Health Concentration: Employment Prospects

Health Care

Health care in all its diverse shapes and forms is one of America's fastest-growing industries. Six of today's top 10 fastest growing occupations are health care–related, and rapid growth is projected well into the next century. Although many are familiar with the increasing demand for registered nurses, physical therapists, etc., there are other categories that are growing no less dramatically. Two of these categories are health service manager and community health educator. Health service managers are individuals charged with coordinating a wide variety of activities crucial to the efficient delivery of health care. Community health educators assist others, acting separately or collectively, to make informed decisions regarding the health of groups and/or individual. They work to promote health through a variety of modalities.

Health Service Manager

Health service manager is an inclusive term for individuals in many different positions who plan, organize and coordinate the delivery of health care. Health service managers are responsible for facilities, services, programs, staff budgets and relations with other organizations. Generally speaking, the job of a health service manager is to plan, organize, coordinate and supervise the delivery of health care; set policies; create marketing plans; and coordinate the use of resources for a health facility. Although hospitals provide more than half the jobs in their field, other places employ health service managers: medical group practices, home health agencies, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, HMOs, community mental health centers, long-term care facilities, multi-specialty physician groups, hospices, diagnostic imaging centers, pain clinics, preferred provider organizations, emergency care centers and physical rehabilitation centers.

Three functional levels of administration are found in hospitals and other large facilities: the executive, internal management and specialized staff. The chief executive officer provides overall management direction; assesses the need for services, personnel, facilities and equipment, while at the same time satisfying demand for financial vitality. Day-to-day management may be the responsibility of one or more associate or assistant administrators, who work with service unit managers and staff specialists. They may be responsible for budget and finance; human resources, including personnel administration, education and in-service training; information management; and direction of the medical, nursing, ancillary services, housekeeping, physical plant and other operating departments' specialized staff.

Health services managers can be divided into two major groups: the generalists, chief administrators and their assistants with facility-wide management responsibilities, and the specialists, managers in charge of specific clinical departments or services. Within these two groups can be found a number of major management subgroups. The size and responsibilities of these subgroups depends on the nature of the facility. Although specialists positions are now experiencing the most acute vacancy rates, the generalists areas offer the widest variety of career opportunities for nontechnical graduates.

Knowledge of management principles and practices is the essential requirement for a position in this field, and such knowledge often is gained through work experience. For many positions, a graduate degree in health services administration, nursing administration or business administration is a decided asset. For others, a degree in finance, personnel administration or public administration provides an appropriate background. Graduate education in health services administration remains a pre-requisite for many upper-level positions in hospitals and their subsidiaries. The master's degree in hospital administration, health administration or public health is regarded as the standard credential for many positions in this field. New recipients of bachelor's degrees usually begin their careers as administrative assistants or assistant department heads.

Health service managers may advance by moving into more responsible and higher paying positions within their own institutions, or by shifting to another health care facility or organization. Frequently, the first job in a large institution is fairly narrow in scope — department head in charge of purchasing, for example. Advancement occurs with promotion to successively more responsible jobs, such as assistant or associate administrator and finally, chief executive officer.

Community Health Educators

Community health educators are employted by community health departments, voluntary health agencies and for-profit organizations. They may also be self-employed consultants especially in the work-site setting. Community health educators work to promote health through targeting and addressing readily identifiable and legitimate community health needs. This approach includes the combination of educational and environmental, including social, economic, organizational, policy and regulatory supports for actions and conditions of living conductive to health. An increasing number of entry-level community health educator positions require CHES certification. Examples of organizations that hire community health educators include university student health centers, fitness centers, HMOs, New York City Department of Health and voluntary organizations, such as the March of Dimes, American Lung Association and American Heart Association.

References

  • Peggy S. Stanfield, Introduction to the Health Professions, Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1990.
  • Todd A. Miller, Health Care, Career Futures Fall/Winter 1990.