by Siobhan Bauer
Learning skill sets from business is something I think can be extremely valuable for pre-med students. It took me two years of taking rigorous science and math classes as a pre-med to finally recognize that something was missing. Below are the three main reasons why I think exploring careers in health management/administration or at least gaining an understanding of how businesses function is important for pre-medical students.
I want to preface by saying that I have no intention of devaluing the roles of the medical professionals. Rather, I hope to open doors for other students like myself who were under the impression that doctors are the only ones who help patients.
Reason #1: Hospitals are businesses.
It is a straightforward idea, but one that is often overlooked. Boiled down, hospitals are businesses with the goal of saving lives. They seek to provide adequate medical resources, train health care professionals, and help everyone that walks through their doors. They too have mission statements, 5, 10, and 15-year plans, budgets, and they are always striving to finds ways to provide their customers the most effective and efficient health care.
An undergraduate who gains experience in a business setting is preparing themselves well for a future in health care, because you can’t practice medicine without the surrounding support. This structure comes down to the management and administrators who ensure the business is running so that doctors function at their peak.
Some pre-medical students may end up owning their own practices in the future, and having even a small background and understand of how businesses function will prove very valuable in time!
Reason #2: Health care reform impacts patients AND their physicians.
The past three years have fielded lots of debate about the future of the American health care system. When the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, it was the most major change to American health care in recent years. While its affects are still playing out, the next couple of decades likely will bring more changes to how health care will function in the United States.
This could include changes in the ways hospitals and doctors charge for their services, who can access services, and many other factors.
Do yourself a favor and take an undergraduate economics course! The language of health policy and insurance can be very dense, but giving yourself time at least learn about the language of economics will lead to a greater understanding of how changes in the economy will impact health care and a career in medicine.
Reason #3: Business teaches teamwork.
I know it may be one of the more cliché things to point out, but I don’t think it is any less important to remember! Hospitals have executive boards, human resources departments, financial departments, and PR and marketing people who are there with physicians and nurses to bring the best care to the patients in their hospitals.
All hospitals, health care facilities, and primary care offices are comprised of functional units that work together to carry out an objective: helping patients get better.
The individuals on the management and administrative side help create and support an environment that allows the doctors work at their best, and provide the maximum value for patient. There are very few instances when you go to the doctor and you only interact with just one person – and think of all the people behind the scenes who make it possible for the doctors to do their jobs!
Similarly, when you take business courses, they are often group-project-oriented including presenting business proposals or long-term financial plans. These courses help develop the skills required for working functionally in a groups.
A lot of times when you ask a student why they want to become a doctor, they say, among other things, that they want to help people. This is a valiant reason, but who is to say that the doctors are the only ones helping patients?
Over the past couple of months I have come to understand that the job of helping people fight illness does not solely belong to the physicians, and that skills acquired from being in the business field most surely have a place in the practice of medicine.
Siobhan Bauer will graduate in 2016 from the University of Washington in Medical Anthropology. Siobhan plans to pursue an MBA with a career in health care or hospital management.