What is Leadership in Healthcare?
Powerful leadership can transform even the most entrenched aspects of our society. Healthcare shares similarities with other hierarchal, bureaucratic sectors of our society. The significant difference is that the policies of this hierarchy determine our quality of life, and life and death itself. As with most organized structures, there are those at the vanguard of defining policies, those tasked with carrying them out, and those receiving the goods and services offered by the structure (in this case health services).
In America, there is an intense, ongoing debate over who should be in charge of healthcare policy, whether healthcare should produce profits, and how we should eliminate waste, inefficiencies, and poor health outcomes for as many people as possible. However, most political and healthcare leaders would agree (at least publicly) that the goal of healthcare leadership and policy is to create better healthcare at lower costs, no matter what population you’re working with or serving. There are many routes one can take to lower the cost of healthcare while improving its quality.
Healthcare leaders include:
- Policy Advocates
- Executives and policymakers at private, for-profit insurance agencies
- Hospital, clinic, and medical practice executives and administrators
- Health educators
- Public health professionals
Healthcare leaders oversee, influence, mitigate, create, and encourage:
- Health policy, which directly influences future costs and care.
- Health services, in clinical settings, public health efforts, and more.
- Health organizations, through management and supervision of health professionals in point-of-service positions, non-profit health organizations, and elsewhere.
- Health research, which influences future policies, methods, and services.
- Health conflicts, organizational and communication breakdowns between staff members at health organizations.
- Distribution of responsibilities, seeking to build collaboration over hierarchy whenever possible.
Some of the qualities and attributes of successful healthcare leaders that need to be cultivated and embodied include:
- Moral Commitments: Too many leaders in healthcare are motivated by profit, personal ambition, and the maintenance of their current standing and power. True integrity in healthcare leadership is in short supply, despite growing demands for it.
- Empathy and Optimism: Healthcare leaders are faced with myriad challenges but need to maintain an empathetic understanding of their patients, coworkers, and subordinates. They also need to maintain a can-do, problem-solving approach in the face of opposing interests and pessimism across the healthcare landscape.
- A Vision of the Future: One of the most glaring issues in contemporary healthcare is a lack of direction. There are many serious issues in our current system, but policymakers often paint substantive change to it as unrealistic. As a healthcare leader, you need to know what kind of organization and policies you want to create and enact and have the will to follow through on them.
- Knowledge and Skill: It might not surprise you that many influential healthcare leaders don’t have much command over ongoing health challenges, in-depth medical knowledge, or the economics and interests that govern the field. By earning the right degree for you in healthcare leadership, you can build the experience and gain the information needed to make substantive, positive changes to our healthcare system.
Let’s take a closer look at why leadership is essential in healthcare:
Why is Leadership Important in Healthcare?
Healthcare in America (and across the globe) is a grossly complicated, intricate ecosystem made up of disparate departments, professional groups, specialties, political constraints, needs, and opposing interests. Because of these realities, and because the stakes include the quality of life and premature death of millions of people, bold leadership is desperately needed, much more so than in, say, publishing or advertising.
Government projections predict that by 2024 one in every five dollars spent in the United States will be used for healthcare.
In comparison to other developed nations, we spend far more on healthcare, for a far lower average life expectancy for our people. Because our healthcare system features many competing for-profit organizations, there are incentives to deny care to people who have health insurance, as well as markups across our health network, with everything from bandages to labor to life-saving drugs, scans, inspections and treatments costing more than they would in a not-for-profit system.
Healthcare leaders stand at the vanguard of determining whether this system will remain the same, or change in ways that can produce better outcomes for everyone. Because healthcare is so expensive, people across the country often avoid seeking medical services until they desperately need them. As has been shown exhaustively through studies and research, waiting to get care until you can no longer ignore a medical problem also leads to higher costs for treatment. In contrast, preventative measures save money in the long run and get far better results for the patients lucky enough to receive them.
Some of the other contemporary healthcare issues that demand bold leadership include:
- Vital research and its application in decision-making
- Discoveries that lead to curing or curbing widespread diseases and viruses (like cancer, HIV and Aids, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Ebola, among many others)
- The creation, distribution, and use of new medical technology
- Among many others.
Here at Online College Plan, we prepare resources that help you find the right degree program for you. These include rankings, FAQs, features, and more. If you’re looking to advance your career and become a healthcare leader, you should strongly consider a doctorate in health leadership, which might take the form of a health administration degree, a doctorate of health science, or a Ph.D. in health administration, among other leadership programs.
We’ve ranked The Best 20 Online Doctorates in Healthcare Leadership Degrees to help you find a doctorate in healthcare leadership that will increase your knowledge and career opportunities immensely.
We ranked the programs on this list based on the academic quality of the institution offering them (defined by its acceptance rate, student-to-faculty ratio, financial aid offerings, research rank, among other metrics) the academic quality of the program itself (range of electives, research rank of faculty, and overall services supporting health careers), and flexibility (how it caters to students with a variety of responsibilities outside of school).
Once you have earned a doctorate in healthcare leadership, sciences or administration, you’ll likely find many exciting positions, responsibilities, and possibilities in the field are open to you.
What Can I Do With A Doctorate in Healthcare Leadership?
After earning a doctorate in healthcare leadership, you’ll likely be in high demand across medical practices, academic institutions, governmental agencies, non-profits, and private corporations, among other organizations.
Depending on the specialization you chose in your degree program, and the type of leadership program you entered, you’ll likely have different options and responsibilities. For example, if you earn a Ph.D. in Health Care, you’ll more often work in academia, as a researcher and professor. If you instead opt to earn a DSHC (doctorate in health science), you’re more likely to work at the highest levels of clinical practices, or in health administration.
Keep in mind that these are guidelines, not proclamations. What you do after finishing a health leadership program will have a lot to do with your interests, aptitudes, and where you focused your time in your healthcare administration degree.
Leadership in healthcare means many different things to different health professionals, but a few of the responsibilities you can opt for include:
- Doing important research and presenting its results.
- Educating healthcare professionals.
- Advocating for healthcare policies.
- Training and supervising healthcare professionals.
Now let’s explore some of the specific roles people with healthcare administration degrees and those who graduate from other healthcare leadership programs end up in:
What Jobs Can I Get With A Doctorate in Healthcare Leadership?
There are many different roles filled by people with doctorates in healthcare leadership. Some of the most common include:
- Health Researcher: In these positions, you’ll find the information that will influence decisions made across the healthcare landscape through testing, studying, experimenting, and much more.
- Health Information Manager: In these roles, you’ll work to supervise and control the health records of an agency or facility, protecting them from corruption and theft, and only sharing them with authorized parties. You’ll work with the latest software and medical information technology available, building a strong understanding of the laws and regulations that govern medical records.
- Healthcare Professor: Here you’ll help teach future healthcare professionals and prepare them to work in health administration, public health, health policy, clinical roles, teach others, among other outcomes.
- Clinical Manager: In these roles, you’ll work on the front lines of health care administration. You’ll exercise versatile skill sets and experience in healthcare. Clinical managers need significant managerial skills and often have a background working in a role such as nursing, in addition to their advanced education. Responsibilities include writing reports, designing budgets, training personnel, implementing policy, and much more in many different settings.
- Hospital Administrator: You’ll help manage a hospital, ensuring its services are delivered properly, and the policies you may help to create are followed carefully by its staff, who you will supervise and synchronize.
What Kind of Salary Does A Healthcare Leadership Professional Earn?
There are many different health leadership positions, all commanding different salaries. Your previous work experience, education, networking skills, and connections, and the state or city you live and work in will also impact potential earnings. However, some statistical guidelines can give you an estimate of your potential earnings as a healthcare leadership professional.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 there were 352,200 Medical and Health Services Managers. BLS predicted that number would grow by 20% between 2016-26, leading to 72,100 new positions. In 2017 the median annual salary for these positions was $98,350. This was further broken down into median annual wages of workers at:
- Hospitals; state, local, and private: $107,230
- Government: $106,230
- Outpatient care centers: $89,910
- Offices of physicians: $89,760
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $82,950
The lowest 10% of people in these roles earned less than $58,350, while the top 10% earned over $176,130.
BLS also found there were 120,000 Medical Scientists in 2016, which they predicted would grow by 13% between 2016-26, leading to 16,100 new jobs. In 2017 the median annual pay for these roles was $82,090. The lowest 10% of people in these roles made less than $45,120, while the highest 10% earned over $160,520. A further breakdown of median 2017 pay for these roles revealed:
- Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: $118,380
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $94,390
- Offices of physicians: $82,360
- Hospitals; state, local, and private: $79,810
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: $58,360
Finally, BLS reported 118,500 Health Educator and Community Health Worker positions in 2016, with a 16% growth expected between 2016-26 (leading to 19,200 new jobs). In 2017 people in these roles earned a median annual salary of $45,360. They also found the lowest 10% of people in these roles earned less than $31,440, and the highest 10% made over $97,160, and the following about the median annual salary of community health workers:
- Hospitals; state, local, and private: $46,350
- Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations: $41,110
- Government: $40,740
- Individual and family services: $36,470
- Outpatient care centers: $35,370
And on health educators:
- Hospitals; state, local, and private: $63,510
- Government: $55,420
- Outpatient care centers: $51,130
- Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations: $48,640
- Individual and family services: $40,360
What are the Focus Areas for Healthcare Leadership Ethics?
There are many ethical areas healthcare leaders need to navigate. Some of these include:
- Bioethics: ethics related to advances in medicine and biological discoveries, as well as medical policies and practices.
- Managerial ethics: the guidance and support a manager extends to their subordinates, as well as the ethics that govern how a manager or leader treats those subordinates.
- Social ethics: ethics that govern the balance between your desires and economic needs and the needs of your environment and society.
What Organizations or Associations Can A Healthcare Leadership Professional Join?
Here are five of the top organizations and associations healthcare leaders belong to:
- The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
- American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
- The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA)
- The National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM)
Please remember to explore The Best 20 Online Doctorates in Health Leadership Degrees. Whenever you find a program that’s the right fit, you can always reach out to the support staff at its parent institution to request more information. Good luck!