Skip to Main Content
Idaho State University home

Healthcare- On the Business Side

March 2, 2020

Have you ever thought that you wanted to work in medicine, but maybe you faint at the sight of blood? Maybe you tried the nursing program and decided not only are you afraid of needles but that you don’t really want to stick other people either? But even after all that, you still wanted to work in the medical field? Then healthcare administration (HCA) might be the major for you.

So what exactly is HCA? Well, it’s essentially people who specialize in the administrative duties for a clinical setting, i.e., a hospital or clinic. These folks are the ones responsible for making sure hospitals, clinics and other healthcare practices run smoothly. These positions could include clinic manager, facility administrator or even chief executive officer.  While clinical administrative positions are the typical route for many people with an HCA degree, student Landon Winegar says that the HCA degree can be used for a variety of things including “...health insurance, long-term healthcare, medical equipment sales, mental health facilities, government health agencies or pretty much anywhere that needs great healthcare leaders.”

Joshua Thompson, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the HCA program at the Idaho State University  College of Business, says that students should consider a degree in HCA because “A healthcare administration degree is more valuable today than ever before. With the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the median age of the U.S. population rising, there is a growing need for qualified healthcare administration professionals.” As we said in the intro, if you still have a desire to help people in medicine but maybe don’t do so well with the actual clinical side of things, then you may want to consider this degree. Kendle Vickers, another student in the HCA program says that “there are so many different directions you can take with your HCA degree. It’s a very broad degree, allowing you to find your passion. There are quite a few professors who have worked or are currently working in the healthcare field. So, you are able to learn from their experiences and learn about things outside of your textbook.”

With this degree, you can expect to learn healthcare basics with business model principles mixed in but you also learn so much more. Winegar says that “I think that people who sincerely work towards an HCA degree can expect to learn how to be a lifelong learner, become better leaders feel more empathy for those around them. For me, working towards this degree has been more than just filling my brain with facts on how to run a healthcare business.” Professor Thompson says that there is a need for HCA professionals in the field. “Often times clinicians are asked to also step forward and provide management, leadership and financial oversight in healthcare businesses and this is rarely their skillset.  A Healthcare Administrator can have a profound impact on the culture and bottom line of a healthcare company.”

ISU’s faculty and staff in the HCA program are well-experienced and well versed in their professions. Professor Joshua Thompson has been the CEO and Administrator of an acute care psychiatric hospital as well as an administrator of multiple nursing homes. Professor Doug Crabtree recently retired from the Idaho Falls hospital, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) where he worked as the CEO for 19 years.  These are only two people on a six person staff, all of which have amazing experiences and qualifications, including the current President of the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) in Boise, Dr. Tracy Farnsworth.

This degree can also offer unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. Vickers that his most definitive experience “ ...is when patients would come up to me and tell me about something that happened to them. It’s a very small gesture, but I know I have impacted their life in a way, so they want to tell me the great things or even sad things that they went through in their personal life.”

When speaking of his own experiences, Professor Thompson says there wasn’t any one experience for him but that it was an amazing option. “As an administrator it was my job to make sure that three things occurred; 1. That high level quality care was being provided every day. 2. That the employees I worked with were able to have a roof over their heads and food on their plates.  3. That the workplace was safe and enjoyable. By keeping my job as the administrator this simple it allowed me to focus on the strategic planning of the organization while always keeping an eye on process and production from a higher level...This allowed me to really get to know both staff and patients on a deeper level as I was not stuck in the day to day weeds.” 

According to ISU’s website and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall average salary in Idaho for medical managers is $55,130 and the national average is $99,730. The growth projection for these kinds of jobs is also pretty high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  it is expected that this occupation will grow by 18 percent between 2018-2028 where the average job growth rate is only 5 percent.

If you enjoy your undergrad in the HCA program, then you may want to consider getting a masters in the program. A masters can open up a lot more opportunities for you, especially if you’d like to advance up the corporate ladder. But the masters also gives you a more in-depth look at the healthcare industry and a better understanding of the internal working of healthcare. For more information, visit isu.edu/cob/hca.