When talking about the nobility of the medical profession, we tend to forget one thing-that it is also a business. Like any other business, it has to run efficiently and its bottom line needs to be protected in order for it to remain viable.
The people in charge of ensuring the smooth operation of a medical facility are called healthcare administrators or health services managers. These are the people who work away from the arc lights to manage the business of healthcare, so the direct patient care providers can concentrate on their jobs. They are responsible for planning, coordinating, supervising, and directing the delivery of healthcare in a medical facility.
If this stimulating and challenging profession piques your interest, then read on to learn more about the role a healthcare administrator plays in a medical facility, and how to become one.
The Role of the Healthcare Administrator
There are two types of healthcare administrators-generalists, who are responsible for managing an entire healthcare unit, and specialists, who are in charge of specific clinical departments within a medical facility. The duties, of course, vary according to the profile you choose, but some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a health services manager may include:
• Developing and implementing policies regarding patient care
• Managing finances, making budgets, and creating billing practices
• Managing inventory and ordering necessary equipment
• Managing patient records and ensuring their security
• Managing and evaluating staff performance
• Monitoring admissions and patient flow
Preparing for the Job
If you are interested in becoming a healthcare administrator, it can work to your advantage to start preparing early. Taking challenging courses like algebra, psychology, sociology, economics, English, accounting, math, business, etc., in high school can help you lay the groundwork for college.
But it’s never too late. The standard academic credential to becoming a health services manager is a master’s in health care administration. This graduate program is designed to provide students the necessary skills and knowledge required for the management of healthcare facilities. However, some entry-level positions, especially in smaller facilities, may be open to individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or a related field.
Aside from a health care administration degree, other academic programs that interested students can consider are a master’s in public health, public administration, health sciences, or business administration, with or without a healthcare concentration.
If you want to become a clinical manager in charge of a specific department, then your educational requirements may differ accordingly. You may also need relevant experience in the specific clinical department you’re looking to manage.
Varied Skills Required
There is more to becoming a healthcare administrator than fulfilling academic criteria. Health services managers are also required to have a diverse set of skills such as decision-making, critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal and leadership skills. They should be able to withstand pressure and be willing to work long hours. Because of the integration of technology into the modern-day healthcare delivery system, health services managers are expected to have comprehensive computer knowledge as well. They also need to keep abreast of the changes taking place in the country’s healthcare policies and be aware of all the regulatory practices in force, to effectively perform their job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of health services managers is expected to experience a faster-than-average growth of 16 percent until 2018 (bls.gov/oco/ocos014.htm). Clearly, the timing couldn’t be better to make a foray into this profession and pursue the possibility of a career in healthcare administration.