Top 3 Leadership Roles in Healthcare

Pursuing leadership roles in healthcare is an attractive option for professionals who want to advance their careers, increase their earning potential, and gain greater influence in the workforce. Healthcare is a vast industry with countless opportunities to shape the field from a public health, medical, technological, legal, and educational perspective.

More importantly, healthcare organizations need passionate people who are committed to overcoming challenges and developing new ways to deliver value-based care. If you’re interested in forging a future in healthcare leadership, check out three potential job titles available to you and the steps you should take to get started on this career path.

The Importance of Effective Leadership in Healthcare

Anyone who has ever needed medical attention knows that healthcare is a high-stakes industry. The decisions healthcare workers make on the job can have a profound impact on patients and staff. From workflow efficiency to staff training to workplace sanitation, healthcare is made up of delicate processes that require industry expertise, commitment, and attention to detail. And when serious, far-reaching problems arise—like a global pandemic—it’s even more essential to have strong leadership in place.

To consistently deliver high-quality results, healthcare facilities need leaders who can create a vision for the company, build a positive culture, and provide the right direction at every level of operations. Good leaders offer guidance and set performance standards while also pushing for innovation and adapting when the organization faces a challenge.

Interested in learning more? Here are three types of leadership roles in healthcare to consider if you believe this career path is right for you.

3 Leadership Roles in Healthcare You Should Consider

Leadership roles offer countless benefits, including long-term growth and professional flexibility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for healthcare leadership jobs is $101,340—with the highest 10 percent of earners making more than $205,620. Job growth in this industry is also expected to increase by 28 percent over the next decade, making healthcare management a sound career choice for those wanting upward mobility in their career.

1. Executive

The highest-ranking leadership positions in healthcare are C-suite executives, such as chief medical officers, chief financial officers, and executive directors. In most cases, these professionals are either physicians or business administrators with years of managerial experience. Executives may have a broad directorial role, such as sales, or a narrow concentration, such as financial accounting, corporate compliance, or clinical specialties. Regardless of the type of role, the goal of all executive jobs is to create a strategic roadmap for the rest of the organization.

If you want to have a lasting impact on the healthcare sector, it’s a good idea to gain as much knowledge of healthcare business operations as possible. Executives need a thorough understanding of organizational processes and policies and how they each contribute to patient outcomes in order to succeed in their role. They also need insight into the legal, regulatory, personnel, and market factors affecting an organization to develop strategic plans for improving their facility.

Healthcare professionals who don’t have an advanced clinical background can still qualify for jobs in healthcare leadership. Roles such as sales or account executives don’t require medical licensing. In fact, degrees like a Master of Health Administration (MHA) and Doctor of Medical Science in Healthcare Leadership (DMSc) were created to train professionals from a wide variety of healthcare backgrounds to help in addressing the recent shortages in healthcare leadership.

2. Management

Upper and middle management roles provide the perfect opportunity to progressively level-up in your career. Depending on the organization, these roles may involve managing a team, board, department, multiple departments, or an entire facility. As a result, healthcare managers can broaden their experience by working in a variety of healthcare settings and overseeing teams of various sizes.

Healthcare managers often find employment in hospitals, clinics, and nursing care facilities, but can also manage healthcare-related operations for insurance providers, schools and colleges, technology companies, medical research facilities, nonprofits, government agencies, and more. While responsibilities vary by specialization, managers generally handle day-to-day operations and implement policies and procedures based on the guidance of executive leadership.

One of the best things about healthcare leadership jobs is the ability to move into whatever concentration fits your career goals and interests. For example, hospitals alone may have operations analysts, account managers, finance managers, health information managers, nurse managers, medical coding audit managers, health and safety managers, staff development supervisors—the list goes on. Both experience in the field and obtaining additional education can help shed light on which specialization to pursue in your career.

3. Advocacy

Advocacy roles develop policies and best practices that influence patient outcomes, occupational development, workers’ rights, and public health. Healthcare leadership jobs in advocacy are best suited for professionals who want to shape the future of healthcare and make an impact on a larger scale.

Patient and public health advocates typically focus on organizational or governmental policies, such as patient rights, community wellness initiatives, public health literacy, healthcare regulations, and facility compliance standards. For example, you might work to influence legislators as a lobbyist. Managers in nonprofits or state and federal agencies may work for oversight committees or research ways to educate the public and improve community-wide health outcomes.

Workers’ rights advocates are more focused on making sure workplace conditions support the wellbeing and safety of healthcare professionals. For instance, union leaders listen to worker issues, represent member interests in meetings with employers, and provide legal support when there’s a potential rights violation.

Occupational organizations, such as the American Nursing Association or American Academy of Physician Assistants, are excellent options as well in the advocacy field. Professionals in these roles often play a huge role in shaping patient care since they influence healthcare education and practice. Leadership positions often serve on licensing boards that develop qualifications and determine the standards incoming professionals must meet.

How To Become a Healthcare Leader

By now, you can see that healthcare leadership roles are plentiful and diverse. While there isn’t one linear path to leadership, there are decisions you can make today to start strengthening your resumé.

Identify Professional Interests

First, identify which healthcare issues or trends are most important to you. Leadership roles are challenging and require dedication, so it’s vital to pursue a field that excites you. Rather than focusing on job titles, think about the areas where you hope to affect change. Then you can narrow down your choices by comparing job growth potential for different concentrations.

Talk to Current Healthcare Leaders

If possible, talk to professionals who are currently working in disciplines that interest you. Ask about the most in-demand skills needed for their roles and the common obstacles they face on the job. Understanding the problems you’ll be expected to solve can give you a competitive advantage in today’s job market.

Build on Your Skills and Current Qualifications

Consider your current professional qualifications and how much time and money you’re able to invest in your education. For example, physician assistants can take on more responsibility in their current job, learn from a mentor, and express their desire to move into management.

However, no matter what role you currently hold in healthcare, it’s best to take business administration courses to develop any skills that are difficult to learn on the job. Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences’ Doctor of Medical Science in Healthcare Leadership can help any aspiring healthcare leader develop competencies in core areas such as operations analysis, strategic planning, healthcare economics, organizational efficiency, finance, and public health policy.

Start Making an Impact in Healthcare

A healthcare leadership degree offers a comprehensive education for physician assistants, nurses, and other clinicians who want to pursue jobs in healthcare leadership. As an emerging degree, the DMSc prepares graduates for the latest trends and real-world issues shaping the healthcare industry. If you want to know more about the program, consider reaching out to an admissions counselor to find out if this degree aligns with your career goals.

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