Doctors, surgeons and nurses certainly hold the most prominent jobs in the medical industry. Hit television shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, show the drama and excitement of attractive healthcare professionals saving lives against all odds. While seeing doctors and nurses performing chest compressions on a moving gurney makes for thrilling television, there are other professionals in the healthcare industry that may lack the spotlight but are crucial to ensuring hospitals and medical facilities run efficiently.
Healthcare administrators manage the business operations of medical organizations such as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and community health centers. If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in this field, it’s necessary to understand what a health administrator does, how they impact other healthcare professionals and, ultimately, how they contribute to patient care.
The Role of Health Administrators
Most hospital patients will never get the chance to meet a health administrator, but these professionals are an integral part of their care. Their job is to make certain the hospital or medical facility runs smoothly, handling the business end of making people well. The role of health administrators is to manage the healthcare facility and provide oversight of the hiring and training of new staff, staying abreast of healthcare laws and regulations, coordinating health services and keeping the facility’s finances within budget.
The need for qualified professionals to manage and lead healthcare providers is on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 20 percent increase in employment of medical and health services managers between 2016 and 2026, which is 13 percent higher than the outlook for all occupations combined.
Daily Responsibilities of a Health Administrator
There are many roles for health administrators, so the answer to the question, What does a health administrator do? depends on the particular job title. Here are some examples of health administrator roles and responsibilities.
Hospital Chief Executive Officer
Oversees a hospital’s daily operations, develops healthcare strategies, defines the facility’s mission and acts as the public face of the hospital.
Human Resources Manager
Handles the hiring and training of staff, oversees the employee compensation and benefits system, deals with employee complaints and serves as a liaison between hospital staff and management.
Medical Records Manager
Oversees the filing and processing of patient records, maintains the security of private information and ensures the accuracy of patient files.
Health Services Manager
Manages the daily operations of a health program or clinic, supervises healthcare teams, acts as a mediator between team members and develops healthcare strategies.
Important Skills for a Health Administrator
Health administrators fill a variety of roles, so the skills needed differ depending on the job’s specific duties. However, these professionals are often in positions of authority, so there are a number of skills needed to be effective no matter what the role.
Health administrators must maintain regular contact with facility staff and often conduct meetings. This makes communication skills essential so that staff remain well informed and clear on their responsibilities. Public speaking skills are also beneficial for leading staff meetings and speaking with the press and community about the facility.
Most health administration jobs are management roles, so it’s important for individuals to be comfortable in a position of leadership. Health administration professionals should be confident in their ability to supervise staff, give direction and make critical decisions that can affect the overall operations of their facility.
Healthcare is a fast-paced industry. Problems develop quickly and often need quick solutions. Health administrators are tasked with finding these critical solutions that often have a major impact on the medical facility and its staff.
The laws and regulations governing the healthcare industry change often and the penalties for failing to comply can be severe. Health administrators must be able to analyze how changes affect their operations. They also must have the ability to examine the performance of their facility to determine whether improvements are necessary.
The healthcare industry relies heavily on the latest technological advancements, so health administrators need to be tech-savvy to evaluate their facility’s needs. For example, when handling hospital budgeting, a chief financial officer must know the full impact major medical equipment can have on patient care to determine if it’s a necessary expenditure.
Education and Experience Required for Health Administrators
Those who believe their skills and ambitions are a good match for what a health administrator does will need to meet the educational and experience requirements to qualify as an applicant in this field. At a minimum, health administrators should have a bachelor’s degree, but many employers require a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a related graduate degree. Positions with greater authority, such as hospital CEOs, require completion of comprehensive coursework not found in an undergraduate program. A master’s or doctoral degree program is generally required for these positions in upper-level management.
Some graduate programs offer students the chance to work as a supervised health administrator, allowing them to gain the experience required for available positions after graduation. Prospective employers may accept related experience in a healthcare setting such as working as a financial clerk, medical records technician or administrative assistant. Even experience as a registered nurse can be beneficial when applying to oversee the daily operations of a medical facility, such as a nursing home.
Taking the Next Step
Health administrators provide the framework necessary for medical facilities to function. Without these dedicated professionals, hospitals and other healthcare facilities wouldn’t have the clear direction they need to offer quality care and their medical staff would lack the resources required to perform their duties.
To learn more about how health administrators keep the healthcare industry operational, and to find out how to obtain an MHA degree online, check out Duquesne University’s Master of Health Administration program through the John G. Rangos, Sr. School of Health Sciences.