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Healthcare managers’ construction of the manager role in relation to the medical profession

Mia von Knorring (Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden)
Kristina Alexanderson (Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden)
Miriam A Eliasson (Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden and Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 16 May 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore how healthcare managers construct the manager role in relation to the medical profession in their organisations.


In total, 18 of Sweden’s 20 healthcare chief executive officers (CEOs) and 20 clinical department managers (CDMs) were interviewed about their views on management of physicians. Interviews were performed in the context of one aspect of healthcare management; i.e., management of physicians’ sickness certification practice. A discourse analysis approach was used for data analysis.


Few managers used a management-based discourse to construct the manager role. Instead, a profession-based discourse dominated and managers frequently used the attributes “physician” or “non-physician” to categorise themselves or other managers in their managerial roles. Some managers, both CEOs and CDMs, shifted between the management- and profession-based discourses, resulting in a kind of “yes, but […]” approach to management in the organisations. The dominating profession-based discourse served to reproduce the power and status of physicians within the organisation, thereby rendering the manager role weaker than the medical profession for both physician and non-physician managers.

Research limitations/implications

Further studies are needed to explore the impact of gender, managerial level, and basic profession on how managers construct the manager role in relation to physicians.

Practical implications

The results suggest that there is a need to address the organisational conditions for managers’ role taking in healthcare organisations.


Despite the general strengthening of the manager position in healthcare through political reforms during the last decades, this study shows that a profession-based discourse clearly dominated in how the managers constructed the manager role in relation to the medical profession on the workplace level in their organisations.



This study was financially supported by AFA Insurance and the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.


von Knorring, M., Alexanderson, K. and Eliasson, M.A. (2016), "Healthcare managers’ construction of the manager role in relation to the medical profession", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 421-440.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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