Health management employees work behind the scenes helping hospitals and clinics run smoothly. They are administrative positions but they have a very real impact on patient care outcomes. Healthcare managers help fill staffing vacancies, allocate supplies, and generally ensure that doctors, nurses, and other specialists have what they need to provide their patients with the highest possible level of care.
During the pandemic, it was health managers who figured out how to run maxed-out hospital floors and make do with a skeleton staff.
It’s important work. In this article, we take a look at several skills those interested in health management careers should possess. We also discuss how to get the necessary credentials.
While a bachelor’s degree in some form of hospital administration is the bare minimum requirement, most healthcare managers (between 40-60% depending on what study you consult) will go on to get a graduate degree.
Continuing your education not only helps you stand out—management positions are generally very competitive—but it also helps you perform better on the job. A commitment to continuing your education is important for healthcare work. It keeps you up to date on best practices. It also allows you to stay on top of technological developments.
Someone who completed a healthcare curriculum fifteen years ago probably won’t know very much about current developments in health-related data processing.
School teaches hard skills that will help you in your career as a health manager. Below, we look at softer skills that are also important for the job.
Financial Management and Budgeting
Healthcare managers deal with the financial aspect of healthcare much more than doctors or nurses do. They need to understand budgeting, revenue cycle management, financial analysis, and other business-oriented skills that help keep the lights on.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s healthcare managers who help allocate resources for hospitals. Keen financial awareness is how they manage that.
But there are also regulatory aspects to the financial work they do. For example, how do you recognize revenue on care that is being paid for via an installment plan? That question might sound like gibberish to someone working outside of healthcare management, but it’s an important concern that has very real administrative consequences.
Healthcare finance is part of the curriculum you will go through to become a hospital manager. Still, it’s not a skill set that everyone adapts to easily.
Data Analysis and Information Technology
Data analysis has become an increasingly more important aspect of healthcare. It can help doctors create highly individualized treatment plans that allow them to directly address their patient’s specific risk factors. It can help administrators leverage historical analytics to set budgets, staff floors, and generally manage resources.
Healthcare managers need to have an understanding of what data management tools are in circulation. This sounds like a simple consideration, but it requires more know-how than you might at first assume. Committing to software requires a good deal of work and adjustment. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people will need to learn about the tool the hospital manager selects. That puts a lot of pressure on selecting the right one.
Healthcare managers also need to know how to best leverage the data that their tools produce.
Of course, analytic tools aren’t the only technology they need to be aware of. Healthcare managers must also possess a keen understanding of electronic health record systems, information management technology, and data security.
Leadership and Communication
Leadership and communication abilities are pretty much the definition of “soft skills.” You can get all the degrees, read all the studies, stay on top of all the tech developments. If you don’t know how to talk to people, it won’t make much of a difference.
Healthcare managers are leaders. They delegate responsibilities. They resolve conflicts. They motivate people to do their jobs effectively. While your college curriculum will most likely contain guidance on effective workplace communication, some aspects of this skill are strictly intuitive.
Hospitals deal with various legal and financial risks. There are obvious safety issues. Most healthcare facilities are open to everyone. They frequently take in people in various states of mental distress or inebriation. This can create risks for the healthcare staff, as well as other patients being treated.
Hospitals are also frequent targets of lawsuits— sometimes justified, other times, perhaps not so much. As a healthcare manager, part of your responsibility will be to anticipate those risks and isolate the hospital from them as best you can.
You may also need to respond to problem situations— say an injury that happens on-site, or a lawsuit that develops in response to how a hospital worker administered care.
These are challenging situations that can develop at literally time.
Cultural Competence and Diversity
Understanding and respecting cultural differences and norms is essential for delivering patient-centered care and promoting diversity and inclusion within the organization. Health managers should foster a culturally sensitive environment to ensure equitable access to healthcare services and address the unique needs of diverse patient populations.
Committing to cultural competence and diversity inclusion is an ongoing responsibility. Modern healthcare managers attend and organize frequent trainings and seminars designed to ensure that the entire staff is aware of the unique cultural nuances of the community that they serve.
This is not just a trendy, politically correct development. Cultural competence has a direct impact on how effectively hospital staff communicates with minority patients.
There is a long history of minorities experiencing negative healthcare outcomes due to communication difficulties. By committing to diversity and inclusion, you help to ensure that everyone who comes into your hospital receives the same high standard of care.
Health managers work in a high-pressure environment. Hospitals are open 24/7, 365 days of the year. That means that even though your schedule might indicate a traditional 9-5 work week, your actual responsibilities to the hospital, and the community it serves never stop. There may be late nights when you find yourself missing family dinner to put a (hopefully figurative) fire at work.
It’s not an easy job, but it is a meaningful one.