Smart Surgery

Research Proves Being an OR Director is Exhausting

17 Jan 2020

Running an OR is a tough job. Several management studies - including Harvard Business Review - reported on the challenges OR Directors face: specifically, being caught between business directives from the C-suite, while simultaneously providing direction and balance to your team, a challenge labeled "vertical role switching."

Note: We don't like the label "middle manager" especially not when describing OR directors.

This position of being on opposite ends of the leadership spectrum, both leader and follower, is stressful because it requires managers to switch their role at a moment's notice. People in this position, including OR directors, face the highest levels of stress in an organization's leadership hierarchy. Such conflicting roles could potentially lead to increased feelings of anxiety and act as risk factors for a large number of health problems, from hypertension to heart disease.  Not to mention, conflicting roles disrupt cognitive performance and the ability to focus on a task without getting distracted.

So what are some ways that hospitals can mitigate the occupational stress and organizational “pinch” facing OR Directors? Some recommendations for hospitals are listed below, which could help take pressure off those in this position:

  • Reduce the amount of upward and downward interactions. Don't expect attendance at every meeting or leadership on every project. 
  • Find out how your employees and supervisors communicate with each other at work. Do they talk most of the time, or use email, etc. Find out how this plays into their roles of power.
  • During onboarding and future training, always explain the position in the organization and explain how they are essential to the success of the hospital.
  • Consider using OR performance analytics tools, to lighten the reporting load, ease decision-making, and improve overall visibility of team performance.
  • Don't allow micromanagement from higher-ups - give people direction and discretion in leadership roles.
  • Make some positions equal to each other. This eliminates the vertical role-switching between those positions.
  • Develop role transition scripts and train people in ways to comfortably switch from a subordinate to a leader.

Empowering the OR Directors

Across all industries middle managers can make a big difference to organizational performance - a recent study of a large-scale analysis at Wharton concluded that the behavior of middle managers accounted for 22.3% of the variance in revenue. It is critical that hospitals understand the unique psychological pressures faced by OR Directors and use the suggestions mentioned here to ease their burden and ensure smooth day-to-day operations. 

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Gargee Kashyap

Written by Gargee Kashyap

Gargee Kashyap works as Content Manager at caresyntax. With a background in International Management, she's passionate about digital transformation in the healthcare industry and the role of technology and data analytics in improving patients’ lives worldwide. You can reach her on LinkedIn or via email at

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