Hospital Directors

Hospital directors oversee the functions of the hospital and may have several directors underneath them to assist in this process. In small community or rural hospitals, however, they may not have many other directors or assistants.

Duties, Activities, and Scope of Practice

Hospital directors need to have an understanding of the needs of the patients, the medical staff, the nurses, the support staff, the technologists, and the general community in which the hospital resides. Their job is to meet the needs of all of these groups and to soothe the needs not yet being met. Recruiting and retaining staff, especially nursing staff, is a huge challenge for hospital directors and will continue to be over the next decade.

Directors have to have an understanding of available state-of-the-art medical care and technology as compared to what their hospital offers. And, of course, they have to understand the financial aspects of the hospital. They are ultimately responsible for the finances, personnel, patient services and care, materials and equipment, purchasing, and public affairs and relations. There may be other personnel, such as a director of nursing or a public relations administrator, who perform these different functions, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the hospital director.

Education and Training

A master's degree in health care administration or business administration has become the standard for hospital directors. Excellent communication skills, both written and spoken, are recommended. These programs usually include a one-year internship in a health care setting.

Undergraduate degrees in business or health care administration are recommended; however, some programs encourage degrees in liberal arts or in health care, such as nursing or physical therapy.

The curriculum of the graduate program includes such courses as hospital organization and management, accounting, budgeting, strategic planning, human resources management, health care economics, health information technology, laws and ethics, biostatis-tics, and epidemiology.

Licensure/Certification

Licensure is not required.

Work Settings and Salaries

Graduates of accredited health care administration programs generally begin their careers at an entry-level or midlevel position and work their way up to hospital director. Those who have been in the position for a number of years earn substantial salaries, in the $100,000 to $200,000 range. The U.S. Department of Labor reports a median income for directors of general medical and surgical hospitals for 2004 as being $71,280.

Fact

Entry-level positions usually earn $35,000 to $60,000 per year, and some midlevel positions can expect earnings up to $100,000 depending upon responsibilities, financial status of the hospital, and geographic location. Large urban hospitals typically pay better than small community hospitals because of their financial status.

Hospital directors work long hours and may have to travel extensively, especially if they work for a hospital corporation with many hospitals that requires corporate meetings or events. If the hospital holds fundraising events, events to support associated charities, or participates in community events, the director(s) will be expected to attend. In the event of emergencies or any crisis affecting the hospital, the director will be expected to be available.

Career Potential and Additional Information

For all health care administrative positions, hospitals will continue to employ the most managers of the next decade. However, because the trend is to encourage outpatient services whenever possible (to contain skyrocketing health care costs), the number of new jobs is expected to be slower than for outpatient settings. Competition for high-level positions is keen because of the high salaries and the prestige of the position.

For more information on careers as a hospital director, contact the American College of Healthcare Executives. Their Web site is www.healthmanagementcareers.org. Their address is One Franklin Street, Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60606-4425.

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