Those working in health care management have a rich and diverse range of core responsibilities. Professionals in the field are actively engaged in the business side of the health care industry including operations, budgeting, policy, and more. Health care management is a great fit for those who are passionate about health care, but have interests and talents outside of nursing or other clinical roles. Bachelor’s degrees will provide a helpful foundation for those launching a career in this field and master’s degrees are recommended for those who wish to advance professionally.
Since health care is one of the nation’s largest career sectors, health care management positions can vary based on the specific workplace. A day in the life of a manager at a small family practice may look different than that of a manager within a large hospital system.
Let’s take a look at the types of work each of these settings offers.
Hospitals and Outpatient Settings
One-third of health care managers work in hospital setting, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The advantage of working for a hospital is that there’s opportunity to grow. There are entry-level health care management positions that may support one department within the organization and advanced positions that may oversee an entire of network of hospitals and providers. A common focus across this wide range of positions, is making sure operations run efficiently. How you accomplish that will vary based on what you do.
A health care manager in an emergency room will be focused on capacity: how long patients are waiting and how the hospital can better manage the flow, while maintaining quality care and patient safety. Meanwhile, a manager who within an oncology department that treats cancer patients will likely be less focused on capacity, and more focused on insurance and billing, due to the expensive cost of cancer treatment.
Health care managers in a medical office tend to wear more hats than those who work for a larger employer, like a hospital. In addition to operations, insurance, and billing, they may have responsibilities for purchasing supplies, or hiring and training support staff. You’ll likely have more face time and collaboration with physicians and nurses, as well as the patients who visit the practice. The range of responsibilities you’ll be assigned in this setting will depend on your relationship with the physician. Often times, this will gradually increase overtime as the employer/employee rapport strengthens and you build trust as a team.
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
Similar to a medical office, health care managers in nursing homes and residential care environments will have a broad range of responsibilities. One important distinction is the community aspect of these settings. Because patients call these facilities “home”, a sense of community with not only residents, but also their family members is important. Overall quality of life becomes a priority in these roles. Residential amenities, such as food services, housekeeping, activities, and social services, present additional areas of oversight for managers. In addition to excellent medical care, business skills such as vendor management are also an asset.
Within nursing homes and residential care facilities, some health care managers may work as administrators. In administration-related roles, there is a greater emphasis on staffing, while management positions will focus on the overall operations of the organization.
Due to the increase in our aging population, the needs of patients within these facilities is set to grow and diversify. While some patients may need routine preventative treatment, others will require more complex care. Specialized facilities, such as those that focus on Alzheimer’s and dementia, are also necessary to provide high quality care.
Companies and Corporations
Within the corporate world, there’s a range of businesses in the health sphere that feature in-demand career opportunities in health care management. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies are among the top employers. Additional opportunities can be found within tech companies, medical device manufacturers, telehealth companies, and more.
While historically pharmaceutical companies recruited those with biology, chemistry, life science, or engineering backgrounds, more than 30% of the industry is made up of those working in management, business, financial, operations, and administrative support occupations. These roles align nicely with a health care management background. Specific functions and job titles may include risk managers, as well as safety and quality improvement managers.
Within insurance, health care management skills are highly transferable. Managers who once worked in a medical office or hospital coordinating insurance matters for patients can explore career opportunities on the other side of the transaction within the insurance industry. In addition to these roles, there’s a growing need for health care actuaries, a position that’s focused on using statistics to analyze health care data. This sort of role will require specialized training and extensive coursework in math, statistics, and analytics, as well as industry certification from the Society of Actuaries.
The nonprofit sector represents the third largest workforce in the U.S., according to the 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report by Johns Hopkins University, and over half of the jobs in this sector are related to health care. While positions in hospitals, health clinics, and nursing homes account for many of these positions, there are additional agencies that focus on addictions and mental health, medical research, advocacy and public health, and home health.
These mission-driven organizations need professionals with health care backgrounds, who also have a passion and talent for advancing the mission, both from an operations standpoint and through effective fundraising. For example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a national nonprofit organization with a range of positions that combine a business-related discipline and health care. Additional specialization is sought for education and support services, advocacy and public policy, fundraising, strategic partnerships, and more. Although there’s a wide range of responsibilities in each of these roles, a strong background in health care management is a valuable foundation.
The Path to a Health Care Management Career
Every working environment, as you can see, has its own unique take on a health care management role. But despite the differences, there are far more similarities. Take the first step in honing your skills by pursuing a health care management bachelor’s or master’s degree, and watch as your options open up!