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 Called to Lead

The demand for managers and administrators across the healthcare spectrum continues to expand.
Due to an interplay of factors - overall population growth, an aging population, an increase in chronic health conditions, medical advances creating increased demand for services - the healthcare management field is expected to grow a tremendous 20% by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
This means there’s great need for managers and administrators across the healthcare and hospital spectrum, needs that won’t be filled by those with clinical experience alone.
Thinking about a career in health care management and administration? Here four professionals share how to succeed in this fast-growing field.
Stewart Abrams Helps St. Jude Improve Quality of Life for Young Patients
Chara Stewart Abrams wanted to work in healthcare so she could help “make the world a better place for those with few opportunities and no viable voice.”
But she also knew she didn’t want to work on the side of healthcare that dealt with blood and broken bones.
The middle ground was working in public health and eventually moving in healthcare administration, where she finds herself today as the administrative director of the department of psychology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.
“I oversee the operational leadership of the department, including business and research. This allows our researchers and staff to focus on what’s important: to cure cancer and create a better quality of life for patients,” says Stewart Abrams, who has a master’s degree in public health.
With the organization for seven years, Stewart Abrams has played a vital role in building the department’s infrastructure and establishing its foundational policies and procedures; the department had only been in existence for a year when she took the role. While she’s led a variety of projects, one of the most impactful has been the conversion of the department’s paper-based mental health records to electronic records.
“This is very important to have in this day and age,” she says. “To give an idea how huge the project was, the vendor converted 1.5 million sheets of paper, front and back, to the new electronic health record repository. The project was successful because I work with a great team that invested in the success of the process. It took almost two years to complete and stabilize the project, and our clinical administrative staff now maintains it.”
It was the mission of St. Jude as a leading children’s hospital pioneering research and treatments for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases that brought Stewart Abrams to the organization.
“What drew me was the ability to work in a place where you’re working with faculty and employees who want to provide patients with the best care, regardless of their ability to pay,” she points out.
She also appreciates how St. Jude values its employees who work hard to serve their patients. “St. Jude values its employees and their contributions, regardless of position or role. This is demonstrated by the way leadership listens to employees. Employees here are encouraged to identify areas of improvement and be part of the solution.”
For young professionals seeking to work in healthcare administration, Stewart Abrams recommends applying for an administrative fellowship after completing a master’s degree.
“This puts you in a healthcare environment and gives you the experiences you need to figure out where it is in the hospital you want to be, such as nursing administration, IT, support services. Whatever role you want to play, fellowships give you the opportunity to learn and experience the field.”
She also recommends joining a professional membership organization that serves the industry; Stewart Abrams herself is president of the Memphis chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), a professional organization for minority healthcare executives. Another option is the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
“These groups provide a network of people in your field in which you can build relationships and participate in professional development opportunities. As an early careerist in the healthcare field, it’s important to build strong relationships, get to know people and what they do, maybe even find a mentor or sponsor to help you with the trajectory of your career,” she advises.
Find career opportunities with St. Jude at stjude.org/jobs, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Hicks Drives Change & Employee Satisfaction at Eskenazi Health
A physical therapist by training, Christia Hicks never thought she’d go from PT to VP, but she has.
Hicks is the vice president of human resources for Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis, IN. She oversees human resource functions and leads the organization’s work in employee training and development, volunteer services, wellness, multicultural affairs and occupational health.
“I’m a physical therapist at heart and never thought I would become the VP of HR, but I felt led in this direction and given opportunities to be an executive,” says Hicks, who has also completed her MBA.
With Eskenazi Health, formerly Wishard Health Services, for 19 years, Hicks started with the organization as a physical therapist, but was “tapped on the shoulder” time and again to take on roles of greater responsibility. She’s served as Eskenazi Health’s vice president of human resources for seven years.
One of Hicks’ most cherished projects is helping enhance Eskenazi Health’s employee engagement scores.
Hicks sponsors a long-term project focused on patient satisfaction, perception of care and employee engagement. When Eskenazi Health first began working with a new vendor on this project three years ago, employee participation was at 49%; the vendor’s average of 60%. The most recent survey achieved an 80% participation rate.
“We had a push to try at least get average participation,” says Hicks. “We really want to get information from as many employees as we can so we can make effective action plans. The feedback we get turns into actionable results.”
Thanks to those results, Eskenazi Health was named one of Becker’s Hospital Review’s 150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare in May 2018 and made Forbes’ 2018 list of the Best Places to Work for Women.
“From not even having a benchmark, fast-forward three years and we’re on a national stage presenting about our results, which is quite an accomplishment,” says Hicks.
What originally attracted Hicks to the organization is the same thing that keeps her here: Eskenazi Health’s mission and its emphasis on serving a diverse patient population.
“You see people from all walks of life here,” she says. “This hospital is over 160 years old, and we’ve always had a patient-centered healthcare approach, to serve the vulnerable and underserved.”
Thanks to her background as a provider, Hicks puts patients at the center of many of her administrative decisions. In fact, she recommends having a clinical background if you want to pursue an executive healthcare position.
“When you’re sitting at the table, facing clinical issues, it’s helpful to understand what hypertension is, what diabetes is, to understand the core competencies needed of staff. On our senior leadership team, 60% have a clinical background, which is supplemented by business degrees,” Hicks points out.
She also provides this piece of advice for young professionals: figure out what you were meant to do, and do it.
“What is it that gives you energy versus requires energy? That’s the direction you should look to,” she recommends. “Every day when I wake up, I’m up ready to go, excited about coming to work. Life is too short for it to be mediocre, subpar or unhappy; find your unique gift and do it.”
Find career opportunities with Eskenazi Health at eskenazihealth.edu/careers, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Glassdoor and YouTube.
Harper Opens Doors for Kaiser Permanente Members
Driven by an experience as a child, Corwin Harper was motivated to open the door of healthcare to all people.
Harper is the senior vice president and area manager for the Kaiser Permanente Central Valley area in Northern California, which covers two counties and 367,000 Kaiser Permanente members. In this role he serves as the senior health plan executive, as well as the CEO of two hospitals.
“I ensure all hospital operations run efficiently and smoothly, and take care of members, providing access to care for those who have opted into the Kaiser Permanente health plan,” says Harper, who’s worked for the company for 22 years.
Right now Harper is working to expand access for members in the region by writing business cases to add capacity, including mental health facilities and medical office buildings.
“These facilities are needed to support and give greater healthcare access to members,” he explains.
Access to healthcare is Harper’s passion, driven by an experience from his youth. Growing up in the South in the 1960s, many medical offices had removed signs that designated waiting rooms for “whites and coloreds,” as was the terminology then, but the practice of separation still held. One day when Harper was having a life-threatening asthma attack, his mother opted to take her son in through the “whites only” door.
“That saved my life, and since then I’ve been motivated to have one door to serve people,” says Harper. “Seeing how much civil rights impacts healthcare has been a big part of my life. That got me into and keeps me in this line of work…the drive to provide access to all people.”
Harper was initially drawn to Kaiser Permanente after learning about the organization and its integrated care model while working on his master’s degree in healthcare administration.
What has kept him with the Oakland, CA-based organization for more than 20 years is Kaiser Permanente’s mission to provide high-quality healthcare in the communities it serves: “Our interest is not just in our 12.2 million members, but also in the 68 million people in our respective communities. It’s a powerful statement to work for an organization that cares about helping people be healthy and creates opportunities for people to live longer and healthier lives.”
To maximize career success, Harper says to focus on the three Es: education, exposure and experience. “You have to be educated and be a continuous learner. That’s 10% of your success,” he believes.
With regard to exposure, which he believes provides about 20% of your success, he advises being willing to open yourself to new learning opportunities. “See it, understand it, touch it, appreciate it. Take on assignments that give you experience and exposure to different tasks.”
The balance goes to experience, according to Harper. “You have to go places no one wants to go, take assignments that are unpopular. At the end of the day, experience trumps everything. It can help you correlate and connect dots, solve problems and lead people. Experiential learning will help you learn to look around the corner to see what’s next.”
Specifically, for those seeking a career in healthcare administration, he recommends joining a professional organization like the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) or the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). In addition, seek opportunities for fellowships and volunteering to become exposed to healthcare organizations in your community.
“These offer very powerful networking and educational opportunities, but also offer a culture of support,” Harper explains. “It’s impossible to do your job unless you have a community around you.”
Find career opportunities with Kaiser Permanente at kaiserpermanentejobs.org, and connect on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Glassdoor and YouTube.
Mitchell Strengthens Bonds Between Cincinnati Children’s & the Community
Monica Mitchell, Ph.D. helps build bridges to improve children’s health. “What I love about my job is building bridges, literally and figuratively, between the hospital and the community, and in ways that improve the health of children,” says Mitchell, senior director of community relations at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and faculty member in the Cincinnati, OH-based hospital’s division of behavioral medicine and clinical psychology.
Mitchell and her team coordinate community health outreach and education to more than 30,000 children and families each year across the region, including Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and parts of Indiana.
A pediatric psychologist by training, Mitchell was drawn to the field because of her passion for wanting to make a difference in the lives of children. Over time she expanded her passion to wanting to make a difference in the community as a whole, which led to her current position, one she’s held for six years.
As part of her job, Mitchell also consults and collaborates with non-profit organizations. One such project she’s excited to lead is the hospital’s Avondale Partnership and Investment Initiative, which is currently in the third year of a five-year commitment to invest $11.5 million in a local neighborhood called Avondale.
“Avondale is a community of great assets and where we have strong partnerships,” says Mitchell. “It’s also a community where we work with partners to improve child and community health. This is important given a number of statistics, including data showing health disparities related to infant mortality, education and employment.”
Mitchell first came to Cincinnati Children’s for her residency and fellowship training as a psychologist.
“Of all the places that I interviewed, I knew the best training and mentorship would be here,” she notes. “I was fortunate to start my career here 21 years ago and to transition into different roles over time as I evolved professionally. I’m proud to work for the number two children’s hospital in the country.”
What makes Cincinnati Children’s a great place to work, according to Mitchell, is its commitment to excellence and providing the best care to patients. She adds that keeping kids healthy often means meeting children where they are and going beyond the walls of the hospital. “Providing care to children in the community is one of our strategic goals,” she points out.
She credits the success of programs and outcomes to “great teams, collaborators and partners who work together to make an impact.”
Mitchell particularly enjoys working with interns and early professionals who are developing new skills: “They bring innovation and new ideas, and I learn a lot from them.”
When it comes to success in the workplace, whether you’re set in your career path or still unsure of what you want to do, Mitchell reminds young professionals that the fundamentals of many jobs are the same, and hiring managers often look for strong base skills.
“It’s always a good idea to shore up skills through training or mentorship, such as oral and written communication, project management, planning and execution, computer knowledge and social media, interpersonal skills and having a work ethic,” Mitchell recommends.
She also shares the best advice she ever received, which she hopes helps others: “‘The best way to get where you want to go is to do a great job where you are.’ It’s advice that has proven true.”
Find career opportunities with Cincinnati Children’s at cincinnatichildrens.org/careers, and connect on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.
Healthy Growth
Healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups, with 18% growth through 2026 predicted and about 2.4 million new jobs expected to be added to the economy.
More specifically, the outlook for medical and health services managers - also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators - is very healthy, too, with double-digit 20% growth also forecast through 2026.
Healthcare administrators and hospital managers plan, direct and coordinate medical and health services. A few examples include nursing home administrators, clinical managers and health information managers. They may manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians.
All medical and health services managers must adapt to changes in healthcare laws, regulations and technology, too, as each facet continues to evolve at a rapid pace and impact healthcare.
Medical & Health Services Managers
2017 Median Pay: $98,350 Per Year
Typical Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s Degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation: Less Than Five Years
On-the-Job Training: None
Number of Jobs, 2016: 352,200
Job Outlook, 2016-26: 20% (Much Faster Than Average)
Employment Change, 2016-26: 72,100
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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