Nurses with nurse administration master’s degrees might pursue careers in a variety of work settings across the spectrum of the healthcare industry. They emphasize both nursing and business in an effort to provide high quality care to patients.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers, which includes nurse administrators, most commonly work in state, local, and private hospitals; ambulatory healthcare services; nursing and residential care facilities; or for the government. Within these industries, they might work in small to large facilities in rural or urban areas. They typically work fulltime, and they could work evening, weekend, overnight, or daytime shifts[i].
Depending on where they work, they might find themselves in fast-paced or slower-paced environments, but no matter what, they’re likely to work in dynamic environments—ones which demand of them to use their full capacities as nursing and business professionals.
First and foremost, it is important to clarify that while nurse administrators may specialize, they typically should have their eyes on the whole picture. Even if they devote themselves to one component of healthcare or one department of a facility, they must know how to interact with other components and departments connected to their own. This makes it critical that nurse administrators learn how to manage a broader range of knowledge, skillsets, and responsibilities, even while focusing their studies in one particular area. Also, while some nurse administrators specialize on a focused area, others specialize on the broader picture, emphasizing their studies in overall management.
Following are some of the areas of specialization and descriptions of roles for nurse administrators:
Overall, a nurse administrator works with nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other staff to develop, administer, and evaluate all aspects of healthcare that impact quality of patient care. They act as nurses and business administrators at once, keeping their intention on identifying issues and working with others to establish efficient and effective patient care and work environments. Within this broad field, nurse administrators might focus their studies on a particular area of healthcare such as neonatal health, geriatric health, public health, or any other areas of specialization within the healthcare industry. Nursing administrators must work as nurses and business administrators.[ii]
Nurses who work as a nursing home administrator typically do the same type of work as nursing administrators, but within nursing homes. Therefore, during their studies, they emphasize aspects of nursing and business that help them essentially manage patient care and medical staff within a nursing home facility. By working as a nursing home administrator, nurses can focus their efforts and improve the quality of life for the elderly.[ii]
Assistant administrators work closely with nursing administrators (in a nursing home or other facilities) to provide quality care to patients and support to staff. Working as an assistant administrator may be a great way to gain experience and develop one’s nursing and business skills while going to graduate school or preparing for a position as an administrator. For nurses who have primarily focused on patient care, working as an assistant administrator may help them become more aware of the political, social, and business influences that shape the field of nursing. This could help prepare them to pursue careers as nurse administrators or help them become more knowledgeable and effective nurses.[iii]
Clinical management is similar to medical or nursing administration and management. Professionals working as clinical managers help their facilities run at their highest potential by implementing objectives, policies, and procedures that enforce quality care and an efficient and effective work environment. Clinical managers might be trained medical professionals who have education and experience in business, or they might be professionals without medical training and experience. Much like nurse administrators, they are required to keep their eyes on both medical and business components of their facilities.[iii]
Health information managers generally focus their attention on medical records and organize, manage, and analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of record-taking and records-facilitation. Their primary goal is to ensure the quality, accuracy, accessibility, and confidentiality of medical records. They work closely with medical staff and management to initiate and manage record keeping and sharing. People who work in this field typically have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. They do not have to work as nurses[iv]
Nurses who work in medical management often take a step away from nursing and one toward business. While nurse administrators and managers emphasize nursing and business, medical administrators and managers emphasize business alone. In fact, most professionals working in medical management do not need to be nurses or to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the subject. People in this field must be knowledgeable of subjects such as marketing, budgeting and finance, human resources, and other business components. Nurses who wish to pursue careers as nurse administrators but do not have the experience or education to do so, might benefit from working as a medical administrator to gain experience in managing business in the healthcare industry.[ii]
Medical administrative assistants work as assistants to medical administrators and managers. They do not need to work as nurses, and they do not need to have a particular degree of education. People who want to pursue careers as medical administrators and managers can gain valuable experience through this position. Also, nurses who want to eventually work as nurse administrators might consider pursuing careers as medical administrative assistants to gain experience in business in the healthcare industry. However, nurses must understand that doing so might require them to take a step away from nursing and toward business.[ii]
People who work in healthcare management do not necessarily work as nurses or even have the training and licensure of nurses. Health care administrators and managers emphasize the business component of the healthcare industry, but might also have a degree or experience in a specific area of healthcare such as nursing, emergency care, geriatric care, or any number of healthcare areas. Health care managers often work as CEOs, CFOs, directors, managers, or supervisors, and work across a variety of areas such as finance, information systems, government relations, planning and development, and more. Their roles are the same as or similar to those of medical administrators and managers, though professionals in this field might also work or have experience as nurses, doctors, or other medically-trained professionals.[ii]
As you can see, many of the positions listed above are slightly different but also quite similar. Nurses who wish to pursue careers in any of the positions above may benefit from earning a master’s degree in nursing with an emphasis on nursing administration. Earning a master’s degree in the field could help them understand how business impacts the medical field and how to use their medical skills and business knowledge to improve their facilities and the field of healthcare overall. While many people work in some of these positions without earning a master’s degree, people who do earn a master’s degree may enjoy the benefit of learning through experience and guided study how to best marry business and medical care.
Ultimately, working as a health care administrator may be a powerful way to improve the well-being of patients and to positively impact the lives of employees in the healthcare industry.
Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-3 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-2 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-4