Career Spotlight: Clinical Manager

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A smiling clinical manager sits at his desk.Each year, Americans spend a significant amount of money on health care, and that number is expected to rise. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports in the U.S., health spending is expected to grow 5.4% annually from 2019 to 2028. By 2028, the CMS’s National Health Expenditure Data projects Americans will spend about $6.2 trillion on health care.

The nation’s health care industry is a vast, interconnected, rapidly advancing enterprise. At its core, it requires professionals with proven knowledge of health care and business administration to provide structure. Those interested in health care and health administration should consider an advanced degree in health administration.

An advanced degree prepares students to develop their business acuity, leadership skills, and health care knowledge to become effective leaders in the field. One role where professionals with this skillset and education can establish themselves is as a clinical manager. Clinical managers provide leadership and organizational expertise, which makes them essential to the development and sustainability of health care organizations and clinics.

What Is a Clinical Manager?

The health care industry continues to grow alongside advancements in science and technology that have brought substantial improvements to the quality of care. To ensure the growth and sustainability of health care facilities, health care organizations hire clinical managers to oversee operations.

What is a clinical manager?  Simione Healthcare Consultants defines the position as a “key role within [an] agency to support not only patient care but also essential business operations.”

Clinical managers serve as lead administrators to assure that administrative staff manages their workloads. As lead administrators, they need to make sure their facilities sustain profitability. They can achieve this by administering organizational techniques to guide staff to deliver superior patient care within the constraints of the organization’s budget.

Alongside their administrative duties, clinical managers operate clinical programs and establish various protocols and policies to assure cost-effectiveness. They also ensure their facilities and clinical labs abide by state and federal standards and regulations. Those who are certified clinicians, such as RNs or MDs, may provide further oversight to fellow clinicians, as well as provide medical care to patients when short of staff.

Professionals in this position can work in a wide range of environments. They can oversee a specific department or direct an entire medical facility. Clinical managers lead business operations and oversee patient care in facilities including clinics, hospitals, outpatient facilities, physicians’ offices, and residential care facilities.

Due to the job’s broad responsibilities, those who can handle a fast-paced work environment and are fully committed to the work are best suited for the occupation. In many cases, clinical managers must work nights and weekends, sometimes more than 40 hours a week. If there is a staff shortage, many will work longer hours to fill the void.

Some clinical managers have backgrounds in nursing or business administration, so it is not uncommon for them to oversee either department, especially when the facility is at capacity. This flexibility helps build a strong collaborative environment since clinical managers mostly interact with nurses, physicians, lab technicians, and administrative staff.

The position’s key responsibilities, according to Simione Healthcare Consultants, are “to plan, coordinate, manage, and evaluate the activities of a multidisciplinary team” to assure that patients receive quality care.

What Does a Clinical Manager Do?

Understanding what a clinical manager is can help professionals decide whether the occupation is right for them. Though it is important to note that specific duties vary by facility, clinical managers share some core responsibilities.

Administrative Duties

As certified clinicians, clinical managers oversee various administrative duties pertaining to their medical facility, evaluating operations and health care services. If they feel these operations and services fail to meet organizational expectations, they devise a plan and direct staff to solve operational issues that are impeding institutional success.

Other administrative duties include ensuring there are enough beds within a facility. This is especially important for clinical managers who are in charge of overseeing the emergency room and ICU. They work with staff to ensure patients are receiving quality care, and that patients who are in dire need of medical assistance are effectively prioritized.

Clinical managers who oversee multiple departments must develop department-specific goals and objectives. For those clinical managers who oversee an entire medical facility, their work may require them to develop independent department goals, as well as company-wide goals and objectives.

HR Responsibilities

Clinical managers lead their departments’ hiring and recruitment efforts. Some clinical managers oversee that process for the entire organization. Many clinical managers develop and implement new employee training for nurses, administrative staff, and other clinical workers.

One element of this training involves organizational policies and regulations. They provide education about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, which ensure that all employees abide by workplace law. OSHA regulations protect employees from occupational mishaps, injures, workplace violence, and discrimination.

Clinical managers also train new employees to accurately analyze clinical data, which can help workflow efficiency. Further, they ensure employees understand that all services, procedures, policies, and regulations must be compliant with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which guarantees patient privacy. This is especially important for employees who have access to electronic health records (EHRs). Clinical managers must stress the importance of patient privacy, and that mishaps relating to patient data are unacceptable.

Managers also create departmental work schedules to make sure their departments are sufficiently staffed. In addition to managing work schedules, they evaluate new employees’ performance after their probation period. Some clinical managers groom promising employees for future positions as managers, which can help with employee retention.

Financial and Executive Responsibilities

Clinical managers’ main financial responsibility is to manage health care organizations’ budgets, overseeing and reviewing operational reports on productivity, patient cycle times, patient billing and fees, employment costs, and beyond. This helps pinpoint areas that are performing well, and those that need to be reevaluated.

Clinical managers act as liaisons between a health care facility and the public. They can lead the charge in helping the organization fundraise for facility improvements, as well as set meetings with potential investors. They may also represent their departments to boards of directors or various committees, such as those relating to safety protocol, organizational leadership, or strategic planning.

Clinical managers also create and implement organizational policies and regulations, ensuring they comply with both state and federal law, and identify and resolve potential safety hazards.

Clinical Responsibilities

Clinical managers operate the various clinical programs their facility may offer, such as addiction recovery, family planning, or disease testing. If their facilities house clinical labs, they must also work closely with the laboratory coordinator to ensure technicians abide by the rules and regulations outlined in the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). Though not a requirement for the position, clinical managers with nursing licenses may perform various nursing tasks and provide oversight.

How to Become a Clinical Manager

While there’s no single path to becoming a clinical manager, these key steps can lead you to a rewarding career in the health industry.

1. Acquire a Bachelor’s Degree

Most individuals pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing, health care administration, health care management, or a related field. A bachelor’s in business administration can sometimes lead to a role as a clinical manager as well.

2. Gain Experience

Those with a bachelor’s degree in health administration or health care management can then gain the necessary experience in the field. These graduates can acquire entry-level positions as assistants to clinical managers or administrative assistants. This can provide the necessary clinical experience to establish themselves as future leaders because it exposes them to relevant administrative responsibilities. This experience provides a great clinical foundation to pursue a future career as a clinical manager.

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in nursing can go on to become registered nurses (RNs) and gain practical clinical experience, working closely with patients in various clinical programs and providing essential care.

3. Pursue an Advanced Degree

Though not a requirement, the next step for many on the road to a leadership role in health care is to acquire an advanced degree. When applying for a leadership position, professionals with an advanced degree stand out to hiring managers. Additionally, those with an advanced degree and the necessary related experience have more leverage to negotiate higher salaries.

Individuals who hold a master’s degree in health care management or health administration are well prepared for leadership roles as clinical managers. A master’s can expose professionals to a focused knowledge base that can teach them the fundamentals of health care management, information systems, and business.

4. Acquire a License to Work in Senior Care Services

Those interested in working as clinical managers in senior living facilities, residential care, or senior services must be licensed by the state where they wish to work. The National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) administers the following four licensing exams that are specific to different specialties: NAB Core of Knowledge Examination, NAB Nursing Home Administrators (NHA) Line of Service Examination, NAB Residential Care/Assisted Living Administrators (RC/AL) Line of Service Examination, and NAB Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Line of Service Examination.

5. Develop Essential Skills

Professionals who are interested in health care leadership roles should develop the necessary skills set to become effective clinical managers, such as leadership, analytical, communication, and technical skills.

  • Leadership. Clinical managers must manage staff, leading the efforts of recruiting and hiring new employees, as well as developing training programs. They must ensure their staff understands important protocols and procedures, especially those required to achieve HIPAA and OSHA compliance.
  • Analytical skills. Effective clinical managers use their analytical skills to understand departmental budgets and assess clinical data, which can help them manage workplace efficiency.
  • Clinical managers must communicate organizational policies and procedures to their staff, and present plans and data analysis to an array of stakeholders.
  • Technical skills. As technology advances, the health care industry is integrating new technologies into its practices. A general knowledge of coding and data analytics can help clinical managers communicate with IT professionals, especially in reference to securing EHRs.

Clinical Manager Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for clinical managers was about $71,000 as of October 2020, according to the compensation website PayScale. Those with an advanced degree and experience in the industry can expect to command higher salaries.

Professionals who accept managerial positions in densely populated cities and states usually earn higher salaries than those in less dense locations. For example, those who work in Los Angeles made an annual median wage of about $85,000 as of October 2020, while those in less populated cities, such as Fort Wayne, Indiana, made an annual median salary of approximately $57,250, according to PayScale.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs for medical and health services managers to increase by 32% between 2019 and 2029, far faster than the nation’s job market as a whole.

Earn an Online Master of Health Administration

As the population in the U.S. ages, the need for clinical managers to maintain and manage the health care system grows. By 2060, over 94 million Americans (23% of the population) will be over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As aging Americans’ need for health care increases, the demand for health professionals with managerial experience in the field will rise.

Professionals who are interested in the business aspect of the industry, and have the developed leadership skills to manage staff, should consider an advanced degree in health administration.

Ohio University’s online Master of Health Administration (MHA) can help professionals develop the necessary knowledge base and skill set to pursue leadership positions in health care. Students who earn an MHA degree can work in a variety of positions, such as clinical manager, health care administrator, operations manager, or health care executive. They can also work in a variety of environments, such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, government agencies, and educational institutions.

Ohio University’s MHA program is taught by faculty who are also professionals with real-world experience in the industry. The curriculum offers students a rich education, featuring courses such as Introduction to the U.S. Health Care Delivery System, Information Systems for Health Services, Research and Quantitative Methods for Health Services, Evaluation and Quality Improvement in Health Care, and Epidemiology in Health Administration.

Explore how Ohio University’s online Master of Health Administration can prepare you for a rewarding career as a clinical manager in the health care field.

Recommended Readings

Health Policy in America: Do Changes Need to Be Made to Better Prepare for Pandemics?

Human Resource Management During Times of Public Health Crises

Mental Health Policy in America: Stats, Tips & Resources for Effecting Change

Sources:

AHIMA, Certification and Careers

American Nurses Association, How to Become a Nurse

Becker’s Hospital Review, “Leaders, Let’s Not Forget Our Most Important ‘Skill'”

Bizfluent, “Importance of Healthcare Management”

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, NHE Fact Sheet

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)

Chron, “The Role of Managers in Health Care”

Healthcare Business and Technology, “Healthcare Management Degree”

NAB, Programs

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Discrimination Against Employees Under OSHA Act of 1970

Ohio University, “Online Master of Health Course Descriptions” 

PayScale, Average Clinical Manager Salary

PayScale, Average Clinical Manager Salary in Fort Wayne, Indiana

PayScale, Average Clinical Manager Salary in Los Angeles, California

Simione Healthcare Consultants, “Inside the Clinical Manager Role: Leadership for Exceptional Team-Based Care”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Medical and Health Services Manager”

United States Census Bureau, “Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060”