Breaking into Healthcare Management

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Today, an estimated 100,000 professionals serve in healthcare management (HCM). The status, pay and perks are enviable, so you can expect that HCM is another career that’s flooded with new applicants. As Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are reduced, fewer HCM positions will be available. If you want to break in, there are certain steps that will get you in faster and move you up quicker.

MBA vs. Nurse with a Master’s Degree

A HealthCare Management degree at the undergrad level will only qualify you for an entry level position because you’ll be competing with hoards of people who may have business experience. If you want to move up, you’ll need a master’s degree and several years of hospital experience. If, on the other hand, you hold a nursing degree, you won’t necessarily have to start at the bottom, because a good nurse with a strong business background can advance almost three times faster. Even if both hold a master’s degree, a good nurse will usually beat out an MBA in his or her rise to the top of healthcare management. The bottom line: learn a skill and develop your competency on the clinical side, then segue into a management position.

To Break In, Volunteer

If you’re a recent grad and want to break into HCM, you’ll need to start at the bottom with a basic healthcare administration job. To get that first job, contact the HR managers at various hospitals and healthcare centers and volunteer in some capacity that will at least get you in and expose you to what healthcare managers do on a daily basis. Keep in mind that volunteer positions can lead to real job offers, especially if you are already degreed and credentialed or in graduate school. If you are accepted as a volunteer, demonstrate your worth and showcase your skills as much as possible. You might also want to get a copy of Career Opportunities in Health Care Management: Perspectives from the Field by Sharon B. Buchbinder and Jon M. Thompson.

To Move Up, Network

Ad advanced degree can put you in the running for an HCM career, but networking and connections can sometimes trump an MHA, MBA, MSN, MPH sheepskin. This is especially true if you’ve been in the trenches on the clinical side and established a strong relationship with a senior manager, VP or other top brass. In these cases, even an accounting, finance or law background can help boost your upward mobility. Seek out ways to make yourself more visible. Attend healthcare management seminars, presentations and conferences. As a working nurse or even a junior administrator, you should be able to attend these events without having to pay to get in.  Most companies will reimburse any staff eager to learn more about the industry and become more productive.

To Keep Up, Sign Up

Many large healthcare institutions offer leadership development programs. Jan Hunter is a workforce development and talent management expert with extensive experience in recruitment, career and leadership development. She notes that even if you’re not presently part of your company’s leadership development program, you can still sign up for leadership development courses. Find courses that address the developmental areas in your leadership assessment and those you may have discussed with your supervisor.

Getting into healthcare management and moving up won’t be easy, but it can be done if you follow some of the guidelines mentioned above.

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