A healthcare career doesn’t necessarily have to involve treating patients directly. Like all industries, healthcare needs hardworking, conscientious, capable people to keep the system working and healthy—and that’s what becoming a home healthcare administrator__ is all about.
Within this large and important function is the field of home healthcare administration, which tackles the practical side of keeping people with medical challenges at home instead of in the hospital, in a nursing home, or in long-term care facilities. With an aging population and "hospital at home" a growing trend in health care, this field is poised for growth in the coming years.
Most people are familiar with home healthcare as it pertains to the elderly, but home health services also include:
As a result, different healthcare administration roles may require very different backgrounds and areas of expertise—like business management versus nursing administration—even though they might both be involved in overseeing operations, coordinating care schedules, managing caregivers, and taking care of HR issues.
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Home healthcare administration is the type of job for which the maxim "it might never be easy, but it will always be worth it" applies. In other words, becoming a home healthcare administrator is challenging, and the career path has numerous pros and cons.
You run the risk of burnout because the workload and pressures are substantial. Health administrators often have to balance patient needs against the needs of staff; make sure organizations comply with changing local, state, and federal regulations; and stretch every dollar as far as it will go
If you’re up to the challenge, here’s what you need to know about becoming a home health care administrator.
Patients receive many kinds of home healthcare services, which means that a home health care administrator might work for any of the following:
No matter which area of home health administration you enter, entry-level positions in home health care administration include:
Mid-level home health care administration jobs include:
Senior-level home health care administrators are typically responsible for overseeing nursing staff, arranging for caregiver training, organizing care plans, developing and administering budgets, and increasingly, overseeing marketing efforts.
It may surprise you to learn that there is no national educational standard for home care administrators. A bachelor’s degree in nursing administration, healthcare administration, or public health is the minimum level of education you’ll need to get a foot in the door.
However, most home healthcare companies now prefer to hire candidates with both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree (usually either a master of health administration (MHA) or master of health services administration (MHSA) degree).
MHA and MHSA programs are similar, although MHSA programs typically include more courses in general business administration alongside healthcare-focused ones. Candidates for both master's degrees typically choose an area of specialization, such as:
Both master's degrees typically take two years to complete if you’re studying on-campus full time, though there are a number of accelerated one-year online programs like the online master's (MHA) offered by Stony Brook University in New York or the online master’s (MHSA) at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Alternately, you could get an MBA in healthcare administration, although that master's degree is more popular with people looking at careers in healthcare management—a field similar to health care administration, but generally more focused on the business of providing care than on the delivery of care.
The licensure and accreditation process for becoming a home healthcare administrator varies from state to state, as each state imposes its own requirements. In Texas, health care administrators have to complete an online training covering regulations, laws, and ethics.
Other states (such as Oklahoma) impose continuing education requirements and require applicants to pass a national exam.
In some states, however, home care administrators don’t need a license to work. The best way to find out your state's requirements is simply to contact the department of health.
There are several professional organizations that offer certification to experienced home care administrators. Having a professional certification isn’t strictly necessary, but it does demonstrate proficiency and may make it easier to get a job. The National Board for Home Care and Hospice Certification (NBHHC) offers an administrative certification, as does the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center.
As patient-centered outpatient care is becoming the norm and more of the population is making the choice to age in place, the future of home health care administration looks bright. Home healthcare expenditures are set to outpace all other health spending categories by the end of 2019.
Home health agencies are already experiencing administrator shortages, meaning there’s likely already a place for you in home health administration if you decide to follow this path. If you have a knack for operations and people management as well as a passion for healthcare, a career in healthcare administration could be for you.
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