Most Important Skills For Hospital Administrators

Interested in hospital leadership? Learn about the skills needed for hospital administration and how to develop them.
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Updated on November 28, 2023
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In the ever-changing field of healthcare, the role of a hospital administrator is a testament to dedication, resilience, and expertise. These professionals handle numerous challenges to ensure the smooth operation of healthcare facilities.

From managing budgets and coordinating staff to navigating complex regulations, hospital administrators are the foundation of any successful hospital. But what does it take to excel in this demanding role?

To find out, we spoke with Dr. DeLeon Addison, DNP, RN, CNE, and CEO of Addison Academics. With over two decades of healthcare leadership experience, Dr. Addison has firsthand knowledge of the essential skills needed to become a healthcare leader.

Whether you are a current hospital administrator or aspiring to a healthcare leadership position, these skills will set you up for success.

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1. Exemplifying Trustworthiness

To be effective, leaders must establish and maintain trust. Addison says, "Being trustworthy [is essential] to build a good team who will support each other and the goals set forth by the leader." She notes that trust is also crucial to "gaining buy-in and engagement from your team."

A trustworthy leader is transparent, authentic, and reliable. In healthcare, Addison says that leaders can build trust by showing a genuine passion for improving healthcare outcomes and addressing healthcare disparities. Addison elaborates that "this can be demonstrated through volunteer work, involvement in healthcare advocacy groups, or participation in initiatives aimed at improving access to care."

Consistency between your actions and your words is critical. If you talk about improving outcomes and addressing disparities, but do not prioritize them in your actions, you lose trust.

2. Effective Communication

Effective communication requires understanding what others say and making yourself understood. Addison explains the implications for hospital administrators. "If [you] can listen and articulate expectations well, then your team understands what the expectations are. [They] can meet the desired targets to achieve positive patient outcomes and a positive working environment."

Effective communication also requires cultural competence. For Addison, this means that you and your staff are trained to understand and respect the cultural beliefs and practices of diverse populations. 'This training can help to eliminate biases and improve communication between healthcare providers and patients," she says.

One of the most important skills needed for hospital administration is understanding your different audiences and communicating effectively with each. Clinicians, patients, funders, fellow administrators, support staff, and volunteers, to name just some stakeholders, all have different perspectives and terminology. Communicating effectively requires understanding each group and how those groups see the hospital and its work.

3. Proficiency in Financial Analysis and Cost Management

Different organizational roles call for different levels of involvement. Whether it means overseeing the work of a chief financial officer or running your department's monthly budget, ensuring financial stability is one of the key skills needed for hospital administration.

Addison explains that healthcare administrators must understand budgets, returns on investment, cost centers, and the like. As Addison notes, "Hospitals have the responsibility to develop and implement strategies that address the social, economic, and cultural factors that contribute to disparities."

Understanding what functions provide a surplus helps hospitals to fund functions that do not immediately pay for themselves, or services that are vital to the hospital's mission.

Relevant skills include accounting, forecasting, ratio analysis, credit management, investing, and budgeting. Even if you do not perform these functions yourself, you can learn more about how these functions work so that you can ask the right questions of your team.

4. Familiarity with Healthcare Laws and Regulations

One of the most demanding skills needed for hospital administration is maintaining your familiarity with healthcare laws and regulations, especially in a time of rapid change. Hospital administrators must be familiar enough with laws and regulations both to ensure that their teams follow them and to advocate for change as appropriate.

As Addison points out, "Overall, hospital administrators have a vital role in reducing healthcare disparities and ensuring equitable access to care." These goals demand the ability to create change at the community, state, or federal level, as well as within your hospital or department.

You can maintain your familiarity with the laws and regulations by reading newsletters and other summaries of legislation or proposed legislation. You can also follow organizations that track legislation and potential change, such as state or national associations. Addison recommends: "Stay informed about the latest developments by regularly reading industry publications, attending conferences, and engaging in professional development opportunities."

5. Strong Problem-Solving Skills

In healthcare, especially, many problems are deep-rooted and require extraordinary problem-solving skills to address the clinical, systemic, and human aspects of the problem.

Sometimes the human aspects of the problem include yourself. Addison emphasizes that "emotional intelligence and self-awareness are key to being able to manage oneself when leading others." Self-management is one of the most crucial skills needed for hospital administration, especially when dealing with emotionally-charged topics and issues.

How to Build Essential Skills for Hospital Administrators

As a hospital administrator, you must continually develop your skills. For formal education, Addison recommends that somebody considering hospital administration obtain a relevant bachelor's degree in healthcare administration, business administration, or a related field.

For those with some experience, she suggests pursuing a master's degree in healthcare administration or a related discipline "to enhance your knowledge and credentials [or] professional certifications." Certifications include the Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (CHAP) or Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE), or Certified Nurse Executive (CNE).

Addison highlights the importance of informal learning and having a support network. "Build a strong professional network within the healthcare industry. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with colleagues and mentors who can provide guidance and support throughout your career journey."

Advice for Becoming an Effective Hospital Administrator

In addition to education, Addison recommends that those looking to build the skills needed for hospital administration should do all they can to gain experience. "Seek internships or entry-level positions in healthcare organizations to gain hands-on experience in the field."

She also recommends that aspiring leaders should stay updated on healthcare trends. "The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, with new regulations, technologies, and trends emerging," she says.

To keep up with a field that is always changing, she points out that you must "embrace continuous learning. Healthcare administration is a dynamic field, and it's important to stay open to learning and adapting."

You can also keep learning by increasing your breadth of experience. "Hospital administrators can work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, or consulting firms," Addison says. "Seek . . . exposure to different settings to broaden your understanding of healthcare administration and expand your career options."


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Portrait of Dr. DeLeon Addison, DNP, RN, CNE

Dr. DeLeon Addison, DNP, RN, CNE

A demonstrated nurse educator and leader, Dr. DeLeon Addison brings a diverse set of work and life experiences to the healthcare, academic, and leadership field. She has over 20 years of combined experience in varying clinical practice, education and leadership. Currently, she is a Department Chair of Nursing in Dallas, TX. Dr. Addison earned an Associate of Science in Nursing from Bryant and Stratton College; a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Rockford College; a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Gonzaga University; and most recently completed the dual degrees of Master of Science in Nursing with a focus in Informatics and a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nursing Leadership from Troy University. Dr. Addison is also the CEO of Addison Academics where she focuses on bringing a higher elevation to teaching, learning, and leadership within nursing.

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