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Essential skills of healthcare administrators

Administrators are vital to the smooth running of any organization, whether it be for a small company, a multinational corporation, a school or a hospital. They work behind the scenes in a variety of roles to keep everything running efficiently and effectively.

Effective administrators are an asset to every workplace, linking the various departments, colleagues, teams and customers, ensuring there is a smooth flow of relevant information between everyone.  A good administration running in the background is one of the key functions that is associated with a high level of productivity and efficiency and should never be underestimated.

What do healthcare administrators do?

The specific tasks of healthcare administrators will depend upon the kind of facility in which they work but may include dealing with policy and budgets in order to ensure the safety of both staff and patients and creating a positive patient experience. It’s important for healthcare administrators to have knowledge of the regulatory framework of patient care, and they will usually have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in healthcare administration.

They may be tasked with training staff, communicating with nurses and physicians, managing patient fees and billing as well as facility finances and developing work schedules.

Some administrators will manage an entire facility, while others will deal with a single department. All will need to know state and federal laws and make sure that the correct procedures and laws are followed within their area of responsibility.

Healthcare administrators will work in a variety of settings, the most common being hospitals, public health, private practice and nursing and residential care.

Those employed by hospitals will be expected to have leadership expertise and strong communication skills. A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement, but most will have a master’s degree in health administration or a related field.

Administrators working within public health will usually have a master’s degree with an emphasis on public health administration. They will be found in settings such as universities, schools, prisons, public health offices, non-profits, regulatory agencies and advocacy groups.

Many physicians who lack the time and skills necessary to run a private practice or specialist clinic will employ a health administrator to keep everything running smoothly, and as a result, they are in high demand.

Administrators working within nursing and residential care are also in demand, with the population of the US rapidly aging, driving demand for more high-quality long-term care. All 50 states require that administrators within these facilities be licensed.

The skills you need to be a successful healthcare administrator

In order to do any job well, everyone has to learn, develop and master a mixture of both hard and soft skills depending upon the role they are in.

Working within healthcare will mean dealing with a diverse set of workplace responsibilities, sometimes within a fast moving and occasionally stressful environment. Good communication in this instance is absolutely vital. You could be coordinating multiple employees, teams or departments, for example, so dealing with your colleagues and employees in a clear and positive way is crucial. There may be patients and family members that you need to liaise with, or insurance and pharmaceutical representatives within your area of responsibility.

Emotional intelligence is a hugely important soft skill that you will need to utilize. It’s likely that you will be interacting with a wide range of people, from patients who have just been diagnosed to those who are worried about financial issues, as well as people who are anxious about a loved one’s condition. Empathy and understand within these situations are characteristics that needs to brought to the fore to ensure every interaction is not only carried out with respect but also kindness.

You will be working within an environment that at its heart cares for others, whatever the day-to-day tasks you are expected to do. Therefore, a strong sense of ethical and professional integrity is required at all times. Whether within a leadership role, supervising, directing or coordinating and dealing with external third parties, awareness and commitment to appropriate ethical standards is absolutely key.

Your job could involve overseeing and directing business development goals such as implementing effective strategies and setting financial targets. Ensuring you are on top of the knowledge and skills required for successful budgeting and contracting is also something that could be necessary to fulfil your role effectively.

Teamwork is crucial in these settings, as is the ability to be flexible and plan ahead in the ever-changing world of healthcare. Being able to re-arrange workloads and teams in case of emergencies or staff absences, for example, is commonplace, so harnessing the ability to deal with these in a calm and professional manner is very important.

This leads on to the ability to solve problems – a good administrator will learn to understand when something is wrong or could go wrong, which then prepares them whenever they need to discuss issues with others involved in the situation, collaborate on ideas and develop workable solutions.  Understanding change management is also crucial – the world of healthcare is constantly evolving both within the spheres of medicine, technology and regulatory and legislation, so understanding this is part of the job will make you more efficient.


Within any working environment, life-long learning and personal development will improve career prospects. With the healthcare sector’s constantly changing demands, guidance and legislation, a commitment to self-education, whether on courses provided by your employer or research and reading done by yourself, can only be a positive thing.

Some of the ways you can improve your skills and knowledge include asking to shadow colleagues as they perform their roles in order to give you a view of the goals and tasks of others within your organization. This will give you a wider view of where you work and help put your role within the context of others.

Asking for feedback from managers or colleagues on any projects or specific tasks you may undertake may help you strengthen workplace relationship and understand your strengths and weaknesses.

It is also important to pay attention to your own emotional and physical health, which will enable you to deal with the challenges of caring for and supporting others within the potentially demanding environments you could be working in. Ensuring your own wellbeing will allow you to become more resilient and deal with external pressures in a measured and appropriate way.

Finally, think about creating your own plan to help your career growth, which may provide you with a clear sense of direction and point you toward what you need to do to achieve your ambitions.

How to become a healthcare administrator

In order to pursue your career as a health administrator, you will need to gain a degree in healthcare administration or a related field – such as business or public health.

Gaining work experience within your preferred area is always useful as well. In fact, some further degrees require up to three years of real-world working experience before you apply. Even if this is not a requirement for the further education you are pursuing, the simple fact that you have this experience will still make you stand out when you apply for a program, and, of course, when you seek work or promotion after you have completed your studies. You may want to consider doing an internship, working part time or pursuing an entry level job, depending on your other commitments.

Getting the right qualifications for the role

Researching the requirements regarding qualifications, experience and licensing in order to follow your career path within healthcare administration is very important. You can advance your professional development and improve your long-term career prospects by undertaking an online accelerated MBA in healthcare administration at Spring Arbor University, which can be completed in one year. Featured courses include Trends in Healthcare Administration and Management, Managerial Finance in Healthcare and Managing Quality in Healthcare.

The skills you will develop while studying will make you an attractive candidate to healthcare facilities, and the degree should position you to positively impact healthcare teams, organizations and patients.

If you decide to begin a career as a healthcare administrator, your opportunities for long-term employment and progression are very positive. The healthcare industry has become the largest source of jobs in the US, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of medical and health service managers is expected to grow 28 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Furthermore, it is estimated there will be approximately 56,000 vacancies within these roles each year on average over the decade.

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