Spotlight on Health Care Administrators

Because it’s focused on such an important goal — helping people stay healthy — it can be easy to forget that health care is, in fact, a business. Like any business, health care organizations need good management to be able to deliver on their mission. To ensure that health care providers stay organized and efficient, around 300,000 people who work in the industry focus their time and effort on administration and management. Lisa Marshall is one such person. In her role as a supervisory financial management analyst, she helps keep operations at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam running smoothly.

“I actually fell into health care by accident,” Lisa recalls, “But my first job in the field hooked me. I can’t think of working in any other industry now!” In her current role, Lisa helps patients manage their bills and navigate insurance claims. She’s the one who helps out when financial assistance is needed.

After a few years of experience in the industry, Lisa narrowed her focus to business administration with the goal of working in fiscal, budget, contract and project management. “My jobs moved me in this direction as I fell in love with this type of work,” she said. “Most of my experience is in private sector financial operations, and then I worked for U.S. Naval Hospital Oak Harbor and Guam, and was able to bring in outside experience to federal service.” Within her first two years of working at the Hospital, Lisa was presented with opportunities to share her expertise through instructing peers at national conferences and conducting worldwide training on billing practices.

Which degree is best for your goals?

Lisa has a B.S. in business administration with a minor in contract management and acquisitions. With over 20 years of experience in claims, coding, medical terminology and financial operations, she’s currently considering post-graduate education, such as a master’s degree in healthcare administration with an emphasis or an MBA.

She’s a strong believer in the opportunities created by higher education. For those wanting to explore the fiscal, budget or accounting fields of health care, she says that an advanced degree is a must. “Based on my recent job hunting,  a business administration degree is probably even more ideal than a health care management degree,” she explains. “I’m seeing more desire for business administration in a range of job postings. This focus seems to be more versatile.”

As far as training, Lisa recalls learning most of the specifics on the job. She’s personally never come across a job that listed a billing certification as a requirement. “Most companies are seeking nurses or those with real experience in the field, so starting at the bottom is the best bet. If you’re good and dedicated, you’ll move up quickly.” If you’re interested in medical coding, Lisa suggests national certification as the best option. She says that small tech schools or local certifications won’t necessarily open up as many opportunities as the more far-reaching certification does.

Use love for organization to make a change

Health care administrators like Lisa don’t always work directly with patients, but because they help health care providers stay organized and efficient, they have a large scope of influence. Those in administration shape policy and have the power to change the health care system as a whole. Health care administration is expected to grow by almost 20% by 2024, making it a great choice for those looking for job security.

Another option for those who love organization is becoming a health information manager. Health information managers keep medical records organized, combining tech savviness and a desire to help people to maintain order at hospitals and in other health care environments. There is a projected 15% growth in this career, so give your application a competitive edge by attending an accredited school or certification program.

Medical librarians similarly manage health care information, but in the form of books, ebooks and other resources that are useful to both health care professionals and patients. They are a huge asset to the medical community, providing physicians and nurses with the most up-to-date research available and educating patients and their families on a long list of topics.

Other surprising ways to get paid for doing what you love

Similarly, a love for “living green” can translate to a fulfilling health care career. As an environmental health advocate, you can help identify public health risks and advocate for changes that help make the world healthier.

Some environmental health advocates are registered nurses, like Brenda Afzal. Brenda, who shared her experiences with Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), educates nurses around the country on water quality issues and spent some time working with the EPA on the Clean Air act. Her advice for those who might be interested in this type of work? Get started! “Don’t be afraid,” Brenda told PSR in the interview. “Choose the issue that is most important to you or to your practice. If you’re a pediatric health professional, choose something that relates to children. If you work in cardiovascular health, you might work on something that has to do with air quality. If you’re a midwife or obstetrician, you might chose to do something relating to mercury exposure. Don’t feel like you have to be an expert on the environment — you are already an expert in health.”

Health care professionals like Lisa and Brenda are great examples of people who found fulfilling work that they’re passionate about doing. With so many different types of opportunities — many with very positive job outlooks — there’s something in health care for everyone driven to make caring their career!

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