Careers in Health Care Administration
With the rapid changes in health care delivery, health care services are going far beyond the medicinal work of doctors and nurses. As Alma College’s new major in health care administration demonstrates, there are plenty of opportunities to serve in the health care field without pulling out the scalpel.
Health care administration is a growing field that improves the structure, maintenance and supervision of hospitals and other health care facilities. Health care administrators, whether medical records coordinators or computer information technologists, serve to uphold the structure of each health institution. These staffers are responsible for medical billing, hospital finances, maintenance of medical equipment, employment processes, litigation, budget management, and more. In a sense, health care administrators are the doctors of health institutions!
Real-world professionals in the field of health care administration recently spoke with students about their professional experiences. Sarah Sparby, Michael Molter, Allisa Gross, and Adam Barnett all contributed to the panel discussion.
Q: What kinds of work do you do?
Michael: I work for an information technology systems office at a university's college of health professions. My work mainly involves health informatics, which is a combination of computers and health. Technology is going to be an important part of any future health career because we rely on those systems to provide more efficient health care.
Sarah: I am an employment specialist in Human Resources at the Gratiot Medical Center. Essentially, my job is determining who is a good fit for the health care system.
Adam: With my background in pre-medicine and business administration, I strive to attain the balance of patient care with fiscal cost. Health care is changing rapidly, especially with regard to finances, so I am trying to bridge the gap between business and the sciences.
Allisa: As an intern in human resources at MidMichigan Health in Clare, I deal with unions, employees, grievances and work compensation. I also travel a lot to talk with managers at other institutions.
Q: What are some of the challenges of working in health care administration?
Michael: Competing with people who have already been in the field for 20 or 30 years is definitely a challenge. When you push yourself to have knowledge and skills that make you qualified, though, you can successfully obtain a position after you graduate.
Sarah: When you meet someone new in an organization, your biggest challenge is getting that person to trust you as a reliable, trustworthy source of knowledge. Be sure to prove yourself!
Allisa: You need to be a fast learner. Be willing to do a lot of research and make the best decisions in the time frame you have to hurdle this challenge.
Q: What courses do you think were the most valuable in terms of your present career?
Adam: While I was originally only taking pre-med classes, enrolling in business classes turned out to be more rewarding than purely spending time in the lab.
Michael: Finance classes prepared me to see the importance of financial planning and budget management. Knowing basic accounting, financing and economic skills is a plus in my job.
Sarah: Health planning, legal classes and health administration classes taught me broad managerial skills and quality improvement skills.
Q: What advice do you have for future health care administration students?
Sarah: Listen, take advice, write it down, remember it. Your professors and the people you work with know what they’re talking about, so pay attention to them.
Michael: For interviews, always dress professionally and research your company. If you get an interview, you want to secure that by being the best you can be.
Allisa: I highly recommend internships. You make connections with people who will watch for job opportunities for you, in addition to gaining important professional skills.