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Navigating role conflict: one professional’s journey as a new clinician leader


Transitioning from full-time clinical work to a leadership position can be a difficult transition for healthcare professionals. Competing demands, new responsibilities and changes in how one measures success in this new role often leave new clinician-leaders feeling lost, stymied or ineffectual.

Role conflict is one phenomenon which can impact a healthcare professional’s transition into leadership. Role conflict occurs when the clinician turned leader experiences a sense of dissonance between a highly valued identity as a clinician and a developing identity as a new leader.

This article shares my personal experience as a new clinician leader in the field of physical therapy. I offer reflections on the impact of professional role identity conflict during my transition into leadership, and how this role identity conflict led to early leadership failures, but also how addressing role conflict contributed to leadership success later on.

More importantly, this article offers advice to the new clinician leader for navigating role identity conflict during a clinical to leadership transition. This advice is based on my personal experience in physical therapy and on the growing body of evidence on this phenomenon in all healthcare professions.

  • clinical leadership
  • management
  • emotional intelligence

Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study.

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