What does it take to be a hospital administrator? Anyone interested in healthcare and business can consider this profession one that satisfyingly marries the two interests since it requires healthcare knowledge to steer business practices and decisions. We'll guide you through the role of a hospital administrator, how much they earn, how to become one, and the skills and characteristics that successful hospital administrators possess.
What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?
At first glance, you might think the profession's name is self-explanatory: Hospital administrators carry out administrative tasks in hospitals. Nevertheless, while accurate, that definition must be more specific to be satisfying. So, for a more robust explanation, we'll look at some typical responsibilities of hospital administrators:
- Ensure hospitals operate efficiently and provide adequate medical care to patients.
- Act as liaisons between medical staff, department heads, and governing boards.
- Integrate the activities of all departments to function as a whole.
- Plan, organize, coordinate, direct, and control medical and health services following policies set by a governing board of trustees.
- Recruit, hire, and occasionally train doctors, nurses, interns, and assistant administrators.
- Evaluate doctors and other hospital employees.
- Plan budgets and determine rates for health services.
- Develop and expand programs and services for preventive medicine and scientific research (in research hospitals).
- Aid in the education of new doctors (in teaching hospitals).
- Create and maintain policies.
- Plan departmental activities.
- Help develop procedures for medical treatments, quality assurance, patient services, and public relations activities, including active participation in fundraising and community health planning.
The overwhelming majority of hospital administrators work in the inpatient setting. Still, they can also work in high numbers in physician practices, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, assisted living residences, and home healthcare agencies.
7 Skills of Successful Hospital Administrators
The word successful can mean various things to different people, so it's important to preface the meaning here. When we say successful in this context, we are not referring to only the highest earners or the administrators running the most extensive systems or facilities. Successful hospital administrators dedicated to decisions, policies, and strategies prioritizing patient care and staff well-being can be found at all levels of systems and across the pay scale.
- Macro-level thinking: Hospital administrators face the task of steering their facilities forward in the face of multiple challenges. This role requires avoiding being trapped in the day-to-day routines and situations and looking to the broader picture of healthcare service delivery and advancement. They must create or implement decisions and strategies to serve that bigger picture.
- Analytical thinking: This skill ties directly into macro-thinking as the ability to analyze data and situations allows administrators to make the necessary changes and policies to determine forward movement and growth.
- Drive: The position itself is built of much responsibility and, therefore, requires a person with the drive to push ahead and follow through. Work hours are often long and demanding and require personal time commitments to events and meetings outside the typical business hours for networking, conferences, and community relations.
- Leadership: Leadership styles differ among hospital administrators, but make no mistake, it is a leadership role. A hospital administrator must be able to withstand the pressure of leading healthcare professionals across multiple disciplines and personalities.
- Communication: A hospital administrator must be able to communicate with people within their facility and with community leaders in politics and business. Networking, marketing, and relationship building are all responsibilities for this role that require strong communication skills.
- Finance: Regardless of whether the hospital or facility is a profit or nonprofit-run entity, the system's finances are crucial to its survival and well-being. Hospital administrators manage expenses, staffing, supplies, cybersecurity, and investments in new medical technology.
- Healthcare knowledge: Unlike the specialized roles within a healthcare facility, hospital administrators don't require technical medical knowledge. They are, however, expected to have a broad yet thorough understanding of the healthcare setting, including the rules and regulations that govern healthcare facilities and protect patient privacy.
How Much Does a Hospital Administrator Make?
The national average annual salary for hospital administrators in 2022 was $127,980, which breaks down to $61.53 an hour. The top 10 percent of earners made almost double that number at $209,990 for the year ($100.96 per hour), while the median earned $104,830 ($50.40 per hour). Additionally, this profession is projected to experience significant growth at a rate of 28 percent through to the year 2031.
Experience, work setting, and geographic location are all factors that heavily influence a hospital administrator's salary. The highest-paying states for the profession—with average annual wages above $135,00—are the following:
- New York
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Should I Get a Degree in Hospital Administration?
If you want to be a hospital administrator, you need a degree. Perhaps the most direct path to becoming a hospital administrator is obtaining a master's degree in health services administration/health systems administration/healthcare administration—the title varies somewhat—although a master's in public health or business administration may also be an appropriate crossover degree. Nevertheless, the health services administration master's degree is the preferred path to the position because the curriculum focuses on the economics, management, marketing, and complexities of running a healthcare facility. Typically, these master's programs also require an internship providing both context and experience to be pulled upon to strengthen and shape knowledge and learning that will prepare you for a career in hospital administration.
In addition to preparation and education, experience is crucial. Most hospital administrators have earned their place in that top spot by working in supportive or assistant-level jobs, which have allowed them to test their learning and demonstrate they have the skills necessary to be successful when given responsibility.
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