At all levels of responsibility, healthcare work can be stressful. Heavy workloads, frequent emergencies, and constant exposure to sickness and death would wear on anyone, even professionals trained to manage the pressure. That doesn’t improve at the administrative level. True, administrators don’t encounter mortality as directly and frequently as frontline staff, but the added responsibilities for safety, effectiveness, and financial efficiency more than make up for that. It’s challenging work.
One executive survey found burnout running rampant among those in top positions like hospital chief executive officer (CEO), hospital chief administration officer (CAO), and chief nursing officer (CNO). It didn’t matter whether the professional worked for a children’s hospital or a nursing home. Factors like age and experience didn’t impact the findings much either. Healthcare administration is a difficult job, full stop.
Healthcare administrators below the executive level can experience burnout as well. Though they may have less overall responsibility, these professionals also struggle to navigate an increasingly complicated insurance industry, set practitioner goals, and improve patient care on a budget. Not only is burnout bad for workers, but it’s costly as well, according to the American Association of Physician Leadership. One 2019 Stanford University study puts the total cost between $2.9 and $6.3 billion for physician burnout alone. And who does the duty of fixing this problem fall on? Healthcare administrators.
Keep reading for a more detailed answer to the question is being a healthcare administrator a stressful job?. This article covers:
Like many occupations with a stressful work environment, healthcare administration pays well. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical health and service managers earn a median annual pay of over $100,000 to supervise healthcare facilities. Top executives, such as hospital CEOs, typically earn much higher annual salaries.
Healthcare administrators typically devise budgets, work with medical staff to improve patient care, oversee staffing, set performance goals, create work schedules, and manage the recordkeeping process. Healthcare administration is a growing field; the BLS projects the need for medical health and service managers to increase by 32 percent from 2020 to 2030. Nearly 52,000 jobs open in the field every year.
OSHA published a list of potential stressors for hospital workers. Issues directly impacting practitioners, such as staffing shortages, overwork, and unsafe equipment can also affect healthcare administrators who need to fix these problems. Administrators face added pressure from insurance companies and regulators.
According to one CDC document, “role ambiguity” can also be a significant source of stress in hospitals. If you work in a setting without a clearly defined hierarchy, you can face even more stress than in a well-run facility. The stakes are high in hospitals because the quality of care can hang in the balance of a few seconds. As an administrator, these factors can weigh on you, especially as you progress in your career and take on more responsibility.
In short, healthcare administration is stressful. But, as one Quora commenter said, it’s also rewarding. Successful healthcare administrators have a positive impact on the healthcare industry at large.
Staffing shortages, including those caused by COVID-19, have left hospitals struggling to take care of all their patients. “Solutions” typically involve spreading everybody even thinner. One of the best ways for healthcare administrators to cope with workplace stress is by actually having resources to allocate.
According to the survey on healthcare burnout, polled executives said ways to reduce burnout (from their perspective) included sabbaticals, additional schedule flexibility, therapy services, and a Chief Wellness Officer. Self-care is essential. The National Center for Mental Illness says stress is most likely to impact people who are not well-rested, nourished, or supported by friends and family.
According to the Mayo Clinic, identifying your stress triggers is the first step in coping with any stressful work situation. Then you can address root causes, which often revolve around the intermingling of work and family. The Mayo Clinic contends that self-care techniques like setting boundaries, finding healthy outlets, talking to others, and taking breaks can improve your well-being.
Health administration undergraduates sometimes start out in admissions, marketing, risk management, managed-care analysis, or other non-clinical staff positions and work their way into higher-level administrative roles. While it’s possible to work in healthcare administration without an MHA, it can take a lot longer to climb the managerial ladder without a master’s degree. (
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, the median wage for health service managers was $99,730 per year, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $182,600 in base pay. Employment opportunities for health services managers is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2026. This growth is much faster than growth for other occupations. ( )
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A master’s degree in healthcare administration prepares graduates for management careers in hospitals, medical clinics, nursing and convalescent homes, government medical services, and outpatient care centers. Other graduate degrees—including a Master of Science in Health Informatics and an Master of Business Administration with a healthcare administration concentration can cover some of the same topics and may lead to similar careers.
Earning this degree typically requires two years of full-time study. Working students may opt for a more flexible part-time program taking three years or longer. Accelerated degree programs usually take 18 months or less. Online master’s degrees (full or part-time) offer working or out-of-state students additional flexibility.
Admissions requirements depend on where you apply. As a rule, the most competitive programs have the most rigorous admissions requirements. Top schools often look for applicants with an educational background in healthcare, STEM, or business. Common bachelor’s degree majors include biology, human resources, business administration, and nursing. Schools may accept applicants with different backgrounds but may require them to complete foundational coursework before commencing graduate study.
Other schools cater more towards career transitioners. These programs are less likely to require a specific bachelor’s degree or previous work experience (another common requirement). You’ll still complete the standard graduate school admissions process, including submitting a resume, letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores, and a personal essay. Many programs are becoming test-optional, and some request several personal essays.
There isn’t a standardized curriculum for healthcare administration programs, but common subjects include data analysis and management, financial decision-making, healthcare leadership, and human resource management.
Many programs also allow students to choose a specialization (after completing core coursework) and focus their education on courses fitting their career goals. Specializing can be a great way to earn a specific job or transition into a particular healthcare sub-field. Top specializations include health information technology, health informatics, gerontology, long-term care administration, population management, leadership, health finance, and health education. Again, be sure to check which specializations a school offers before applying.
Finally, most schools ask students to complete a capstone course. You’ll write a paper or complete a project focusing on your chosen area of interest. A capstone is an excellent way to showcase what you’ve learned during the program.
Top schools offering a master’s in healthcare administration include the following three.
This 54-credit data-focused MHA takes 22 months to complete. Coursework addresses quality management, healthcare analytics, health law, leadership, professional development, accounting, communication, and other essential subjects and skills. Students also participate in a residency, working with professionals in a natural healthcare management setting. The program covers seven core competencies, including strategic management, critical thinking and analysis, financial skills, and professionalism.
Throughout this two-year 60-credit program, students study healthcare history, operating principles, and reform. Students also explore policy, including how to write and evaluate policies. During the Integrated Learning Experience (ILE), they work with real clients to improve business and care practices, resulting in a written paper. In the middle of the program, students complete a 10-to-12-week internship to accrue experience working on business functions with a real company.
Pitt has a 100 percent graduation and employment rate (within 90 days) for students from the MHA in Policy and Management program. Other perks of the MHA program include a practical experience, graduate placements, and the Executive in Residence—allowing students to learn about the healthcare system from an executive at the school. Students can earn a joint MBA degree in this program, completing both degrees in three years.
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