You’re working in the healthcare system, but you want to move up to the executive level. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a prestigious line of work. Big responsibilities, good pay, great community standing. That’s just the problem, as a matter of fact. It’s the sort of job everyone wants.
So, how do you get it?
The path toward becoming a healthcare executive can be long and difficult, but you can get there by following the right steps. In this article, we take a look at what it takes and how it is done.
What is a Healthcare Executive?
Healthcare executives are the decision-makers within a healthcare system. They work at the highest level, making sure that everything runs smoothly at the hospital. While they aren’t working directly with patients, they are making the choices that have an enormous impact on what kind of care they receive.
Naturally, the stakes that come with this job are very high. It’s important that the people filling these jobs are well-qualified and fully prepared for what lies ahead.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The first step, of course, is to get a related undergraduate degree. The degree itself will depend somewhat on what position you are hoping to fill eventually. For example, hospital financial directors usually have an educational background in finance, while other hospital executives will need educational backgrounds that relate more closely to patient care. If you’re looking to go down the nursing route to becoming a executive, think about starting with a ABSN vs a MSN.
Keep in mind that most executives will go back and get a graduate degree. It’s a lot of work, sure, but it does have the benefit of taking a little bit of pressure off of your undergraduate degree. If your undergraduate degree didn’t quite set you up for the career you were hoping for, you can usually correct the issue with a graduate degree.
Still, to maintain a relatively linear career path, it’s best to pick something that fits your ideal career trajectory.
Gain Relevant Work Experience
No one starts at the top. You’re going to need to log a few years in entry-level positions to show your employers that you have what it takes to work at the executive level. While you are gaining relevant experience, it’s important to stand out as much as possible.
You can do this through a combination of several ways.
Show that You Are a Team Player
Keep in mind that no executive is an island. They work with others to achieve goals that are designed to benefit the entire community. You need to understand how to successfully collaborate with your coworkers. Not only will this help you stand out in the eyes of your employers, but it will also help you develop skills that are vital at the executive level.
Constantly Refresh Your Skills
Unfortunately, school is never quite out for the person who wants to work at the executive level. There are constant developments in the world of healthcare administration. New strategies. New equipment. New technologies. Things you can only know about by keeping your finger on the pulse.
You don’t necessarily need to constantly be in school, but read up. Go to conferences. Get online certifications, and apply your knowledge in the workplace.
Put Your Stamp on Your Work
Executives are chosen because they can do things other employees just can’t. It’s hard to establish yourself as the sort of person that has that magical touch. To that end, hard work is key. You need to not only produce good results but bring a unique perspective to the table. Speak up. Share your ideas, and never be afraid to go the extra mile.
How Long Will it Take to Become an Executive?
There are, of course, endless variables. Some personal, others professional. Are you willing to move around to get promotions, or do you want to stay within the same healthcare system? Are you able to aggressively pursue your graduate degree, or will it take a long time to accomplish?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Even for the person who does everything just right, it can take years to reach the executive level. Most hospitals expect you to pay your dues for a while, if only so that they can be sure you’re the honest goods.
Assuming you’re taking an accelerated track, working hard, getting your graduate degree at night, and casting a wide net for future employment opportunities, it will still take two to three years before you’re eligible for a promotion in most circumstances.
Insufferably long for the highly driven, perhaps, but also, it’s time well spent. Remember, you can only grow through experience. Knowing what it is like at the entry-level will ultimately make you a better in healthcare management. Good work will be rewarded in the long run.
Until then, keep learning and growing. It will all add up eventually.