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Medical Director: Responsibilities, Requirements and Career Info

Medical directors are physicians who oversee the operations of long-term care facilities. Working with management, they coordinate various interdisciplinary teams to execute the clinic's policies, systems and agenda. These directors are primarily responsible for ensuring the efficient operation of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement communities, hospices or homecare units as well as providing superior patient care.

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Medical Director Responsibilities

As long-term care clinics' leaders, medical directors recruit and manage physicians, nurses, caregivers and various non-medical personnel. Along with senior management, they examine and coordinate various practice activities to guarantee the medical quality of the facility. Medical directors are also responsible for the training, continuing education and promotion of subordinate staff. Additional duties include managing the facility's budget, liaising with other medical or non-medical departments and ensuring the compliance of all federal and state regulations and codes.

Professional Requirements

To become a medical director requires each applicant to have a medical degree with board certification in family medicine, emergency care or occupational health, along with many years of medical experience. Potential employers also look for candidates with several years of medical management experience. Those who can demonstrate effective interpersonal, oral and written communication abilities, combined with outstanding presentational skills, are preferred. Candidates who are experienced and proficient with computers, Web-based programs and electronic medical records have an added employment advantage.

Career Information for a Medical Director

Medical directors play important roles in ensuring the delivery of quality long-term health care. They generally work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and residential care units as well as providing medical guidance for universities and corporations. Medical directors must remain open to emerging technologies that make health care simultaneously more beneficial to patients and cost effective for employers.


Although it is not mandatory, some physicians choose to become a Certified Medical Director in Long Term Care (CMD). This certificate was developed in 1991 by the American Medical Directors Association (AMDA), which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). The purpose behind this certification was to meld the medical side of long term care with the administrative branch of the facility. To achieve certification, candidates must demonstrate their leadership skills and their understanding of diseases that most commonly affect the elderly, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, pneumonia and chronic pain.


Due to the growing number of patients affected by the actions of medical personnel, some states are taking steps to hold these professionals increasingly accountable for the decisions they make. Therefore, laws that outline the medical director's role, education and responsibilities may become more common in the near future.

Salary Information

Although a few medical directors provide their services full-time, the vast majority perform on a part-time basis, balancing medical direction with other clinical work. Most medical directors also work as attending physicians or in private practices away from the facility.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physicians and surgeons, including medical directors, earned an average annual salary of $187,200 as of May 2013. The AMDA reports that a majority of these professionals possess over 10 years of experience as medical directors.

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