Healthcare Informatics and Technology Investors
Healthcare Informatics and Technology Investors


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Dr. Meredith Belbin

Behavior vs. Personality



Lucrative Futures on the Adminstrative Ladder

Advantages swell for those adept at helping balance
patient care with business profits.

By Paul DeCeglie

If commitment to service has been the criterion for choosing health care careers in the past, commitment to the bottom line may be the paradigm of the future. Health care today is a business–a $1.1 trillion business expected to top $2 trillion by 2007.

Growth throughout the industry will pay off for job seekers–and not only for practitioners directly in contact with patients. A broad spectrum of support positions include claims management, cost containment, financing, marketing, risk management and a host of other careers.

''Opportunities in health care administration are enormous,'' says Dr. Paul Torrens, the director of UCLA's Executive Master of Public Health program, School of Public Health. He acknowledges it's ''a tumultuous area right now, with pressure to meet public needs while containing costs. But it's good and rewarding work offering a place for every kind of talent.''

Pointing to a ''tremendous need for skilled management,'' Dr. Torrens says his students ''are fully employed before they graduate, usually at entry level salaries of $50,000. Five years out, they'll be in the $80,000 to $90,000 range. Top executives, such as hospital directors, are in the $300,00 area, while managed care executives with publicly traded companies are paid comparable to NBA players.''

If you're not in Dr. Torrens' classes, networking is the best way to land a position, advises Pat Johnson, president of Health Point Services of America and owner/administrator of Beverly Hills Urgent Care. ''Contact health care associations, like Women in Health Care Administration, to learn of job openings, get direction.''

Los Angeles area employers include over 200 hospitals, more than 100 nursing facilities and about 60 large medical groups, not to mention HMOs, insurance companies, specialty providers, bio tech and medical manufacturing companies and others.

Who are they looking for? Multi-task oriented candidates who are critical thinkers, work well under pressure and have good communication and interpersonal skills, leadership ability and computer literacy.

Before you begin a job search, however, identify your target. ''Do you see yourself at a facility (i.e., hospital, clinic) or with a payer (insurance company, HMO)?'' asks Johnson. ''Do you seek a fast-track employer with high turnover and little regard for your personal life or an organization that encourages your success and invests in your career? Choose carefully.''

Johnson, senior vice president of Blue Cross-Blue Shield until 1996, recommends ''master's level preparation for anyone pursuing a career in health care administration.'' Graduate programs at UCLA, Cal State and the University of La Verne (which also offers undergraduate programs) ''lend focus and help advance careers,'' she adds.

Paul Washburn agrees. The coordinator of the Health Care Management Master Degree program at Cal State University, Los Angeles, calls health care ''competitive. Those with advanced degrees and proven skills are more likely to succeed.'' Washburn says employers ''are applying business techniques to more efficiently provide higher quality health care services, so they seek educated candidates knowledgeable in management and finance, who can work effectively with clinical professionals and demanding customers.''

''What facilities really want,'' contends Jim Lott, ''are multi-skilled clinicians with MBAs who can operate as department heads. That eliminates middle managers and assistant hospital administrators.'' Lott, a spokesman for the Healthcare Association of Southern California (HASC) and an instructor in health care administration at the Keller Graduate School of Management, Pomona, says it's ''increasingly frustrating for graduates who are not clinicians; they just can't find jobs.''

With the projected growth in health care–including 4.2 million new jobs in the next eight years, Jim Barber, HASC president, takes a more sanguine view. ''Careers in this industry have a bright future,'' says the former administrator of Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital. ''I would encourage my children and friends alike to enter health care because it means working with quality people providing a valuable service in return for good compensation. And health care will always be here.''