You’ve got plenty of experience as a doctor or nurse and an impressive-looking CV. Perhaps you’ve thought of moving into a healthcare management job, but are not sure if such a change would be right for you.
There are all kinds of things to consider when transitioning into a healthcare management role. You need to think about not only your clinical experience and expertise but your people and leadership skills, your soft skills, stamina, capacity for organisation and much more.
Below we’ve listed some of the key criteria to think about before you can be sure a job in healthcare management is right for you.
A move into healthcare management means you’ll need a wider focus. The days of simply carrying out the duties of a highly competent doctor, nurse or midwife will be over. You’ll need to think about the broader functioning of your hospital, clinic or practice and be aware of how different departments fit and work together like cogs in a machine.
You’ll need to handle complex relationships between different individuals and departments and to make strategic decisions while taking everyone’s point of view into account.
You’ll need to liaise with others to find solutions to problems and then liaise with, and motivate, your team to get those solutions put into practice.
A good manager must be an effective communicator. This doesn’t mean you need to be a loud, showy extravert, but you need to be able to get across clearly to people what you want to be done and what you expect of them.
With spoken communication, stick to the point – avoid vagueness and don’t waffle. When you produce a piece of written communication, read it back before you send it out. If it’s less than clear to you, it’s unlikely to make much sense to anyone else.
You also need to be able to communicate change. As a nurse leader, for instance, you would have to make clear any alterations in daily work schedules, patient care initiatives or any other workplace practices.
Being a good communicator also means being a good listener. If people feel you take on board what they tell you, they’ll be more willing to give you an insight into the complexities and demands of their jobs. This should enable you to come up with better solutions and more efficient ways of working.
With regards to people skills, you’ll need to come over as patient, empathetic, professional and warm. Try to understand what’s going on in the minds of your staff and what might motivate them. Giving praise is often the key. People like to hear that they’re good at their jobs or that they’ve dealt with a tricky situation well.
Having said that, healthcare management can be a lonely vocation, with managers torn between the needs of their team and the demands of those higher up the chain of command. Effective management is often a balancing act, with good leaders keeping an ear open to try to understand the circumstances of everyone they deal with.
Do you love to solve problems and overcome challenges or would you prefer to just do your work then finish off at the day’s end and leave it behind? Good managers are not afraid to grapple with multiple challenges on a daily basis. And rather than seeing such challenges as a pain they love to resolve them.
Creative thinking, problem-solving abilities and a proactive approach are, of course, needed by all good medical professionals, but moving into a healthcare management job would mean using these skills much more frequently.
If you’re serious about getting into medical management, you need to ask yourself certain questions. Can you deal with the impact of working longer hours on your family and social life? Can cope with the increased stress, responsibility and pressure a healthcare management job might entail?
If your role involves both management duties and clinical practice, would you be able to balance these demands and cope with a conflicting barrage of phone calls and emails from both sides of the job?
While a good boss should be patient and understanding, would you be able – if necessary – to confront a team member about their performance or attitude? How comfortable are you with making tough decisions and knowing that whatever decision you make might displease someone? Would you be able to rally your team and keep their morale up during a difficult time?
One irony of management is that although you have more power and responsibility, you’re also more dependent on others. Your own performance will be judged by the performance of your team. A well-motivated, efficient team will reflect well on you, but you will need to have the patience, understanding, leadership skills and – on occasion – toughness to get your team members performing well.
You may be the sort of person who’d thrive on these challenges or you might feel you could tolerate them in order to enjoy the more rewarding aspects of leadership. But healthcare management may not be for everybody. You may simply prefer to remain a talented professional in your specialist area and to focus your career path on deepening your experience and knowledge of your branch of medicine.
A good manager is open-minded. Effective managers are able to discover, evaluate and put into practice new ways of completing tasks or tackling problems. A closed mind, a rigid attitude and clinging to outmoded methods could hold back your team, your department and your own career.
Get your team involved in implementing new ideas and listen to their suggestions. There is evidence that when healthcare staff feel they don’t have a stake in decision making, productivity and morale decrease while patient outcomes and employee stress get worse.
A good manager needs to be an effective leader. You must be able to inspire and direct others. You need to know what has to be done and to communicate this goal clearly to your team. Each team member must know his or her responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Trust the person you’ve delegated the task to while also letting them know you’re available to offer advice.
As well as having a thorough knowledge of the medical and technical sides of the task in hand, a leader also needs certain ‘soft skills’ – being a good negotiator, listener and organiser, and having effective time-management and conflict-resolution abilities.
These skills are becoming ever more important in healthcare management. While you don’t need to be a trained accountant, you do need a grasp of administrative procedures and basic financial models, as such models are used when determining internal budgets – budgets that you may have to negotiate with other departments and stakeholders and which will have a big impact on the work of your team.
For all its challenges, taking on a healthcare management job can have significant benefits. As well as giving you better pay and conditions, a management career might help you feel you’re making even more of a difference as a medical professional.
Helen Richardson, an ear, nose and throat surgeon who moved into management, said, “As a surgeon, I might have operated on, say, ten patients a day. Now I can potentially benefit thousands of patients by helping improve doctor training, which in turn impacts on patient care and safety.”
IHR Group can match you with vacancies for healthcare management jobs in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK. We advertise a wide range of positions for doctors, nurses and midwives at all stages of their careers, and post new medical jobs on our website most days.
If you see a job that interests you, please don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail or give us a call.
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