Other FAQs on hospital administration as a career

As a continuation from a previous post on hospital administration career paths, here are a few other questions I get quite a bit: 

What about the "legendary bureaucracy" within hospital administration? They still call it "administration" for a reason, right?
Of course there is bureaucracy. It's there partly because it's a complex business and partly from being a large organization (typically). Think about all the complexity inherent in the human body - our hospitals have to deal with it all (on top of all the regs, legal stuff, and tech). Think about this, too - walking into the hospital everyday are employees who are licensed/certified in ~150 different things. No where else in the world do you have to manage that. On the size factor, I used to work at Merck - a fairly conservative, risk-adverse, and large company (60k employees) - I'd say the "bureaucracy" at Merck was 3-5 times worse. Bright get-it-done people work at Merck and still have rewarding careers. No different in hospitals (just no stock options). I'd also say it really depends on the hospital org culture itself. If more than half of the AVP/VP/SVP/C-suite levels are age 50 and up, that should tell you something. But if you see a lot of 30-somethings rising fast, you know you're in an organization relatively open to fresh ideas and faces.

So, how was my answer? If you liked it, then chances are I am getting good at giving bureaucratic answers.

To CHE or not to CHE?
Should you take the 30-60 hours & the few hundred bucks to go ahead a get the CHE certification? I asked one CEO, and he said, "HELL YES, at your age, why not?" While another person said, "why? be a part of more groupthink in healthcare?" Maybe there's a little truth in both statements, but for me the bottom line is two-fold: (1) If you are new to healthcare, it's a good way to establish credibility & learn a thing or two; (2) If running a hospital (or part of one) is one of the top 3 potential career paths, why not? By the way, you should know that the folks at ACHE are working hard to make this certification more and more valuable - some changes on the way, so stay tuned for that. I have to say that some organizations (and some specific high-level people in some organizations) do value the CHE. Like anything, it's just another way to differentiate.

What's the career path to become hospital CEO?
The short answer: the majority of CEOs are first COO - more so than CFOs, CNOs, and CMOs. If you don't believe it, check it out yourself. Get on the ACHE Affiliate Directory and do a search. Look through their work histories and you'll see too many examples not to believe me. So how do you get to COO? Lots of paths, but usually you have to be running one of the major portions of the hospital - something like cardio or onco or surgery. Find out what the cash cows at your hospital are.

So you want to become a hospital CEO? Talk to some about their experiences. The more I find out, the more becoming a professional accordian player sounds pretty good.

How's the pay?
Not as good as industry, but definitely not as bad as non-profits. Progressive hospitals know that talent is a priority - more and more, I'm seeing "market" competitive rates. If you're a top MBA, salaries aren't like consulting/i banking, but comparable to marketing. Take a peek at guidestar - non-profit hospitals have to report their top 5 highest employees. A CEO at a $1B hospital might make ~50% of a CEO of a $1B publicly-traded company. If you are dead set on making at least $200k, then my guess is you'll have to be among the top handful of folks at your hospital.

Overall, hospital administration careers are as varied as the people who do it. Most importantly, get into a progressive hospital with a positive, open-minded culture.

still sound interesting? what else do you want to do?