Job Profile: Health Care Program Director

Everyone relies on hospitals, physician practices, clinics, and other health care providers to remain healthy, but very few actually think of the work that must be done behind the scenes to coordinate these health programs without a hitch. That’s where health care program directors come into the picture. Health care program directors often act as department heads that oversee one or more programs within their health delivery system. It’s important to have a health care program director supervising a significant portion of the department’s operations to maximize its efficiency in delivering high-quality patient care. Health care program directors use their fine-tuned business acumen to keep patient services running smoothly while collaborating with other program directors. Below we’ve created a full job profile to show you can expect from becoming a health care program director in today’s fast-paced medical industry.

Salary

According to the mega salary database PayScale, the average annual salary for health care program directors employed across America is $71,803. Figures showed the employers in the urban areas of Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Fort Lauderdale paid the highest with cushy salaries up to 36 percent above average.

Beginning Salary

When just receiving a promotion into the health care program director role, individuals can expect to land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with a yearly salary around $43,617. However, it’s important to remember that health care program directors who build up more experience and advance to senior-level responsibilities can make upwards of $120,220 each year. Executive directors often make six-figure annual salaries around $148,007!

Key Responsibilities

Health care program directors are given the hefty responsibility of ensuring their program(s) is operating appropriately according to implemented policies, government regulations, organizational goals, and best patient practices. On a typical day, a health care program directors may be involved in reviewing safety regulations, updating required licenses, providing administrative supervision, coordinating patient services, managing personnel, creating a budget plan, regulating department protocols, reducing spending costs, and implementing confidential record-keeping systems. Some health care program directors will also be held accountable for hiring, training, and overseeing program staff, but these duties may be delegated to lower-level supervisors too.

Necessary Skills

In order to successfully manage the daily operations of health care programs, directors must have good oral and written communication skills to convey critical information. Most health care program directors will lead a team of physicians, nurses, administrative staff, and other health care professionals, so interpersonal abilities are a must. Health care program directors should also sharpen their analytical, critical thinking, and decision-making skills to quickly resolve any operational problems. Being detail-oriented with solid organizational skills is helpful for health care program directors to effectively multi-task with all of their duties, especially in larger health centers. Health care program directors should also possess a certain level of technical skills to work with the latest medical technologies available.

Degree and Education Requirements

Before you can become a health care program director, you’ll need to possess at least a bachelor’s degree from a four-year accredited post-secondary institution. Most aspiring health care program directors choose to earn an undergraduate degree in health administration, but majors in business administration, management, public health, or public administration can also be useful. Regardless of your major, it’s essential that you take courses that will develop in-depth understanding on health finance, law, ethics, economics, human resource management, information systems, and business. It’s often advised that health care program directors looking for a speedier pathway to senior-level leadership earn a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Health Care Management in graduate school.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Working as a health care program director will come with its fair share of both rewards and challenges like any other profession. Firstly, health care program directors clearly have a very high income potential that often comes with great benefits and the potential for bonuses. Many believe that any career in health care is recession-proof, which means you’ll be covered even if another economic downturn were to hit. Health care program directors also receive numerous intrinsic rewards by interacting with various other health care professionals and keeping patients well provided for. On the other hand, health care program directors can become stressed from having to lead daily operations in some high-pressure medical situations. Keeping budgets down as health care costs continue rising is no easy feat. Many health care program directors will work longer than 40 hours a week and will need to travel occasionally for conferences.

Getting Started

While you’re still earning your degree, it’s best to start learning the lay of the land by building your resume with relevant administrative experience in the medical field. You can develop more experience by completing an internship, participating in practicum, volunteering, or finding part-time work in a health-related organization. If you’re looking to specialize in an area like pediatrics, critical care, or health information management, look for opportunities specifically within your chosen niche. It may also be beneficial to take extra training courses in patient safety, hazardous bio-materials, patient confidentiality, and other health management areas. In most cases, employers will look to hire health care program directors who have at least five years of experience in administrative capacities. Licensing typically isn’t required, but you may want to boost your professional credentials by becoming a Certified Medical Manager (CMM) or a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE).

Future Outlook

Demand for health care services is growing dramatically thanks to the large aging baby boomer population reaching late adulthood and the increased access to health insurance from the Affordable Care Act. As a result, it’s likely that there will continue being a need for qualified health care program directors to make sure facilities can meet this demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of health care program directors and other health services managers will skyrocket rapidly by 23 percent, thus creating around 73,300 new jobs by 2022. While job prospects will be favorable across the industry, health care program directors will likely find the most openings in outpatient care centers, medical group practices, home health agencies, and hospitals.

Overall, health care program directors have a critical upper-level management role in planning, coordinating, and supervising the operations that keep our nation’s health organizations afloat. If you make the decision to become a health care program director, you’ll have the rewarding chance to ensure health delivery systems run smoothly in delivering top-notch patient care.