November 23, 2020
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Does a Health Care Manager Need a Background in Medicine?

Many students who first heard about the field of health care management or administration immediately assume that you must have some medical experience or know-how to be considered as a good candidate. This is simply not the case. While some health care managers were or currently are nurses, physicians, technicians or other direct care providers, the majority are not. Most are highly skilled managers and administrators who have the skills and knowledge to lead the behind the scenes operations within health care facilities.

Health care managers are people who are responsible for the behind the scenes operations of hospitals, physicians’ offices or other health care facilities. They deal with issues such as staffing, management of employees, finances, human resources issues, managing health care reform and rules and many other management details. It is their job to understand changes to the face of health care, like electronic medical records, healthcare mandates, changing health laws, and other federally or state-mandated laws and rules. By understanding these issues they can work with care providers to make sure that the highest possible care is being provided.

Some graduate programs in health care management will outline the ways in which some health care equipment operates, it is not the job of the health care manager to understand how to provide patient care. It can be helpful to have a rudimentary understanding of the health care services that each health care manager’s organization provides, it does not need to be a detailed understanding. Most managers will know the services, procedures, and therapies offered at their facility but do not need to know specifically how they work.

The closest most health care managers come to direct patient care is to manage patient outcomes. This involves monitoring patient outcome trends to make sure that patient care is running as smoothly as possible and the hospital or other facility is maintaining a high standard of care. If a health care manager uncovers a problem area in direct care they would bring this to the attention of the department head or other direct care provider to begin brainstorming ways to improve the patient outcomes. Sometimes this process will involve the help of the manager, but not always.

As in almost all areas, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Some trained health care managers are physicians who choose to manage their own practice, public health providers who wanted to better understand how to manage others in the organization or nurses who fill positions such as clinical nurse leadership or administration. These individuals will balance the management skills to lead as well as the direct care knowledge to assist patients. The vast majority of health care managers and administrators are highly trained leaders who make sure that the business side of the health care organization runs as smoothly as possible.