As a consequence of new public management reforms, leading professionals in public service organizations have increasingly been involved in management roles. The phenomenon of clinical directors in the healthcare sector is particularly representative of this, as this medical manager role has been adopted in many countries around the world. However, professionals’ managerial role taking still falls quite short of expectations. While most research has searched for the causes of this gap at the individual level by exploring the clash between management and professionalism, the purpose of the paper is to argue that a contextualized understanding of the antecedents at the organizational level, and particularly the existing medical management roles, provides a more thorough picture of the reality.
The paper adopts an institutional perspective to study the development of existing medical management roles and the rise of new ones (clinical directors). The analysis focuses on the case of Italy, a country with a tradition in medical management where, following the example of other countries, clinical director roles were introduced by law; yet they were not incisive. The paper is based on a review of the existing literature and extensive field research on Italian clinical directorates.
The paper shows how in contexts in which doctors in management roles exist and are provided with legitimacy deriving from legal norms, historical settlements between professions and taken for granted arrangements, medical management becomes institutionalized, stability prevails and change towards new doctor-in-management roles is seriously hampered.
The paper contributes to existing knowledge on professionals’ managerial role taking, underlining the relevance of contextual and nation-specific factors on this process. It provides implications for research and for policy making in healthcare and other professional public services.
The authors thank the COST European framework and all the members of the Action IS0903 “Enhancing the role of medicine in the management of European Health Systems”. They are also grateful to SDA Bocconi School of Management Research Division and Regione Lombardia – Programma Dote Ricerca Applicata, for their financial support. Finally, the authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.
Sartirana, M., Prenestini, A. and Lega, F. (2014), "Medical management: hostage to its own history? The case of Italian clinical directors", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 417-429. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPSM-06-2012-0070Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited