A self-administered mailed questionnaire was sent to a stratified random sample of medical administrators in Ontario homes for the aged (HFAs) and nursing homes (NHs) in 1991 in order to explore the types and extent of medical-administrative activities undertaken by these physicians, and their perceptions of skills, attitudes and knowledge that were important in carrying out their roles. Three key findings emerged from the survey. First, considerable variation exists in the extent of medical administrative activities undertaken within each of the two facility types and, in some cases, across the two facility types. Second, there were few activities which ≥75 per cent of medical administrators reported undertaking on all occasions and many activities which ≥25 per cent of physicians reported not undertaking on any occasion. Third, in general, medical administrators did not express values congruent with adoption of a broader management role in facility administration, financing, and planning activities. Research and policy implications for the evolving role of medical administrators in NHs and HFAs are discussed.