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What Motivates practice managers?

Exploring the experiences and motivations of this underrepresented group within Primary Care.

By background I am a social psychologist. I came from nursing into psychology because I thought it would help me to understand the individuals that I worked with. Circumstances changed and I have ended up exploring the complexities of different working groups within healthcare services, trying to better understand, fundamentally, how do people best work in groups?

In this work I studied intensely interprofessional team meetings, culminating in a book titled ‘Interprofessional care in mental health: A discursive interrogation of team meeting practices’.

In recent years I have had the opportunity to work with Practice Managers in primary care, to think about different ways of implementing digital systems such as online consultation. I have become struck by the complexity of what it is like to be both a manager, but also to work with healthcare ‘professionals’ who might have different more clearly socially ‘known’ roles.

My fascination with groups in practice led me to slightly alter the direction of my career to engage with an MSc in Organisational Psychology, in order to better understand the ways that teams fit into organisations, and to try and ‘move’ my thinking back from academia to the realities of practice. This studying has helped me to further question what it is really like to be a manager of other people of different professions and backgrounds.

Building on this, I became curious as to how to map the motivation and experiences of practice managers with some of the psychological models of leadership that I was coming across.

However, some of this theory is not yet developed – the assumptions in much of the leadership literature is that the manager or the person ‘leading’ is somehow in charge and has a separate status to those that they are leading.

This has opened my thinking to a range of possibilities. For Practice Managers that I have met and worked with, there has sometimes been less of a sense of them being ‘the boss’, in a way that fits with much of the leadership literature, and choosing to lead in a particular way. Instead, in the same way that I had seen in the interprofessional teams research, they had to invoke a range of strategies relevant to the different professionals that they lead.

This has led to my thinking and conceptualisation of a research study with the intent of interrogating how models of motivation can be integrated with understandings of different factors affecting practice managers, including relationships within teams, work demands, and the effects of COVID on implementation of change.

Bringing these ideas together, I am hoping to develop a more comprehensive and meaningful map of some of the factors affecting the motivation of Practice Managers in their leadership of digital change, using online consultation as an example.

I hope that this will help to shine a brighter light on the work of practice managers, and in the longer term to provide insights into how to optimise experiences for practice managers when they lead different digital change projects within their practices.

If you are a practice manager and would like to take part, please do click on this link:

Thank-you for taking the time to read my approach, and if you have comments or queries about the study, or other areas of my work that you would like to follow up, please do get in touch.

Dr Cordet Smart

Research Lead, UXC Group and MSc Organisational Psychology Student, Birkbeck College, London.


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