Health Care Project Manager: Role & Growth

Instructor: Patricia Jankowski

Patricia is an experienced registered nurse who has worked in various acute care areas as well as in legal nurse consulting. She also has a BSChE.

Thanks to technological innovations and the increased numbers of consumers, the healthcare industry has grown exponentially. People are needed to organize and manage that growth. This lesson will discuss project management in healthcare.

The Case for Healthcare Project Managers

Andrea is a Clinical Manager and has been working 12 hour shifts for weeks. There are several issues in her clinic: two nurses on the afternoon shift are on medical leave, and the patient census in the ER is very high. The surgeons are upset because there is an increased infection rate on the floor. The Assistant Clinical Manager is covering four different units, and Andrea is worried that she is being stretched too thin. Finally, a new system has been implemented, but staff are not being trained quickly enough, and it is leading to a bottleneck in service administration. Though many of her coworkers have offered to take on some of her workload, Andrea knows the best solution in the long term is to hire an experienced healthcare project manager.

The Need for Project Management in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is a unique and complex industry with many stakeholders, including doctors and nurses, insurers, patients, and software vendors. Over recent years, it has grown rapidly due to a number of factors. This includes the increased number of people who are insured in the U.S. after the passing of the Affordable Health Care Act, or ACA and the implementation of electronic health record systems in healthcare facilities. As a result there is a huge need for someone to manage, organize, and monitor all these projects.

The Healthcare Project Manager's Role

The role of the healthcare project manager is to manage healthcare projects. While that may sound a bit simplistic, it's really not. This project manager must be a person with a strong understanding of the industry itself as well as training in the basic techniques of project management.

Just what is a healthcare project? An common example of a healthcare project would be the implementation of a new computer system in a hospital. To successfully complete this project, the system must be physically installed and tested by the company that sells it. Staff members must also be trained in how to use and troubleshoot it. Moreover, there must be technical support for the times when the system doesn't function Alternative charting and communication methods must be in place in case there's a power or some other type of failure. Someone must be in charge to make sure this project runs smoothly with minimal disruptions to normal daily patient care operations. This person is the project manager.

Skill Sets

Project managers must have specific skills in order to ensure that the goals of their project are met. In healthcare, it's not an easy job. The project manager must deal with people with many different points of view. These views may often create conflict among those involved in the project. Change is often difficult for those who have a lot invested in a certain way of doing things, and a project manager must be tactful and able to communicate the project's advantages to all stakeholders. Below are some of the skills possessed by successful healthcare project managers.

  • Risk Assessment and Management - Before starting a project in healthcare, the project manager must be able to assess the risks it will impose on the routine healthcare operations. For example, how will the new computer system work on the nursing unit if there is a Code Blue? How will the nurses document medications if the computerized medical system breaks down?
  • Leadership and Teamwork - The Project Manager must lead a team of people of varying backgrounds and roles who are designated to carry out the project. Project roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined. Who will train the staff in how to use the new system, and when questions come up, who will answer them?
  • Project Planning and Timetable - Project Managers must have some sort of timetable that can be used to monitor the progress of the project. In the case of the new computer system, perhaps a month for training will be set aside before the system goes live on the nursing unit. Then, technical support personnel can be present on the unit during the first few weeks of its use. At the end of that phase, the staff will have become familiar enough with the system to function on its own.

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