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"We want to change the system": a qualitative study on emergency medicine physician leadership.

CJEM 2024 March 24
OBJECTIVE: The significance of physician leadership to help transform the healthcare system has been increasingly discussed. This study looked at the qualities of emergency medicine (EM) physicians that support or inhibit their work as healthcare leaders.

METHODS: Through an iterative process of semi-structured interviews and then focus groups, we examined why EM physicians pursue leadership roles, the strengths they bring and the frustrations they encounter. Thematic analysis identified factors that facilitate and inhibit the work of EM physicians as they enter leadership roles.

RESULTS: These findings can be summarized in four key themes. (1) A desire to improve the wider health system was often a prime motivator for entering a leadership role. (2) EM physicians' clinical skills such as confident decision-making, relationship building through communication, and comfort with uncertainty supported their successful transition to leadership. (3) EM physician leaders perceived shiftwork as both a potential benefit and a challenge in their leadership role and felt it needed to be carefully managed to ensure personal wellness and success. And (4) participants were not driven to take on leadership positions by financial remuneration but stated that the discrepancy between EM clinical and leadership compensation was a point of stress.

CONCLUSION: As physician leadership is explored as a mechanism to support the healthcare system's success, this project provides insights into the realities experiences by EM physicians and considerations for healthcare professionals as they encourage physicians into leadership positions.

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