With all the talk about a tanking economy and a desolate job market, one sector of the employment landscape is still verdant and full of possibility. Which one? Healthcare. Doctors, nurses, and all the myriad managerial, support, and periphery staff that make it possible for sick people to get well again – they never go out of fashion or into a recession, and it just so happens that healthcare administration, or HCA for short, is one of the hottest health-related fields around today. Many people who find themselves drawn to HCA as a profession hit a wall during their research. They find that healthcare administration is an umbrella term, and they want something more specific, more tailor-made to fit their unique personality. Happily, this is a field with plenty of specializations, each with its own unique requirements and characteristics.
First, a word of caution: Readers will likely know this going in, but healthcare administration is not the practice of medicine. Rather, it's the management and logistical support of medical professionals. They wear the lab coat and the scrubs, while HCAs wear the suits. Now that that's out of the way, here, ranked in no particular order, are five healthcare administration subspecialties for your consideration.
Just what it says on the label – these people direct individual, and sometimes multiple, hospital programs. For instance, an outpatient director will oversee and ensure the smooth and efficient operation of his or her hospital's outpatient division.
Patient Financial Specialist
Love numbers? Then you'll love this HCA specialty! You'll interact with patients and/or their families every day, and you'll be the one they look to when medicine and finances collide. That means you should be friendly and open, but also detail-oriented. Given the complexities of patient insurance schemes, a background in banking or finance is recommended, as is broad knowledge of governmental medical regulations.
This is undoubtedly the specialization for social butterflies and the natural empathy. Simply stated, you are the patient's voice within the hospital system. You will represent their needs and wishes, bringing them to the attention of your organization. Like the financial specialist above, you will need extensive knowledge of all matters pertaining to payment and assistance options, government regulations, and the like. People skills and a genuine sense of compassion are also vital.
If you like to be at the center of the spider web, so to speak, this is the healthcare administration sub specialty for you. You'll be responsible for managing and coordinating everything from employee work schedules to the implementation of new-hire training and making sure everyone knows (and follows!) organizational rules and procedures. A good administration manager keeps a hospital humming along like a dream – a bad one can kill it. If you're up to the challenge and you live and breathe organization and order, this could be your ticket to a great career.
If medicine were Star Trek, practice managers would be Captain Kirk, hands down. The medical profession and the industry as a whole are constantly evolving, and practice managers are at the forefront of that evolution. As private practices expand to accommodate swelling patient populations, they become little hospitals unto themselves. Bigger space and more patients means more moving parts, and that's what members of this healthcare administration sub specialty keep a lookout on, the better to keep smaller and/or private practices running smoothly and effortlessly.
These are just a few of the many sub-fields in healthcare administration. You can find out more about each of the ones listed here (and several that aren't) by visiting the link at the top of the article. For a more scholarly take, or for those already in the medical field or contemplating a transfer, be sure to check out The American College of Healthcare Executives.