Rising to the top of the healthcare industry doesn't always require an M.D. True, physicians and surgeons are the top decision makers when it comes to patients' health, but other healthcare workers also have vital roles to play. Professionals throughout the medical industry ensure the well-being of patients and lead the industry in their own right.
Introducing Healthcare Managers
While healthcare managers and administrators don't get the same star treatment as physicians — after all, how many television shows are there about hospital managers? — their work does make a major impact on patient health and safety.
Healthcare is a complex industry, with high stakes and many competing priorities, and healthcare managers and administrators must juggle them effectively. Though they work behind the scenes at medical facilities, the decisions they make are critical to patients' experiences. They're typically responsible for establishing policies, monitoring the quality of care, creating work schedules, overseeing hiring, managing finances, and complying with the latest laws and regulations.
Overall, healthcare managers and administrators are responsible for making healthcare facilities run smoothly. They work in a wide variety of settings, including nursing homes, doctors' offices and hospitals. Large hospitals might have several levels of administrators, with higher-ups responsible for major decisions, and assistants in charge of day-to-day management or particular departments.
Today, healthcare increasingly relies on technology. As a result, some healthcare managers and administrators have begun specializing in health information management. The Obama administration announced this summer that more than half of the nation's health records are now computerized under a program funded by the 2009 stimulus bill. This trend is likely to continue as more doctors and healthcare facilities follow suit.
Unlike physicians, who typically graduate from a four-year college, medical school and a residency before their education is officially complete, healthcare managers and administrators are often required to have a bachelor's degree, usually in health administration. Graduate degrees in public health, health administration or a similar field are helpful, especially for those who want to run large or especially complex institutions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a sunny job outlook for medical and health services managers (the agency's term for healthcare managers and administrators). The BLS projects that the occupation will add about 68,000 new jobs between 2010 and 2020, growing at a rate of 22 percent. That's faster than the roughly 14-percent projected growth for all occupations combined.
Job prospects are excellent throughout healthcare. The BLS has identified healthcare and social assistance as the nation's fastest-growing sector, and it's expected to add 5.6 million new jobs between 2010 and 2020. Why the rapid growth? The baby-boomer generation is aging: The oldest boomers turned 65 in 2011, and all of them will have reached that milestone by 2030. This huge segment of the population (26 percent) is expected to consume health services at unprecedented rates.
Advances in medical technology are also contributing to the industry's growth, with doctors and patients eager to use new technology to diagnose and treat illnesses. In a 2008 report entitled “Technological Change and the Growth of Health Care Spending,” the Congressional Budget Office notes that, while it's hard to get an exact measurement, “about half of all growth in health care spending in the past several decades was associated with changes in medical care made possible by advances in technology.”
These factors will create demand for healthcare managers and administrators in both existing healthcare facilities and the new ones likely to open. Growth is especially likely for nursing homes and other facilities that care for the elderly, according to the BLS. In addition, healthcare managers and administrators will be needed in doctors' offices and group practices as patient care evolves to new facilities as the population ages.
If you want to be part of an industry that helps people and is expected to continue to grow at a healthy rate, you might be a good fit for the healthcare industry. Administrators and managers are important in influencing the care and experience of patients, even if the patient and the administrator never meet.