Healthcare administration is a huge field and, sometimes, even a bigger job. For those who don’t understand what it means to work in health administration, this is a field that means challenging positions in hospitals, clinics, and all medical settings. It involves leadership, administrative tasks, overseeing programs, staffing, and making decisions that can save and change lives.
Hospital administrators are generally highly educated leaders with backgrounds in business and medicine or some combination of the two. If you’re considering a career in healthcare administration, read on to learn more.
Whether working in a long-term care facility or helping to start up a new cancer care telemedicine in an oncology hospital or clinic, healthcare administrators play a big role in nearly every end of any medical facility’s decision-making and daily operations as well as long-term goals. With skills in business administration after degree programs and extensive coursework in finance, management, public health, and more, business administrators work with hospital administrators on budgeting, coordination of care, hiring and staffing, and making sure an overall facility is meeting state and federal rules and regulations in the best interest of patients.
Health administrators work with doctors, nurses, and other staff not only in an administrative capacity but, in some cases, to help patients and families to navigate billing, finances, and health insurance hiccups. An understanding of Medicaid versus Medicare as well as skills in multi tasking and long hours in a stressful environment are a must. While these professionals have a lot on their plates, most say their work is extremely rewarding.
Programming and Marketing
On top of overseeing enrollments, intakes, and medical programs, health administrators are responsible for public health in other ways. For example, with the recent pandemic, healthcare administrators have been responsible for coordinating programs and policies on how their facilities are handling Covid-19. From helping residents, staff, and others to access vaccines to making rules about who can visit or even enter long and short term care facilities, healthcare administrators have worked with local and federal health officials to ensure quality of care and patient safety in the recent public health emergency.
Part of working in healthcare administration is also about providing additional information about a facility to other healthcare professionals, patients, and family members. This means marketing. Many healthcare administrators oversee the marketing departments, or, in smaller buildings, run them. From providing information about services offered to making sure pertinent policy changes and statistics make it to the website and other forms of external communications, health care administrators in the United States work to get accurate information out to the public.
These versatile professionals also work on helping medical staff implement new programs. Maybe a hospital wants to implement a smoking cessation program or ongoing cancer caregiver support group. A healthcare administrator would be involved here too in that those staffers would need his or her approval and possibly backing for funding too. For this reason, healthcare administrators generally meet with care teams and other staff at least weekly to keep up to date with patient education programs as well as ongoing facility, staff, and patient needs.
Financing and Decisions
While some hospitals and health facilities have financial officers specifically in charge of budgets, a healthcare administrator in a smaller community health center might be more hands-on and responsible for the overall budget. Often called a CFO in smaller non profits, health care administrators can wear two hats and serve in the role of a chief financial officer too. This means it will be up to them whether or not the pediatric department buys those magnetic blocks for the waiting room. For this reason, it’s important that healthcare administrators have experience with budgeting and understand the reimbursement system from insurances including Medicare and Medicaid. In the end, funding all goes into the same pot and it’s up to the healthcare administrator, the board of trustees, and other high-level decision makers, to determine how it’s spent.
Because of the job’s financial aspect, this position is often of interest to business students who hope to make a difference. A great field that combines skills from a traditional MBA program with the addition of patient care concerns, healthcare administrators are generally interested in the discipline of medicine too. In short, they are ideally good managers who want to help people, too.
For most health care administration jobs, you’ll need a graduate-level business degree. Some student minor in medicine or business. But specific degrees that tie the two fields are also available at the graduate level. An MBA in healthcare administration is one of the easiest ways to land that first hospital administrator’s job at the junior level. While it takes years to move to the top of any medical facility, you’ll want this degree and job experience to climb your way up. Consider being a volunteer or intern. Not only will this give you experience in a health setting, but might help you to be sure if this is the right field for you or not.
Before signing up for a master’s degree program in healthcare administration at an accredited school, some students find it important to get experience in the business world or public health. They can later apply this skill set to next level management in the healthcare world. If this is you, look for jobs that will help your professional development in the areas of both health and business analytics. Maybe work as a nurses aide for a few years before signing up for graduate school. Or, consider taking on a direct care services job with disabled adults just so that, when it’s time for school, you’ll be one step ahead with a multidisciplinary approach and real-world experience to learning.
Whether you’re considering education or a career in healthcare administration or just curious about what the field entails, understanding what important role health administrators play in the medical field is the first step. A field with opportunities for advancement, high job stress, but a massive reward, healthcare administrators are always in high demand and can make a big difference in the world.