A Guide for Healthcare Workers Transitioning From a Clinical Career to an Administrative Career

Healthcare workers are committed to the well-being of their patients. Yet, there often comes a time in a clinical worker’s career when they are ready to move away from direct patient care and into a more administrative role. Clinical work can be grueling, and some professionals might lose their passion for it over time. As a result, many nurses and doctors begin to set their sights on another healthcare career path that is just as impactful on patient outcomes but which does not require hands-on clinical work.

Many healthcare administrators get their start in clinical practice. The transition from clinical work to administration can be easy with the right preparation, but it is important to get each step right. Here’s a guide to help most clinical workers shift their career focus and find greater fulfillment in administrative roles:

Determine Which Administrative Role Is Appropriate

In business, a manager and a CEO often have vastly different levels of education and experience, to the extent that one likely wouldn’t apply for the other’s job. Likewise, the director of IT requires different skills and knowledge than the director of HR, and it would be difficult for one to thrive in the other’s position without significant re-training.

As is true in business, so is true in healthcare. While “health care administrator” might be a job title, in truth it is an umbrella term describing a whole host of different roles that keep healthcare facilities functioning properly. Before a healthcare provider takes any steps to pivot their career to healthcare administration, it is important they choose the precise administrative role they hope to fill.

Some examples of potential administrative careers for former clinicians include:

  • Medical staff directors – manages the hiring and onboarding of medical staff, ensuring compliance with rules and regulations, including verifying staff credentials.
  • Ambulatory care directors – oversee day-to-day operations of the ambulatory services department, which can function differently from inpatient departments at hospitals.
  • Community health center directors – coordinate resources for community health centers, which tend to provide public health education in addition to medical services to underserved groups.
  • Medical coding and billing managers coordinate between care providers and patients to ensure proper billing for medical services.
  • Patient advocates – help patients and their families navigate the complex healthcare system and understand all aspects of their care.
  • Telehealth program managers – fill a relatively new healthcare role, helping healthcare facilities gain technological literacy to provide telehealth solutions to clinicians and patients.

Gain the Right Qualifications

Once a clinical worker selects an administrative career path that suits their interests, they need to gain the right qualifications. A certain number of years as clinical staff can be an outstanding credential for any career in healthcare, but every professional needs to gain the skills and knowledge required for functioning in an administrative capacity.

career path

Many healthcare administration roles require a master’s degree in healthcare administration or a related field. Those who are interested in exploring this career shift but aren’t certain if it’s the right fit for them might look into taking healthcare management courses online, which provide fundamental leadership principles that can be useful for both medical and non-medical professionals.

Maintain Clinical Certifications

In most states, healthcare administrators must apply for and maintain certification to ensure they understand and comply with the rules and regulations of the healthcare field. Some administrative roles also require up-to-date clinical certifications, so as professionals pursue administrative qualifications, they should keep their clinical licenses, CPR certifications, life support certifications and others active. Fortunately, healthcare administrators are exempt from continuing education requirements for a few years, so it should be a bit easier to keep all relevant certifications in effect.

Continue Education Into Administration Career

Rarely is a professional’s first administrative role the one they remain in for the duration of their career. Most clinicians who pursue careers in healthcare administration do so because they are ambitious — eager for more responsibility and interested in opportunities to climb to more senior positions within the healthcare field. Yet, to continue to grow their careers, professionals will likely need to continue bolstering their education credentials throughout their career. It is common for nurses and doctors to return to school for doctorate-level credentials before reaching the highest levels of healthcare administration.

Clinical healthcare providers can be healthcare administrators and still want the absolute best for their patients. In fact, transitioning from a clinical role to an administrative one is likely to give providers the ability to affect more patients than ever before.

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