Essential Skills for Healthcare Managers

Jun 10, 2019
9 min read
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Managing a practice, office, or department and a full team isn't for everyone. If you are ready to take a plunge into leadership, make sure to brush up on some key leadership skills.

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Being a great manager requires superior leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills. Being a manager in healthcare requires a fine balance of the aforementioned with medical field expertise. Healthcare managers need to be able to oversee daily operations, provide guidance to employees, and protect their patients’ best interests.

Managerial duties consist of a wide scope of responsibilities supported by certain beneficial personal characteristics. This article will outline many of the most important qualities of a successful healthcare manager.

1. Be a leader

The principal duty of any manager is to set team goals and develop strategies to achieve them. The objectives need to be reasonable and attainable yet challenging enough to keep the team engaged and motivated to work toward them. The manager must take leadership in explaining the goals, establishing direction, and monitoring progress along the way.

As employee skills develop, the manager should also be an effective evaluator and mentor so that he or she may coach team members to strengthen their abilities over time.1 Many of the other qualities we will discuss coexist with and complement strong leadership abilities for a management role.

2. Be a member of the team

This may sound paradoxical after reading number one; even though the manager is the team leader they are still part of the team! The team leader must facilitate the cooperation of other team members and create a non-judgmental environment where individuals feel their opinions are valued and are not too intimidated to contribute.1 Properly overseeing projects requires the ability to remain open to hearing the ideas of others and incorporating them as appropriate.

Once the team leader is familiar with the skill sets and talents of its members, they should delegate and enable others to experience some leadership roles as well. Allowing others to shine and experience responsibility improves overall collaboration and accountability.

3. Motivate others

Keeping others on a path to personal and professional growth is an important managerial objective. It is the manager’s prerogative to celebrate associate achievements and recognize those who exceed expectations.

Having a good attitude is contagious; therefore a manager should serve as a constant source of motivation and inspiration! Building up workplace satisfaction promotes employees becoming ambassadors for the organization to family, friends, and potential patients. Motivated associates also have increased productivity and efficiency; the more efficiently the system runs, the more successful patient outcomes will be.

4. Communicate well

The manager is the primary liaison between executives (or owners), associates, and patients. These different groups require different types of communication approaches, but each is vitally important. A manager must be able to adapt their communication style and apply the appropriate finesse for the person or group with which they are conferring.

With employees

Clear and concise communication is imperative when interviewing, onboarding, and training new employees. The drafting of contracts and performing hiring negotiations are often responsibilities taken on by a manager. Producing training materials requires the development of well-defined and organized written instructions as well as manuals required for the position. A manager also needs to clearly share company goals and values with new associates as they are brought on board to make sure all team members share the same vision.2

Communicating in a meaningful and productive way while conducting reviews of associates while also managing conflict between associates can require a delicate balance. The manager needs to perform reviews in a way that facilitates improvement and skill development and resolve conflict in a way that is considerate and fair. Employees should always feel that the manager is there to be a mentor and an advocate.

With executives/owners

Managers lead meetings on a regular basis to present updates and company progress. Communication with executives/owners via in-person conversations or email communication ensures that the company vision is clearly understood and that the proper tools are in place to achieve company goals.3 Along with this, the manager is often responsible for communication and maintaining relationships with partners or business affiliations.2

With patients

Patient situations may arise for which the manager must take responsibility and remedy issues under poor circumstances. In order to do this successfully, a manager must understand the needs of the patient population within that specific area of healthcare. The manager must also be prepared to address patient grievances and assist with patient services through communication with patients, their families and, the care team.

5. Develop a knowledge base

Most often, the manager will not have the same knowledge base as the involved medical professionals (unless it was a prior career for them). That being said, the manager must develop a solid understanding of patient needs within the capacity of the healthcare organization.

Having a strong foundation of healthcare knowledge allows for easier communication between managers, associates, and patients and also lends more credibility to decisions made by the manager.1 When management is presented with analytical medical data, an understanding of where and when to apply it is needed.3 Being a well-informed decision maker ensures the team will continue to improve efficiency and care.2

6. Know what is up-and-coming

Innovation and change happens quickly and constantly within the healthcare field! Having technical understanding ties in with having healthcare industry knowledge.

A manager should be able to keep abreast of new technologies and trends in the field in order to offer patients and associates optimal evaluation and treatment approaches. Understanding the cost/benefit analysis of new technologies such as diagnostic testing and electronic medical records facilitates care improvements that are evidence-based and also cost-effective.1

7. Be financially savvy

Budgeting and business financials compose a large portion of managerial responsibilities. Being familiar with budget spreadsheets and medical billing and coding is advantageous.3

Once you're done planning for your practice, make sure you're planning for yourself! Check out our cashflow calculator for healthcare professionals!

Beyond that, managers must set employee schedules and manage facility resources which requires not only requires organizational skills but also coordination with institutional finances.2 The manager needs to balance maintaining sufficient staff coverage with ensuring the funds allocated to salaries are within the budget. This also includes performing analyses of seasonal trends and even weekly or daily trends to ensure associate scheduling is optimal yet cost-effective.3

8. Manage time well

This skill goes hand-in-hand with the ability to multitask. Keeping perspective on the big picture and not becoming overwhelmed while the wheels of multiple projects turn can be a challenge. Managers should have the ability to achieve efficiency by delegating to others and supervising multiple personnel and projects at once. On a similar note, a manager must be able to prioritize which projects take precedence and direct associates accordingly.

9. Be creative and flexible

Healthcare is a constantly changing field, therefore a manager working within it must be able to adapt accordingly and adjust protocols for new objectives. Identifying, analyzing and resolving problems as they arise can take quick thinking and ingenuity. Creating new ways to increase associate and patient satisfaction — whether it be testing out a new technology or developing a new promotional idea — is an ongoing effort!4

Utilizing strategic planning is required to ensure that all procedures and plans are following government and safety regulations and avoiding legal implications.3 As plans are carried out, it is the manager’s duty to solicit and collect feedback in order to those adapt plans and ensure success.

10. Show compassion

When it comes to healthcare, patients and their families often suffer from undue stress and anxiety, which can make poor circumstances even more difficult! Being able to empathize and show compassion for patients is an vital managerial quality, especially if and when something has gone awry. This compassion also must extend to include high ethical standards and the ability to empathize with people from all backgrounds and beliefs in order to provide proper medical treatment.5,6

11. Be professional

This entails acting and communicating within an appropriate professional code of conduct and remaining composed under pressure! Let’s be honest, managing people and processes can become overwhelming and stressful. The manager must be able to remain poised and focused when steering the business’s ship.

Managers should lead the way in representing the organization from a public relations standpoint with honesty and integrity.4 A manager is a role model for others within the team and as such, must maintain the highest ethical standards and treat others with respect.

If these are skills you use on a regular basis, you might want to consider getting your MBA! Here's Everything You Need to Know About Getting an MBA as a Healthcare Professional.

In Summary

While all of the aforementioned contribute to success as a healthcare manager, the Healthcare Leadership Alliance outlines five major points that require competency. The five essential factors are communication, leadership, professionalism, healthcare knowledge, and business skills.6

Healthcare is an industry driven by goals and values, like many others. Because the medical field is more complex than other business sectors, however, healthcare management entails interplay of managerial skills, medical knowledge and last, but not least, compassion.7 The interaction of these important qualities is what allows a great manager to lead his or her team to achieve success.

References:

  1. Slipicevic, O. “Management Knowledge and Skills Required in the Health Care System of the Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Materia Sociomedica. 2012. vol. 24 no. 2. pp.106-111.
  2. The Society of Hospital Medicine. “The Core Competencies of Hospital medicine Practice Administrator.The Society of Hospital Medicine. March 2018 Edition.
  3. Doyle, A. Healthcare/Hospital Administrator Skills list. The Balance. April 16, 2018.
  4. Kumar Khadka, D. “Managerial competencies- a survey of hospital managers working in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.” Journal of Hospital Administration. vol. 3, no. 1, 2014. pp.62-72.
  5. Top Master’s in Healthcare Administration. “5 Skills Every Hospital Administrator Needs.” 2018
  6. Stefl, M. “Common Competencies for All Healthcare Managers: The Healthcare leadership Alliance Model.” Journal of Healthcare Management. vol. 53, no.6, 2008.pp. 360-374.
  7. National Center for Healthcare Leadership. “Leadership Competency Model.” 2010.
About Danielle Kalberer

Dr. Danielle Kalberer is an optometrist practicing on Long Island, NY. She attended the SUNY College of Optometry, completed residency at the Northport VAMC, is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and is Board Certified in Medical Optometry.