A Master's of Healthcare Administration is essential for any career in the upper tiers of a healthcare organization. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facilities all employ healthcare administrators. As noted by the United States Department of Labor, it is common for managers and executives in healthcare administration to have work experience in addition to an advanced degree before entering the field. Hands-on experience looks great on a college or university application, many of whose Master's programs are prestigious and demanding, admitting just a small number of students each year. Job experience is also essential to administering a hospital, nursing home, or similar facility. Healthcare administrators need to be experts in their area, which includes knowledge of patient care, HR, hospital or facility policy and procedures, complaint handling, billing and insurance, employment practices, and more. On-the-ground experience, especially work in one of the following fields, is invaluable for entry into a prestigious Master's of Healthcare Administration program as well as to the effective practice of healthcare administration afterwards.
Nurse or doctor
Nurses and doctors are the foot soldiers in any hospital or healthcare facility. Because they have an intimate knowledge of a hospital's inner workings, they are well-suited to take on the upper-level management of hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.
Nursing home employee
Nursing homes present a unique set of challenges to healthcare employees. They are essentially small, self-contained villages, providing round-the-clock patient care, meals, social activities, rehabilitative care, emergency care, assisted living, and independent living. As such, nursing homes are a great place to learn about administering an efficient and effective healthcare enterprise. Nursing home employees learn about patient care, ethics, human relations, billing, insurance, and more.
Health insurance company employee
Much of healthcare administration involves the complicated world of health insurance. Any top healthcare administrator must have a strong working knowledge of health insurance from a provider perspective and a patient perspective. As such, a background in health insurance is beneficial to the prospective student of health administration. Classroom knowledge in this area cannot replace a working knowledge of medical billing, insurance claims, insurance pricing, patient benefits, and other topics that a health insurance company employee will know inside and out.
Healthcare administrators are frequently required to be innovators in their field. Provider facilities are constantly seeking new ways to improve the patient experience. Healthcare administrators may be called upon to find fresh methods of managing patient pain, determine facility policy on certain drugs and procedures, and present to various groups on facility research and practice. A background in healthcare research, whether it be independent, at a non-profit, or at a government agency can be beneficial to healthcare administrators. Such positions teach strong research, writing, and presentation skills.
Much of healthcare administration is people management. Healthcare administrators may be called upon to resolve disputes among employees, handle patient complaints, hire and fire, determine salaries, write company policies, and train employees. HR professionals are experts in all of these areas and usually have knowledge of employment law and professional ethics. A career as an HR professional will provide many skills that complement a Master's of Healthcare Administration.
Prospective graduate students should read this article from the American College of Healthcare Executives, discussing the importance of attending an accredited Master's of Healthcare Administration program, as well as the benefits of employment in the field before and during graduate school.