive healthcare landscape, physician executives have the unique experience of knowing what patients want and need as well as what is financially favorable for the organization. Finding the balance between these two things is critical for the success of any healthcare organization–and physician executives are best positioned to achieve it.

Must-Haves for Physician Executive Jobs

The role of physician executive is undoubtedly expanding, as seen in the growing list of must-have skills for physician executives. Today’s physician executives must go beyond being an expert in one’s specialty or a longstanding team member. They need to be business-minded with a head for strategy and innovation. They must also be excellent communicators with high levels of emotional intelligence, capable of taking the temperature of any room (metaphorically) and knowing how to ask questions or present information in a way that will be well-received.

As healthcare organizations increasingly act more like corporations, physician executives must take a more strategic role focused on growing market share. This means a keen understanding of general business principles as well as market trends and community needs. Physician executives must be capable of building relationships within their own organizations and with other organizations’ leaders. These soft skills are increasingly important in today’s physician executives.

Mentoring Tomorrow’s Physician Executives

Because the role of physician executive has evolved significantly in recent years, today’s physician executives have largely had to learn on the job. Their mentors may have guided them through clinical challenges, but it is unlikely they could have foreseen the demands that would be placed on them in a business capacity. That said, future physician leaders have the benefit of dual MD/MBA degrees, extensive in-house training programs, and of course, mentors who are tackling these challenges and proving the value of physician executives every day. 

Organizations must create an environment that encourages physician executive mentorship. They can do this by offering physicians a clear view of how decisions are made and inviting them to participate when possible. Identify physicians interested in leadership and assign them to a physician executive mentor who will meet with them regularly and prepare them for a future in leadership. Physicians who learn firsthand from successful physician executives are most likely to one day find success in the role themselves.


At Jackson Physician Search, we’ve built relationships with physicians for 40+ years. Our physician database includes physicians from all over the country and at all stages of their careers. This means we are well-positioned to connect organizations with the most qualified physician executives for any role. Reach out today to learn more about our physician executive recruitment process.

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