What is Healthcare Management?

Professionals who work in healthcare management plan, direct and coordinate health and medical services in a wide variety of healthcare environments. They may be healthcare managers in hospitals, at doctors’ offices, at residential care facilities, at outpatient care centers or within certain departments of large healthcare organizations. They may also  manage their employees and should be aware of how healthcare laws, technology and regulations affect their work environments and daily practice.

To work in a leadership role in healthcare, you should first learn about the scope of work, and what career advancement opportunities are available to you.

What do healthcare managers do?

Most healthcare managers may work full time in offices, sometimes on a schedule that includes nighttime or weekend hours, depending on the facility’s hours of operation. Some healthcare managers may also be on-call at certain times in cases of emergencies.

Healthcare managers may have a variety of titles. Some of these include:

  • Healthcare or nurse executives
  • Healthcare administrators
  • Medical and health services managers
  • Surgery center managers

The daily duties for each of these roles vary widely. 

  • health information manager  for example, may be in charge of patient records and data and will need to know about health information systems law. 
  • clinical manager on the other hand,  supervises a specific department, like physical therapy or nursing, within a large hospital or healthcare organization. 
  • Nursing home administrators are in charge of nursing home staff, finances, admissions and building care. 

No matter where a healthcare manager  works or what field of medicine they work in, there are some commonalities in the scope of their work. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers typically do the following:

  • Work to improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare services
  • Recruit, train, manage and schedule healthcare employees
  • Create department goals and strategies to reach them
  • Ensure healthcare compliance with regulations and laws
  • Manage organization finances and prepare and monitor budgets and spending
  • Communicate with top executives and represent an organization externally

Healthcare management work is a combination of solo work, one-on-one communication, large team presentations and brainstorming, and sometimes public speaking to larger organizations. Healthcare managers should feel confident in their abilities to manage teams, be results-driven and be comfortable interfacing with a variety of individuals and groups.

Healthcare management professionals are instrumental in creating and leading their organizations toward a vision that serves patients and is good for business. Often, they have medical backgrounds, but sometimes they may not. They should be interested in both the inner workings of a healthcare organization, as well as leading and collaborating with people  in order to thrive.

Demand for Healthcare Management

The demand for all healthcare occupations is increasing at a rapid rate in the United States, as the Baby Boomer generation ages and enters retirement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) on Healthcare Occupations shows that employment of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than average for all occupations. About 1.9 million new healthcare jobs are expected to be added.

To manage all these new employees, there is a great need for healthcare managers. The  demand for medical and health services managers is also growing. The BLS projects there will be 71,600 new medical and health services manager jobs added between 2018 and 2028, compared to the 406,100 jobs existing in 2018. The job growth rate between 2018 and 2028 is expected to be 18%, which is also  much faster than average.

Salary Outlook for Healthcare Management

Healthcare management jobs are among some of the highest paid in the healthcare industry. The 2018 median pay for medical and health services managers was $99,730, according to the BLS. The highest 10% earned more than $182,600. Those figures are much higher than the national mean wage, which is $51,960 per year.

Depending on the industry, medical and health services managers have the opportunity to earn more. The 2018 median annual wage for medical and health services managers in government was $110,460, while the 2018 median annual wage was $108,730 for those who worked in state, local and private hospitals.

Should I Pursue a Career in Healthcare Management?

If healthcare interests you, but you’d rather be in a position of leadership than in a hands-on role like in an operating room, then a career in healthcare management may be for you. 

Healthcare management marries management with healthcare. In healthcare management roles, you may work with doctors, surgeons, nurses and other healthcare professionals who deal directly with patients. You’re also a part of an administrative team that works to ensure healthcare operations are run well both for patients and for the staff who carry them out.

Management is another fast-growing field, according to the BLS. Employment of management positions is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than 5% average for all occupations. The median annual wage for management jobs in 2018 was $104,240. That’s the highest wage of all major occupational groups.

A career as a healthcare manager may enable you to learn about the healthcare field, while also honing your management skills. Managers must motivate employees to achieve common goals, deal with conflicts, adapt to regulatory changes and use trends in their field to increase productivity and quality. Skills like these are transferable across industries, not just healthcare.

The healthcare industry may interest you because it is highly regulated and always evolving based on new research and technology. This tech-driven industry also relies on excellence in interpersonal relationships. Healthcare providers are meaningful to individuals, families and communities. A career in healthcare management can be rewarding because every day brings opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

With the overall healthcare demand increasing in the next decade, healthcare management provides the potential for a long-lasting career in a variety of settings. Healthcare managers who want to move out of the industry can also use their management skills in other fields.

How to Become a Healthcare Management Professional

Step 1: Obtain a Healthcare-Related Degree

If you want to become a medical or health service manager, consider earning an advanced level degree. Many employers prefer healthcare management professionals to be candidates with master’s degrees. An advanced level degree can demonstrate a deep expertise and dedication to a specific medical sector.  At the very least, a bachelor’s degree is required for most positions.

Applicants typically have a degree in a healthcare-related field, like in health administration or a nursing degree. Other candidates may have a degree in a management-related field like business administration. Health administration and health management degrees feature both business courses, like human resources administration and strategic planning, and health-related courses, like health information systems or hospital organization.

Step 2: Gain Healthcare and Management Experience

Some employers will require previous work in a medical role before moving into management. For example, nursing home administrators typically have years of experience working as a registered nurse. That experience may help them relate better to those they manage and to the operations and patients in the facility. 

Step 3: Grow Your Management Skills 

In addition to relevant experience, healthcare managers must possess management soft skills. These include:

  • Analytical and technical skills
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to focus on details
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Leadership

If you enjoy the current field you’re working in, like nursing, but you want to move into management, talk with your employer or browse job listings to get an idea of the requirements you might be missing. That way, you have an idea of what to work toward.

Grow a Healthcare Management Career in Nursing

Nursing is one of the most in-demand fields in healthcare. As of January 2020, the job outlook for nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 26% between 2018 and 2028,  which is much faster than average. Healthcare managers in the nursing field may also be in-demand, with the growth of nursing positions..

If you’re a nurse who is interested in moving into a healthcare management role, you may decide to  advance your education to get there. Online healthcare management programs let students learn and study on their own time, from any connected device. Advanced learning in nursing could lead to roles in management and beyond.