How to Become a Health Care Administrator

Health care administrators, also called health care executives or medical and health services managers, are the individuals who plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. These administrators may manage an entire health care facility, a medical practice for a group of physicians, or specialize in managing a specific clinical department. A health care administrator's title often depends on the facility or area of expertise in which they work. Some examples of some facility or area specific titles are: nursing home administrator, health information manager, or clinical manager.

Health care administration program requirements and prerequisites

Education requirements for a health care administrator vary by facility, but 52 percent of health care administrators have a bachelor's degree before entering the field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online. Individuals interested in how to become a health care administrator can pursue a bachelor's in health care administration. It is not uncommon for health care administration positions to require post graduate degrees, with 31 percent of administrators holding a master's degree and 10 percent holding a post-baccalaureate degree of some kind.

Where the career path to a health care administrator position begins depends upon the size of the facility offering the position and the experience of the job applicant. In large hospitals, graduates of a health care administration program may begin as administrative assistants or assistant department heads, whereas in smaller facilities they may begin as department heads or assistant administrators. Experienced health care administrators may become consultants or professors of health care management.

Necessary skills and qualifications for health care administrators

Most states require the administrators of nursing care facilities to be licensed, though requirements vary by state. Most other areas of medical and health services management do not require licensing or certification, though certification is available in many areas of practice. The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management has certification in health information or medical management, and the American College of Health Care Administrators offers health care administration certifications for home and assisted living administrators. Some facilities require health care administrators to have experience in specific health care occupations. For example, nursing services administrators are usually registered nurses with administrative experience and graduate degrees in nursing or health care administration. The U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) report that health care administrators need a variety of skills, including:

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Management of personnel resources
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Active listening
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Technical skills
  • Judgment and decision making skills

Health care administrators need to organize staffing and find creative solutions to staff and patient related problems, requiring them to be detail-oriented individuals with the skills to communicate and manage others. Some background in personnel and human resources and customer service is helpful for a health care administrator since they are responsible for interacting with both staff and patients.

Working environment for health care administrators

The responsibilities of a health care administrator are many as they work to organize the day-to-day functions across their facility or department, and require a full time commitment. In group medical practices managers work closely with physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. O*Net lists the following tasks as part of a health care administrator's role:

  • Planning work schedules for staff
  • Fiscal operations
  • Recruitment
  • Reviewing and analyzing facility activities
  • Personnel responsibilities
  • Planning and implementing programs and services
  • Developing and maintaining computerized record management systems

39 percent of health care administrators work in offices in health care facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, and group medical practices run by the state, locally, or privately. The BLS projected employment of health care administrators to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, with the position being in greater demand as members of the Baby Boomer generation age, and as medical group practices become larger and more complex.

Sources:

Medical and Health Services Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-1

Medical and Health Service Managers, The US Department of Labor O*Net, Summary Report, 2014 http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00

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