After years of study and struggle you’ve earned your healthcare administration degree online or through a traditional, campus-based university. Either way, you feel prepared for the unique challenges ahead in this rewarding field that is expected to grow at an above-average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That first job is on the horizon, but you’re wondering what to expect once in the trenches, or what you can do to make landing a coveted position at your local hospital, clinic, lab or nursing home a reality? Here are a few of the day to day challenges and triumphs you can expect while working as a hospital administrator, and how to turn your dream job into a rewarding, albeit many times stressful, reality.
A Day in the Life…
Depending on the facility and your job description, your daily duties as a hospital administrator will vary, but here is what you can expect on a typical, or maybe even not so typical, day:
The daily duties and responsibilities of a healthcare administrator are vast, and constantly evolving. Beyond basically making sure the hospital, clinic, lab, governmental agency, public health office or laboratory runs smoothly, there are several other areas you’ll either be expected to handle on your own, or at least delegate the responsibility to a bevy of assistants and coordinators. These responsibilities include:
- Assure the care patients receive is administered efficiently and effectively.
- Act as a link between the doctors, nurses, department heads and the hospital’s board or executive staff.
- Ensure the staff on all levels is following the hospital’s policies and procedures to the letter. In many instances, you’ll be expected to draft and alter these policies as well.
- Recruiting, hiring, retaining and firing of the hospital staff, including your fellow administrators, doctors and nurses.
- Training the staff to understand and follow the hospital’s policies and procedures
- Remain in constant communication with the staff, patients and their families. Don’t be surprised if you spend half of your day answering emails or speaking to patients, staff members and the hospital’s board.
- Incident response preparedness. It’s the responsibility of a healthcare administrator to ensure the hospital’s staff is trained to respond quickly when an unintended incident occurs.
- Balancing the budget. This might be your most labor intensive responsibility depending on the facility’s size and budget. As a member of the administrative team, it will be your sole burden to keep the hospital or clinic’s doors open, which is one of the most stressful aspects of this career.
The majority of traditional healthcare facilities are operational 24/7, meaning you’ll be expected to remain on call in many instances every minute of the day. It’s not uncommon for a hospital administrator to be roused in the night to deal with an urgent patient request, or spend long weekends dealing with any number of issues and responsibilities.
Networking and Meetings
In many instances, healthcare administrators are expected to network with colleagues, recruit sought after personnel and fundraise for the facility. This can involve travel, and in many instances you’ll spend several days or weeks out of the year attending seminars and association conventions.
The biggest hurdle many newly minted healthcare administrators find difficult to jump is the profession’s demanding hours, ever changing work responsibilities and over-the-top stress level. If you’re incapable of handling a multitude of stressful situations, from overworked and underpaid employees to disgruntled patients and unhappy executives, consider seeking an alternate career path. But with this challenge comes the reward of a competitive salary, job security and the knowledge you’re benefiting your community.
Entering the Workforce
The potential job growth for healthcare management, including a variety of healthcare administration careers, is favorable, but don’t expect to land that coveted entry-level position without at least holding your Master’s degree. Many entering the workforce quickly discover that to get ahead they must possess the right combination of an advanced degree, stellar recommendations and work experience. Give yourself an advantage over the competition by earning a Master’s degree, gaining real world experience in the healthcare field while in college and snagging a few choice recommendations from your university instructors.
The world of healthcare administration is demanding, but in many cases your diligence is rewarded in the form of a highly competitive salary. It’s not unheard of for an executive to earn in excess of $100,000 a year, so don’t let the job’s stress level keep you from pushing forward and advancing in this potentially lucrative field.
Jason Fredrickson is currently seeking his Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration. When he’s not hunkered down in the library, Jason can be found volunteering at a local hospital or animal shelter.