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Core Competencies for a Healthcare Administrator

 |  6 Min Read

To successfully run healthcare organizations, healthcare administrators must possess various complementary abilities. The skills needed by healthcare professionals were determined by a collaborative effort of healthcare leaders organized under the Healthcare Leadership Alliance. The skills are grouped under five core competencies: communication, leadership, professionalism, knowledge, and business skills. Successful healthcare administrators apply the competencies on a day-to-day basis in healthcare organizations.

What Are the Core Competencies?

Healthcare is a dynamic and complex field that requires its administrative professionals to be flexible and adaptive. Healthcare administrators not only have to be robustly trained in the various intricacies relative to providing patient care, but they also have to possess the interpersonal skills and business savvy required to manage healthcare organizations.

In an effort to organize the qualities needed by healthcare professionals, the Healthcare Leadership Alliance (HLA), which is comprised of various healthcare organizations, categorized the (now) 802 identified competencies into five core domains:

  • Communication and Relationship Management
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Knowledge of the Healthcare Environment
  • Business Skills and Knowledge

Those drawn to the healthcare profession can use the HLA competency directory to conduct a self-assessment to determine strengths and weaknesses, which can be tailored and fortified through experience and higher education such as the Online Master of Healthcare Administration at Utica University. Before assessing one’s self or making a determination about how best to apply the competencies, one must first understand the nature of each core competency category and how it applies to the field of healthcare.

Communication and Relationship Management

Healthcare administrators are required to be able to effectively communicate and relate to a cadre of individuals such as:

  • Patients
  • Physicians
  • Vendors
  • Investors / Partners
  • Fellow Administrators
  • Industry Leaders

Healthcare administrators must be capable of demonstrating to each of the above cadre of individuals that they are equally important, which can be challenging when various parties have competing interests. Thus, relationship management, which necessitates good communication skills, is an essential quality of any healthcare professional.

A successful leader must be mindful that communication involves more than oral skills; it also includes the ability to listen, write, and effectively present information. Ultimately, in communicating and managing relations, healthcare professionals must be able to ensure that each of the parties with whom they correspond are focused on a primary goal that adheres to the organization’s values.


Given that herding a flock of differently-focused professionals falls within the scope of communication and managing relations, it is only logical that leadership be among the requisite competencies.

Leading is about more than being “the boss”; true leadership is about demonstrating class, character, and “practicing what you preach.” Good leaders recognize the personal needs and priorities of staff and find creative approaches for fostering teamwork while encouraging other individuals to align their priorities with the organization’s aspirations.

Talented leaders are sensitive to the organizational climate and use organic strategies for goal orientation and facilitating change within an organization.


In tandem with being a solid leader, healthcare administrators must also exude professionalism. This pertains to much more than maintaining steady composure in the face of adversity; it also relates to modeling an accountable and ethical demeanor within the workforce. Additionally, professionalism involves demonstrating and encouraging lifelong learning. Because the healthcare field evolves rapidly and frequently, administrators must be on top of recent mandates. They should strive to procure knowledge and disseminate it while promoting professional development among team members.

Knowledge of the Healthcare Environment

Necessary to promoting professionalism is, of course, a thorough understanding of the healthcare system. This knowledge includes the business-end of matters relative to finance, insurance, purchasing, and payouts.

Other knowledge relative to the healthcare environment includes:

  • Human resources operations
  • Staff roles and responsibilities
  • Patient’s rights and laws relative to those rights (such as HIPAA)
  • Organizational policy and risk management

As with advents to medical research, the healthcare environment is in constant flux with new federal regulations, insurance laws, and so forth. Hence, these are the components that make providing a continuum of care so dynamic.

Business Skills

A working knowledge of the business-end of healthcare administration is not sufficient in itself; healthcare administrators must be capable of applying knowledge and managing the various areas of operation relative to organizational performance.

Each of the competencies integrates with each other at all times. Some areas, such as the business skill competency, may require more professional preparation, whereas others can be gleaned through experience and real-world applications in professional and academic settings.

How to Exhibit the Competencies
Implementing and Applying the Competencies as a Healthcare Administrator

Applying the competencies means unifying them, so they work together to build upon one another. For example, without knowledge or communication skills, one cannot be a truly effective leader. The competencies can be applied to the business of healthcare administration in the following ways:

  • General Management: This pertains to the day-to-day operations in which an administrator demonstrates knowledge of procedures, professionalism in handling issues, and leadership in uniting staff toward a common goal.
  • Risk Management and Quality Improvement: This requires administrators to demonstrate professionalism, knowledge, and business skills as they make determinations about compliance, plan for potential threats and issues while looking for ways to improve operations and ensure quality care is delivered. Successful implementation necessitates solid leadership and communication skills as relevant parties and stakeholders also have to understand and be in agreement with plans developed and implemented.
  • Financial Management: Critical to a healthcare organization’s sustainability in that budgets must be managed correctly, and investments must be made wisely. Administrators have to exhibit leadership and communication skills in addition to their professional business knowledge by conducting financial analyses and by developing reimbursement strategies while forecasting the outcomes. This must then be communicated to partners and other administrative leaders to ensure everyone is on the same page.

These scenarios explore only a handful of the ways in which a healthcare administrator can successfully apply the competencies in a healthcare setting on a day-to-day basis. No one competency is more valuable than the other; rather, they are complementary, which is why healthcare administrators are such well-rounded individuals whose skills are highly coveted within the ever-expanding field of healthcare.

Utica University, an accredited institution which offers an Online Master of Healthcare Administration, prepares students for meaningful careers in healthcare organizations. The program promotes management, leadership, and continuum of care via its three main areas of emphasis: acute care, service organizations, and long-term care. Students will learn to exhibit the five core competencies during their studies, which will prepare them to be well-rounded contributors in the healthcare field. The program’s online format is perfect for students aspiring to advance in their careers while remaining meaningful contributors in the workforce.

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