Clinicians’ ability, motivation, and opportunity to acquire and transfer knowledge: An age-driven perspective

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Many countries are seeing a dramatic increase in the average age of their clinicians. The literature often highlights the challenges of high replacement costs and the need for strategies to retain older personnel. Less discussed are the potential pitfalls of knowledge acquisition and transfer that accompany this aging issue.


We propose a conceptual framework for understanding how clinicians' age interact with ability, motivation, and opportunity to predict clinical knowledge transfer and acquisition in health care organizations.


This study integrates life-span development perspectives with the ability–motivation–opportunity framework to develop a number of testable propositions on the interaction between age and clinicians’ ability, motivation, and opportunity to acquire and transfer clinical knowledge.


We posit that the interaction between ability (the knowledge and skills to acquire knowledge), motivation (the willingness to acquire and transfer knowledge), and opportunity (resources required for acquiring and transferring knowledge) is a determinant of successful knowledge management. We also suggest that clinicians' age—and more specifically, the cognitive and motivational changes that accompany aging—moderates these relationships.


This study contributes to existing research by offering a set of testable propositions for future research. These propositions will hopefully encourage empirical research into this important topic and lead to guidelines for reducing the risks of organizational knowledge loss due to aging.

Practice Implications:

We suggest several ways that health care organizations can tailor managerial practices in order to help capitalize on the knowledge-based resources held by their younger and older clinicians. Such initiatives may affect employees’ ability (e.g., by providing specific training programs), motivation (e.g., by expanding subjective perceptions of future time at work), and opportunities (e.g., by providing mentoring, reverse mentoring, and coaching programs) to acquire and transfer knowledge.

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