Trends in Healthcare Leadership

From the forthcoming book, Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders, by the Apollo Research Institute (Lang, January 2013).

Healthcare Leadership: Now Hiring

The dynamic healthcare sector will provide many of the future’s most exciting and challenging jobs. It’s the fastest-growing industry in the nation, projected to grow by 29% and add 3.5 million jobs by 2020.  In early 2012, it accounted for one in five jobs created by the recovering economy. The sector has even been called “recession-proof” because it is so labor-intensive. Yet this remarkable growth itself is putting strain on the healthcare system. Already, the field is contending with shortages of nurses and physicians: An estimated 711,000 new RNs and 100,000 doctors will be needed by 2020.  As the population ages, more personnel and facilities will be needed to care for the influx of patients. Healthcare reform may enroll an additional 30 million people in health insurance plans, increasing the patient base even more. At the same time, the healthcare profession is coping with a greater incidence of chronic diseases as people are living longer, and is struggling to integrate new technologies such as electronic health records. Strong leadership will be needed to guide healthcare organizations in this challenging climate.

What You Need to Succeed in Healthcare Leadership

– A blend of business and clinical experience. The proportion of healthcare leaders with clinical degrees has risen over the past 15 years.

– Experience in multiple areas of a healthcare organization. “Work outside your area of expertise and take on new responsibilities, especially those which have hospital- or system-wide impact,” advises former hospital CEO Jolene Tornabeni. Says Angie Mannino, senior vice president of human resources at Inova Health System, “Learn how to run operations; branch off into HR, finance, or IT. Knowing how to increase productivity and implement lean principles is also a way to move ahead.”

– Higher education, especially advanced degrees. Employers prefer that nursing directors hold master’s degrees and that vice presidents or chief nursing officers have doctorates.[1] A graduate degree in healthcare administration, public health, or business is usually the minimum requirement for healthcare leadership positions.

– Technological proficiency. “You can’t do the kind of work we do now without knowing how to use technology and staying grounded in what upcoming generations want and how they learn,” says Regina Phelps, executive director for nursing practice, education, and research at Mission Health System.

– Key leadership skills. In an Apollo Research Institute leadership survey, respondents from the healthcare industry named communication as the most important skill for effective leadership, followed by the ability to manage complex projects, the ability to organize people, and the ability to implement strategy.

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