Healthcare Administration, A Viable Career Option for the New Millennium

By Scroggins, Lynne | Diversity Employers, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Healthcare Administration, A Viable Career Option for the New Millennium


Scroggins, Lynne, Diversity Employers


Getting Ready

In the ever-changing healthcare administration profession, like in many other specialized fields, you have to cross one hurdle at a time to achieve your goal. Your undergraduate curriculum should include subjects such as accounting, finance, organizational behavior, technology support, public speaking and basic writing skills in order to have the basics for entering graduate school. It is important to practice public speaking and business writing as often as possible. Graduate school is important because most of the executives who rise to senior management in a health care setting have a master's degree in healthcare or business. When choosing a graduate school, check the percentage of students placed into residencies or mid-level management positions upon graduation. If that percentage is 90 percent or above, it's worth continued follow through to see if the school would be a good match for you.

Stay busy during your summer vacation by working or volunteering in a hospital or healthcare setting doing whatever you can. It will give you an opportunity to "feel the pulse" of the organization and most likely meet some interesting executives. There are several opportunities for summer internships during your college career with our professional organizations. In particular, the Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management headquartered in Chicago, IL, offers college and graduate students summer internships in various cities. There are also several colleges and universities that offer summer learning programs to students interested in the healthcare field. Check with your placement office or just call some medical schools and inquire about summer opportunities. You will likely be pleased with the outcome.

Healthcare Career Options

The very first job that most graduates seek after earning their master's degree is an Administrative Residency in the healthcare setting of your choice. In this position, the resident learns about the organizational structure and political culture of an organization. Each resident is assigned to an executive level team member (often the CEO) and serves as their assistant for one year. During that year, the resident is assigned projects that directly impact hospital operations and are directed so that they may apply their formal training in problem solving. This hands-on opportunity generally gives the resident the unique opportunity to work directly with senior management in a learning capacity. If you work hard and gain the respect of senior management, the individual that leads you through this year of residency usually carries the honor of your mentor/preceptor throughout your career. My mentor, Eugene Cash-man, CEO for LeBonheur Children's Hospital in 1985, told me to use the hospital as my laboratory fo r the one year of my residency. He encouraged me to independently practice my management skills while he remained close enough to guide me. Salaries for the Administrative Residency typically start around $25,000 per year.

During your residency, you will be able to decide if you would like a line management or staff role as your career foundation. Line management is the track to the CEO's position, while staff roles are organizational support functions such as human resources or quality management. The CEO has to set the organization's strategic plan, understand customer service, master organization behavior and rules of financial management to move the organization forward. Elliott Roberts, retired CEO of the Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans and one of the first African-American hospital administrators in the country, says students considering the line management track may begin, after their administrative residency, as a department or service line director. In a support role, one usually develops one area of specialty or expertise. In Human Resources, for instance, you must understand things like labor laws, employee grievance procedures, and payroll methods. …

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