Job Profile: Director of Clinical Operations

Everyone depends on clinical treatment every now and then to stay healthy, but few of us truly understand the inner workings of the healthcare facilities we turn to. Behind the scenes of most large healthcare delivery systems stands a director of clinical operations. As highly trained senior-level officials reporting directly to the CEO, clinical operations directors focus on the medical portion of administration to increase efficiency. These directors play a prominent role in making certain patient treatments are complying with internal policies, clinical protocols, and regulatory requirements for your safety. At times, clinical operations directors will also work in medical research labs to guide clinical trials on new pharmaceuticals and therapeutic approaches. The director of clinical operations is given supreme power in overseeing the general management of a medical department’s staff and services.

Salary

According to data on Salary.com, the median annual salary for clinical operations directors working in the United States is currently $123,558. This could be equated to a mean hourly wage of $59 or $2,376 weekly. When bonuses, insurance, social security, and other benefits are added to this base salary, clinical operations directors bring home a total income of $174,437 every year.

Beginning Salary

When just being promoted as the director of clinical operations, you’ll likely land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with a handsome yearly salary of $88,408. As clinical operations directors gain more experience and rise to power in larger multi-site healthcare organizations, many make a base salary upwards of $171,751 annually later in their career.

Key Responsibilities

Directors of clinical operations have significant responsibilities in planning, directing, and evaluating all medical activities within their facility. Clinical operations directors work with the goal of boosting economical and efficient performance of their medical team while delivering high-quality patient services. On a typical work day, the director of clinical operations may be involved in tracking staff resource utilization, hiring new staff, creating budget plans, drafting contingency plans, conducting quality assurance testing, managing patient billing, arranging work schedules, and training healthcare professionals. Clinical operations directors must attend meetings regularly with physicians, department heads, and other administrators.

Necessary Skills

No two days are the same for the director of clinical operations, so being flexible with quick critical thinking skills is essential. Clinical operations directors should have the analytical skills necessary to accurately follow the latest facility policies and legal regulations. Being detail-oriented with good organizational abilities is important for directors to keep day-to-day clinical activities running smoothly. Clinical operations directors must be skilled communicators with the interpersonal skills to collaborate with various professionals, including physicians, nurses, researchers, insurance representatives, equipment sales teams, etc. Administrative dilemmas can occur when you least expect, but directors should be equipped with the problem-solving skills to implement a creative solution that won’t compromise patient care.

Degree and Education Requirements

Before you can reach the apex as director of clinical operations, you’ll need to hold a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution at the bare minimum. The majority of clinical operations directors have obtained a master’s degree though. Earning a Master of Health Administration (MHA), MBA in Healthcare, Master of Public Health (MPH), or a similar degree will likely be the best fit for clinical operations. At times, the director of clinical operations also has a medical degree and licensing as a physician. Educational qualifications vary greatly from hospital to hospital, but having an advanced degree will make you the most marketable. Make certain you’ve taken classes related to healthcare policy, budgeting, health law, operations management, organizational behavior, ethics, and healthcare leadership.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Coordinating medical services as the director of clinical operations comes with its fair share of advantages and drawbacks that you should be aware of. Of course, clinical operations directors surely bring home loads of bacon with a six-figure salary that has virtually no upper limit. The director of clinical operations maintains a superior leadership role in supervising the work of various healthcare professionals, which is ideal for extroverts. Clinical operations directors can find jobs in numerous different medical care centers, especially since employment growth is skyrocketing in healthcare management. The director of clinical operations will also be engaged in exciting health initiatives for quality improvement. However, clinical operations directors need to invest significant time and money in their education. Directors of clinical operations have a stressful job in keeping medical services safe and effective. Most will work well beyond the traditional 40-hour work week and be on call to resolve problems 24/7.

Getting Started

Becoming a director of clinical operations won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to pay your dues in entry and mid-level management roles first to obtain the prerequisite five to 10 years of healthcare work experience. While earning your education, jump on every opportunity to add hands-on learning to your resume through practicum, internships, co-operatives, consulting projects, volunteer service, and part-time work. Most accredited master’s programs related to health administration will mandate a semester-long administrative residency. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, you can develop your leadership skills further. Clinical operations directors often work up from being medical office managers, practice managers, executive assistants, administrative coordinators, and department heads. Becoming a Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP) could display your competence and dedication too.

Future Outlook

Demand for healthcare services is rising due the massive number of baby boomers reaching late adulthood and the increased prevalence of chronic medical conditions. Thanks to health insurance reform, more patients have access to much-needed clinical treatments than ever before. It’s expected that this sparked demand for clinical procedures will cause more medical facilities to be built over the next decade. This all creates favorable job prospects for clinical operations directors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of medical directors is poised to grow by 23 percent before 2022. Although job competition will still be heated, directors of clinical operations will find openings in hospitals, medical practices, research labs, residential care facilities, government agencies, ambulatory care centers, and more.

Overall, the director of clinical operations plays a critical upper-level managerial role in guiding the medical operations that keep our communities healthy and make our country’s health organizations profitable. If you work towards becoming a director of clinical operations, you’ll eventually have the rewarding opportunity to guarantee patient services run smoothly, safely, and efficiently for world-class clinical treatment.