How to Become a Hospital CEO

The position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest management position within a hospital. The CEO also has the most difficult and time-consuming job. CEO positions are not your typical 9-5 job, and require additional hours as well as being involved in social activities, philanthropy, fundraising initiatives, and other organizations related to your work, usually outside of office hours.

What do Hospital CEOs Do?

CEOs are responsible for every aspect of a hospitals performance. Hospital CEOs typically try to strike a balance between managing the day-to-day operations and handling the strategic development initiatives needed for long-term success. Duties of hospital CEOs may include:

  • Creating a positive and productive culture through leadership
  • Providing and modeling the standards for operational excellence
  • Recruiting and retaining qualified staff
  • Assuring the delivery of high quality patient care
  • Implementing clinical policies and procedures
  • Ensuring compliance with hospital policies as well as State, Federal and CMS rules and regulations
  • Developing relationships with outside entitites, including the medical community, referring physicians, and the media
  • Maintaining strong financial performance

Skills Needed to Become a Hospital CEO

Hospital CEOs are people of action. They take charge of situations and make decisions. Moreover, they take responsibility for the outcomes of those decisions. CEOs may have experience in the clinical or operational aspects of a hospital before becoming CEO. Typically, you'll need at least 3-5 years experience in healthcare administration or management, and in some cases more experience is necessary. A background, or experience in operations management, human resources, and finance are beneficial.

In addition, CEOs need strong business development skills, including a proven track record of financial success along with a high standard of care. Hospital CEOs are required to build relationships in the community. You'll also need staffing skills and the ability to successfully recruit and retain a hospital staff. It is also beneficial to have an understanding of federal, state, Medicaid and Medicare (CMS), and Joint Commission regulatory requirements.

Become a CEO by Looking at Other CEOs

One of the best ways to understand how to become a hospital CEO is to look at some people who have already done it, and see how they did it. A great resource for this is Becker's Hospital Review, and two articles it offers are 5 Hospital and Health System CEOs: What "Top Performance" Looks Like to Me and 25 Healthcare Leaders Under Age 40, among others. By taking a look at these articles, you'll begin to understand the career paths people have taken to rise to the top of hospital management and attain a position as CEO.

In addition to looking at those articles, you may also be interested in look at the types of education, careers and organizational involvement of some of the top CEOs. Take a look at these hostpital CEO LinkedIn profiles.

Many Hospital CEOs Spend Time as a COO

As you can see, many CEOs were previously Chief Operating Officers (COO). As a COO, you're basically the CEOs right hand man (or woman). COOs carry out the directions of the CEO and work closely with the board of directors to assure the stability and growth of a hostpital organiztion. As a COO, your relationship with a CEO can make or break your success, as many successful COOs find themselves mentored by their CEO and model their careers after their success.

Education Requirements for Becoming a Hospital CEO

CEOs usually start out with a degree in business. Finance seems to be a strong option as well, as it has particular relevance to running a hospital. After a few years of experience in business, most CEOs go on to attain a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), a Masters in Healthcare Administration (MHA), Masters in Healthcare Management (MHM), or Master of Medical Management (MMM).

What's It Like Being a Hospital CEO?

If you're interested in getting a CEOs perspective on managing a hospital, here are a few resources:

  • A Former Hospital CEO shares his thoughts about hospitals, medicine, healthcare issues
  • Roper on Helath - William L. Roper is dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for Medical Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and CEO of the UNC Health Care System. He also is professor of health policy and administration in the School of Public Health, and is professor of pediatrics and of social medicine in the School of Medicine at UNC.
  • The Healthcare Experience - Scott Kashman offers the daily perspective of a hospital executive in pursuit of patient safety, the premier healthcare experience, an engaged & healthy workforce and life balance.
  • More Than Medicine - CEO Tom Quinn offers weekly thoughts on being a CEO of a general hospital in New York