Health administrators work behind the scenes in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other medical settings, coordinating procedures and staff schedules, evaluating and organizing the various methods of healthcare delivery, and keeping an eye on finances. They may be the head of an organization or run a section within the facility.
The role of health administrator involves not only healthcare knowledge but also administrative skills such as financial accounting and management, as well as a good understanding of information systems. People considering becoming health administrators will generally lack expertise in one area or another, whether administrative or medical. They will be required to study additional subjects to fill in the gaps.
The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing industries today, and the ever-changing environment needs dynamic, energetic people to take charge and ensure things run smoothly.
Specific requirements for the job vary depending on the organization and the role that the administrator is expected to fulfill. Homes for the elderly, for example, have different needs than those of a general hospital.
Health administrators, medical administrators, or health service managers ideally need a bachelor’s degree and work experience in a clinical, administrative, or financial environment. Healthcare experience, in this case, can include nursing, treatment therapy, medical science and research, or the development of and compliance with policies in healthcare environments.
On the administrative side, business management, educational instruction, financial administration, and office administration are all suitable backgrounds for aspiring health administrators.
In some cases, employees can work up to the position of health administrator without formal training. Still, it is always a good idea to obtain a bachelor’s degree as a minimum qualification. Changing jobs may become necessary at some point, and the lack of formal training may count against that candidate.
Suppose you are looking to pursue a health administrator position and have healthcare or administration experience. In that case, your next step should be to research what the job entails, the benefits, whether this field matches your skills and ambitions, and where to study.
The role of a health administrator
The role of the health administrator is varied and busy. It requires someone who is extremely well organized, professional in their dealings with people, financially astute, and has the best interests of their organization, staff, and patients at heart.
Health administrators assist with interviews and staff hiring, overseeing salaries, employee benefits, and suitable working conditions. They coordinate the staff schedules and hospital facilities, ensuring that the needs of doctors and nurses are met and that the organization projects the image of being a well-run facility that meets patients’ needs.
Today’s administrative job entails learning skills such as financial and data management and analysis. Ensuring that patient records are up to date is an essential function of any medical facility, and knowledge of the systems that empower nurses, doctors, and administration staff to do their jobs efficiently is key to the efficient running of the facility. A good administrator should stay updated regarding new technological developments so they can provide innovative solutions to facilitate improved patient care.
Health administration requires a person with strong leadership skills who is focused on delivering excellent patient outcomes. The ideal administrator needs good communication skills and interacts well with people. Attention to detail is paramount, as lives depend on accuracy and efficiency.
Steps to Pursuing a Career in health administration
Here is a simplified guide on how to go about becoming a health administrator. Each step takes two to three years to complete; however, work experience can be gained while you study online. Studying relevant subjects while you work helps enforce what you are learning and speeds up attaining your goals.
Obtain a bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree in health administration is the ideal way to start, particularly if you already have experience in a medical or business field.
Suppose you already have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, or a medically related field or are still studying towards your bachelor’s degree and have decided to pursue a career in health administration. In that case, you may consider adding subjects such as human resources, leadership, and information systems to your undergraduate topics.
Gain work experience
The subject of your bachelor’s degree will influence the kind of work you can find. Working in a healthcare facility would be ideal, whether in nursing, human resources, administration, research, or information systems.
If your degree leans more towards financial or managerial subjects and you are having difficulty finding a job in a medical facility, finding employment with a health insurance company or as an administrator in a busy medical practice would be a good alternative, to begin with.
The role of health administrator covers a range of disciplines, from nursing to finance, leadership, research, and informatics. Unless your bachelor’s degree were specifically related to health administration, it would unlikely have covered all areas of study. Now is a good time to enroll in one or two part-time courses while you work. This will improve your prospects of finding a job in the required field and equip you with knowledge and confidence in your working environment. If you’re in nursing, a basic course in finance, data analytics, or management will give you a good grounding when you decide to take your studies to the next level.
Master of health administration
With some working experience and a bachelor’s degree, you can now consider furthering your career with a Master’s in Health Administration. A master’s degree is not essential to health administration; however, it does help increase your employment prospects and provide you with more scope when seeking employment. With this degree, you could become the CEO of an organization, work in government or head up an informatics or research team. As a nurse currently in a leadership position, you already have the required skills, and a master’s degree is your obvious next step.
While the degree can be studied full-time, working professionals may consider an online Master of Health Administration program through a reputable institution such as the Telfer School of Business at the University of Ottawa. Their Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) combines business management with advanced healthcare courses, preparing you for an executive role in healthcare management and organization. Students will have the opportunity to develop their skills in leadership, data and systems management, staff motivation, and training.
Attend to licensure requirements.
This step applies to nurses with a bachelor’s degree and graduates with a Master’s in Health Administration degree. Licensing regulations differ depending on the state where you practice, so you must check with your local licensing board. Professional certification always looks good on a job application, even if it’s not compulsory.
Explore your career options.
The role of health administrator is often a springboard into a particular field of expertise, such as working for a federal department as a policymaker, becoming CEO of a healthcare facility, or moving into data analytics.
With a master’s degree in health administration, you can move in a direction that suits your passion and personality. The options given below are a guideline. Some functions overlap as the role always differs depending on where you work and how the parts of the organization are split. Some career options to consider include:
Healthcare informatics is an interesting career path for the more technically minded as you utilize your data interrogation skills to improve health outcomes. This career path requires an understanding of the systems that facilitate recording patient information and treatment details and the need for data security. It involves learning to appreciate the value that a comprehensive set of patient information adds when the effective treatment of patients can make the difference between life and death. Keeping up with the latest technology is required to suggest and implement innovative solutions to healthcare needs.
Leadership and management
In leadership and management roles, you can evaluate and implement evidence-based nursing practices, initiate and manage projects, and manage the performance of staff, safety procedures, and human resources.
In general healthcare roles, you will be involved in staff motivation. You will also strive to reduce stress levels by improving staff facilities, providing training, and applying team-building strategies. Additionally, it would be best to analyze statistics using data analytics tools to improve procedures, staff retention, and patient outcomes and investigate and apply evidence-based practices in nursing care. You will be responsible for ensuring the efficient operation of complex technical equipment and providing the necessary training.
Organizational management includes the daily oversight of operations within the facility, the analysis of financial figures and improvement of revenue streams, risk analysis, and management, the progress and implementation of policies and procedures, ensuring compliance with regulations, and managing an efficient procurement process. You will also address the quality control process in the organization by ensuring that equipment is functional and meets the latest standards in healthcare. An organizer may also oversee the human resources process, arranging ongoing training and staff certification.
In a clinical environment, health administrators get involved in the design and update of policies within the facility, whether organizational or clinical. Policies that affect healthcare within the organization are documented, and the administrator ensures that these policies are circulated to staff and are adhered to. Alternatively, government departments may employ health administrators who work on policies that affect the nation. It is interesting work and involves research, documentation, and knowledge of specific information systems. State departments require people who have worked in a healthcare setting before, either in a nursing or administrative role, who have policy knowledge and can assist with the drafting and amendment of policies.
Science and research
Health administrators may work solely in a research role if they choose. Academic and research institutions require staff with medical and administrative experience and data analysis expertise to conduct research, analyze statistics and research results, and record findings in an organized and clear manner.
Whether you consciously decide about the role you want to follow or your job naturally leads you in a particular direction, there is always room for further study. Healthcare is about continued learning and staying motivated.
Take it a step further.
When your level of professionalism has peaked, you may want to round it off with a doctorate in health administration. Various institutions offer doctorate degrees that combine multi-disciplinary principles to bring you courses and case studies in advanced clinical and operations management, healthcare law and leadership, public policy, and quality and process improvement. With a focus on research, you will find this course both challenging and rewarding, giving you the knowledge and confidence to head up organizations, make informed decisions, and effect changes for the good of patients and the organization.
Whatever stage you have reached in your career, the way forward to being a successful health administrator is reasonably straightforward — it just takes some hard work and a lot of dedication. If you combine this with a passion for helping people, your goals will be much easier to obtain.
If a dynamic and constantly challenging environment is what you are after, you will certainly fit into the busy lifestyle of a health administrator. The opportunities and challenges are many and varied, interesting and rewarding, and you will make a difference in organizations and individual lives.