Healthcare is an incredibly critical sector, and yet it has been struggling for as long as it has existed. Even today, people are dealing with an outdated field and a massive shortage of healthcare professionals.
Add in the pandemic and the stress related to the massive influx of COVID-19 patients, and you have a recipe for disaster. Healthcare professionals are burning out and leaving healthcare, and if you find that you are considering changing careers because the hands-on work is becoming too much, then a good alternative is to instead get started in healthcare management and administration.
You can offer so much when working within management. Not only can you help better support healthcare staff at all levels, but you can work to improve quality standards across the board for patients and their families as well.
Working your way up into healthcare management can feel daunting, but if you find you are a natural leader and need a new direction for your career, then consider using this guide to help you get started in healthcare management.
What is Healthcare Management?
Healthcare management refers to the leadership positions that actively work to guide and support healthcare staff. In many ways, both healthcare management and administration are two sides of the same coin. Most roles you find available will require you to focus on both the human element of your job and also the business element.
Management, of course, focuses on the human side. Healthcare managers work hard so that the teams and professionals underneath them can work seamlessly and to the best of their ability. They need to use a variety of soft and organizational skills and negotiate with key players like stakeholders, the government, and so on.
What the role entails depends on the scope and how the healthcare system works in your place of work and in your state or country.
What is Healthcare Administration?
Healthcare administration focuses more on the business side of care. Creating and managing budgets, financing, improving HR and logistical support, and so on are all examples of administrative work. Admin work can be your main focus, or you can take on both and become a true healthcare leader.
You won’t likely get a job as the Hospital Director right off the bat, so working your way up to either by managing the business and admin side of healthcare or by working to manage the employees and specialists is the best way forward. Whichever road you choose, however, know that you will need to build up the skills for both in order to reach executive-level management positions.
Tasks Healthcare Leaders Handle
There are numerous roles in healthcare management and administration. So many, in fact, that there are roles that don’t require an intimate understanding of healthcare organizations. You can transition into administrative roles like research or marketing or into the financial department and focus your efforts entirely there.
Of course, those who have worked in clinical settings before typically gravitate towards leadership and management roles that allow them to extend their previous experience in more direct ways.
As a healthcare manager, you will absolutely be dealing with several business tasks, but the ability to go beyond that and directly impact both staff and patients in a positive way while also stepping back from the hands-on demands is one of the best options forward for many.
Though there are multiple tasks that healthcare leaders and managers take on, the most common tasks include:
- Defining, optimizing, and implementing budgets and other general financial tasks.
- Create plans, strategies, and goals for their teams, monitor progress, and provide support.
- Attend meetings, negotiate, and relay essential information between parties.
- Oversee the daily operations of your team, department, or hospital (depending on the scope of your role).
- Handle interpersonal relations and internal conflicts as they arise.
- Ensure compliance with quality standards and work to improve standards.
- Hire, train, and manage your team or teams of professionals.
Being in a managerial position in a small work environment like a clinic will require more hands-on work with a greater number of options in the above list. If you work in a large organization or hospital, however, then you will have your own team who will help by focussing on one or two of the tasks handled by managers.
Working with your team, delegating so that you get results, and staying organized is essential when you want to transition from working in clinical care and start to instead work in healthcare leadership.
Other Ways to be a Leader in Healthcare
Management is an excellent career goal for those working in or adjacent to healthcare, but it isn’t the only way to lead. You can also become a thought leader or work to make lasting changes through policy-making. In many ways, you can even do both.
You can work in an executive position and work to create or at least sponsor new research that you believe can help improve the quality of patient care for all. There is no wrong way forward, so long as you can manage your time correctly and do your best to leave a positive legacy behind.
- In Academics
Being a thought leader or a teacher is one great way to help make lasting changes in the world. Many clinical specialists go on to earn a doctorate or an EdD so that they can train up the next generation of specialists, but you don’t need to teach to make an impact.
You can also go into research or work as a motivational or informational speaker to inspire more to get started in healthcare.
With a shortage and a true need for the public to be more aware of their health needs and treatment options, there are so many ways that you can take charge and put your experience within the healthcare industry to work.
- In Policy Making
Finally, the last way that you can transition into a leadership role in healthcare is by moving from the health sector entirely and into politics and other policy-making organizations. This allows you to really tackle your goal to help others from a top-down approach.
You will advocate for better care and more funding to help improve standards across the state, province, or country. You can make real, lasting differences, and you don’t need to run for a political position to do it.
There are many research and NGO organizations that work to put together research and policy proposals to send and inform those in power.
How to Prepare Yourself for a Job in Healthcare Management
To help you prepare for a job in executive healthcare management (for example, director, head of nursing, etc.) then, you will need to:
1. Earn General Managerial Experience
When it comes to working in healthcare management and administration, know you will need to start from the bottom. The health sector is massive, and those at the top need to be intimately familiar with healthcare and leadership at a minimum before they get started.
The good news is that you likely already have some management experience under your belt. Working in a clinical setting and having other nurses or junior doctors underneath you is working as a manager.
You’ll want a significant amount of experience working in a management position, and ideally in a healthcare setting, before you try to go for executive-level roles. The good news is that if management is your goal, becoming a team leader or even working your way up to a department head is right along your desired career path, so you are probably further along than you think.
2. Complete a Healthcare Administration Degree
The important roles of healthcare are the equivalent of executive leadership roles in other businesses, and the great news is that you have the perfect equivalent to the MBA to help you get there. In business, an MBA can help prepare you for executive-level roles or even to start your own business.
While many MBAs today do offer the chance to concentrate and earn a certification in healthcare management, that is just brushing the surface. The good news is that there is an Executive Master of Health Administration EMHA that allows you to hyper-focus on leadership and administration skills within a healthcare setting. It will cover everything that you need to bring about a new era of healthcare.
Challenges Facing the Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders
The next generation of healthcare leaders, especially those working in management or administration, need to be ready to adapt fast. Not only did the pandemic post a huge challenge that we are still to this day trying to overcome, but the tools developed to adapt to the pandemic and lockdowns are here to stay.
Telehealth and many other incredible advancements that we saw in the past few years are only set to become more useful and more powerful. The next generation needs to be prepared to adapt and implement these new technologies. They also need to know how to direct their team or hospital in the face of a crisis.
There is no longer time to play catch up or for trial and error. The next generation needs to be better trained and ready for all the changes coming to healthcare:
The Implementation of Telehealth and New Technology
Telehealth offers a higher level of service and cares for patients. It is also the best tool to date to decentralize healthcare. Rather than have those in poorer communities or rural communities make long journeys to get specialists or even any kind of healthcare, they can now connect through their phone or other internet-enabled devices.
Telehealth, as it is today, is not perfect. There are a lot of security risks, and policy standards will be necessary before they can properly be adopted. The good news is that with the massive investment and the increase in patient satisfaction thanks to telehealth, you know for a fact that this healthcare service is going to stick around.
Of course, telehealth is just one example. You also have nanotech, 3D and bioprinting, and so much more coming to market. While some of these tools can easily be integrated into the workflows of your clinical teams’ others will require an entirely new set of standards.
The Ongoing Issues of Pandemic Patients
Though we have begun to learn to live with COVID-19 and its variants, hospitals, and clinics around the world are still being overrun. Worse, the influx of COVID-19 patients puts other patients at risk and also delays life-saving care for those with ongoing conditions like cancer.
This continues to be an issue even as new variants become increasingly less fatal. Omnicom, for example, often exhibits a minor cold in healthy individuals.
Those in the ICU whose health is severely compromised, however, are still at a massive risk. Continuing to screen for and protect non-COVID patients from COVID patients will continue to be a challenge that all future healthcare managers will need to address.
Ongoing Staff Shortages
Staff shortages have always been an issue and are set to continue to be an issue even with the recent surge in online degrees. The WHO estimates that countries around the world will create and hire 40 million new roles by 2030, which is still an 18 million person shortage. Managing this shortage and ensuring that your staff doesn’t become overwhelmed (or your patients suffer) is very important.
There are numerous little problems you will also experience throughout every day. Putting out fires, managing those who work with you, under you, and negotiating with those above you are all part of the job. You need to be resilient, flexible, and adaptable in order to be ready for all the big and small challenges that will come your way.
If you want varied days where you can play a big impact on the lives of others, however, there is no better option than working in healthcare management or other leadership position.