Aims to discover the work hospital clinician managers think they do and observe them in practice. A total of 14 managerial interests and concerns were identified in focus group discussions. Clinician managers' jobs are pressurised, and are more about negotiation and persuasion than command and control. Their work is of considerable complexity, pace and responsibility and it is predicated more on managing inputs (e.g. money and people) than care processes, systems, outputs and outcomes. Thus the capacity of clinicians in these roles to respond to reforms such as those envisaged in the Bristol inquiry may be problematic. Qualitative studies are re-affirmed as important in providing grounded insights into not only clinical activities, but also organisational behaviour and processes.