The number of doctors choosing to become medical directors could be increased if they received more backing and encouragement.
A study among current medical directors, which was carried out by the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor, also found that one in four have only been in their job for up to a year and would like a better induction and more mentoring.
Meanwhile, those who have been in the management role for more than a year said they value support from the board, coaching and networking.
The NHS must do more to make the position a clearer career option for doctors in a bid to increase the number of clinicians applying for the role, those surveyed said.
Medical directors are senior consultants who are members of trust boards and foundation trust boards.
Those polled called for more acknowledgement of various aspects of the position, such as strategic and operational undertakings, and urged more backing from all parts of the health service.
They also said there should be a bigger emphasis on training, role clarity and the different career pathways open to doctors.
Monitor, the health services regulator, said it would join forces with its national partners to look at ways to tackle the issue over the next few months.
Monitor’s medical director, professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor, described the role of medical directors as “varied and vital” and acknowledged that they need more support at all stages of their professional life.
He said board induction days, such as those currently offered by Monitor to chief executives, chairs and non-executive directors, could be opened up to medical directors later this year.
But Mr Mascie-Taylor added that Monitor is open to suggestions and that the organisation is now at the beginning of a “very interesting project”.