Health Care Quality and Safety

Health care is a service devoted, by definition, to those who are vulnerable. People seek out health-related services during stressful times and may be easily swayed into trying less than effective methods, even ‘snake oil’ remedies, for treating their ails and pain. This being the case, the health care provider has a moral obligation to advocate for the patient. Advocacy entails considering only what is in the best interest of others, even to the detriment of one’s self. Patient advocacy helps to ensure both health care quality and safety. The Institute of Medicine defines health care as “[the] degree to which health services for individuals or populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with the current professional knowledge” (as cited in Savage & Williams, 2012, p. 26). Savage and Williams (2012) discuss the importance of effective and efficient delivery of health care, which means avoiding overuse (providing services to those who will least benefit) and underuse (failing to provide services to those that would benefit) stating, “quality is important in health care because there are limited resources to improve the health of both individuals and the population as a whole” (p. 72).

According to Savage and Williams (2012), all stakeholders are affected by the level of quality in health care. From a patient’s perspective, health care delivery should be aimed at addressing the patient’s problem with the least invasive, yet most effective, therapy possible. Delivering health care is a high-risk endeavor that focuses the risk towards the patient, potentially causing harm and great suffering. The provider, driven by the desire to help without harming, would benefit greatly by the development of ‘best practices’, or evidence-based practice, in order to help the most people with the available resources. Additionally, providers wish to be paid a fair rate in exchange for the services performed, and this can only occur in an efficient system with little waste to impact revenue. On the other hand, third-party payors, the most prolific purchasers of health care, demand the most effective and efficient services in return for their payment in order to control the costs of their own services. Third-party payors, like Medicare, Blue Cross, and others, have such a large client base that they are able to effectively negotiate health care services for lower rates.

As a health care manager, it is increasingly important to ensure quality and safety in the delivery of health services. Medical malpractice litigation, according to Savage and Williams (2012), is costly to practitioners and organizations, even though it does little to deter poor quality. Rather than relying on the courts to make forceful recommendations, an effective manager can use tools already available to promote best practice within their organization. For instance, continuous quality improvement (CQI) programs promote systematic, data-driven process improvements focused by the customer’s perceptions. CQI can uncover interferring processes and can make modest to significant improvements that can indirectly improve other, linear processes, thereby, making greater improvements, overall.


Savage, G. T. & Williams, E. S. (2012). Performance improvement in health care: The quest to achieve quality. In S. B. Buckbinder, N. H. Shanks, & C. R. McConnell (Eds.), Introduction to healthcare management (Custom ed.; pp. 25-79). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Leadership: Determining the Best Approach

 The true value of leadership is empowerment, or the ability to promote those traits through the chain of command for subordinates to use to effectively make decisions that are in the spirit of the vision of the leader (Buchbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012; Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991; Wieck, Prydun, & Walsh, 2002). When leaders make decisions, the focus is not on the myopic view of the here and now but reflects the nature of ethics and vision promoting the endeavor (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991).

Buchbinder, Shanks, and McConnell (2012), discuss various strategies and attitudes employed to both lead and manage the health care workforce. Though each of the styles presented are effectively used in certain scenarios, many managers and ineffective leaders misuse these styles due to misplaced attitudes, trust, and motives. These styles are authoritarian, bureaucratic, participative, theory Z, laissez-faire, and situational. The authoritarian and bureaucratic styles are closely related as dictatorial and at risk for involving micromanagement; however, authoritarians tend to be motivated by their responsibilities, whereas bureaucrats tend to disregard their responsibilities. The participative and theory Z styles are more democratic and egalitarian describing the usefulness of a majority opinion or consensus before moving forward. Though these styles could result in indecision, they are best implemented when a leader has ultimate decision-making capabilities and relies on his or her subordinates for input. Laissez-faire leadership is typically characterized as the hands off approach. Laissez-faire leadership, when used correctly, relies on the specialized training or focused scope of the work of the subordinates and lends guidance only when necessary. Laissez-faire leadership, however, can provide refuge for a lazy manager. Situational leadership is the use of all or some of the styles described above depending on the specific circumstances of a given situation. For instance, providing guidance to a new employee might benefit from an authoritarian approach; however, deciding on the best approach to implementing a new process might benefit from a participative style of leadership.

In the emergency medical services, a move has been made over the last decade to separate from the authoritarian leadership of the fire service. In my opinion (due to the gross lack of research within both the fire and emergency medical services), the attitudes of the fire service leadership do not correspond well with the manner in which paramedics wish to be led. As paramedics are formally educated and expected to perform as skilled clinicians in the field, they tend to operate independently and view their supervisors more as a resource tool than as tactical or clinical decision-makers. Combination departments, or those that operate both fire and emergency medical services, would do well with developing situational leadership skills to guide both operations (Mujtaba & Sungkhawan, 2009). Though paramedics may utilize an authoritarian style of leadership during an emergency call (and, do well to follow such styles in these environments), during normal day-to-day operations, paramedics respond much better towards a laissez-faire, or indirect, style of leadership that allows for independent critical thinking (Buchbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012; Freshman & Rubino, 2002). For example, during a call, I expect that when I direct my crew to perform a certain task that it is completed immediately; however, between calls when I might say that in a particular scenario a certain intervention is necessary, I expect some discussion to aid in the learning of my crews and to help develop and hone their critical thinking skills.

True leadership has its own rewards, primarily, empowering those who follow to synthesize the traits of their leaders and evolve into leaders, themselves. This, in addition to watching your own visions take root and flourish.


Buchbinder, S. B., Shanks, N. H., & McConnell, C. R. (2012). Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Freshman, B. & Rubino, L. (2002). Emotional intelligence: a core competency for health care administrators. Health Care Manager, 20(4), 1-9. Retrieved from

Kirkpatrick, S. A. & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: Do traits matter? Academy of Management Executive, 5(2), 48-60. doi:10.5465/AME.1991.4274679

Mujtaba, B. G. & Sungkhawan, J. (2009). Situational leadership and diversity management coaching skills. Journal of Diversity Management, 4(1), 1-55. Retrieved from

Wieck, K. L., Prydun, M., & Walsh, T. (2002). What the emerging workforce wants in its leaders. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 34(3), 283-288. doi:10.1111/j.1547-5069.2002.00283.x

Leading the Way in Health Care

As the mantra states: when you have it, well, you just have it. As true as that may be in regards to political and social attributes, the statement does not preclude the ability of anyone to learn to ‘have it’, but what is ‘it’? Every enterprise is started by a singular idea, and many ideas may come together to form the basis of any enterprise, but it takes a visionary mind to manifest these ideas. The people with these ideas are leaders who, by their very nature, are agents of change. These leaders tend to seek each other out when they have a common purpose and create solutions and fill voids that address problems in need of answers. However, once the paradigm of the enterprise is expressed, manpower is needed to ensure its operation and success. Much of this manpower is entrusted to managers who may appreciate the vision and goals of the enterprise but lack the vision themselves to affect significant change, and although this statement sounds pessimistic towards the manager’s abilities, hope is not lost. Managers can, and do, learn to be leaders. Further, one does not require a management position to be a leader; leadership is both intuitive and learned (Buckbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012).

Aside from being visionaries, leaders need to be socially adept in order to promote their views and constructs; therefore, in order to gain the trust and respect of subordinates, managers should strive to hone attitude and behavior to be more fit to lead (Freshman & Rubino, 2002). Mayer and Salovey describe four specific abilities that can improve one’s emotional skill set, also known as emotional intelligence (EI): “(1) the accurate perception, appraisal, and expression of emotions; (2) generating feelings on demand when they can facilitate understanding of yourself or another person; (3) understanding emotions and the knowledge that can be derived from them; and (4) the regulation of emotion to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (as cited in Freshman & Rubino, 2002, p. 3).

The importance of EI is evident in the highly ethically charged environment of health care. Many recommendations have been made to cultivate EI within health care, both with clinicians and administrators, yet it is not evident that this has been taking place, according to Freshman and Rubino (2002). Perhaps, at least philosophically, one must know themselves before attempting to truly know others, but being comfortable with one’s self and possessing the ability to relate and empathize with others, especially in the health fields where patients are vulnerable and providers are, themselves, empaths, will offer a manager leadership capabilities that will create trust and mutual respect in the workforce. Applied to health care adminstration, EI can be divided into five components (e.g. self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social awareness, social skills) that can be programmatically improved using training and career development opportunities with the organization.

Self-awareness goes back to the previous philosophical statement about knowing one’s self. We must take inventory of ourselves constantly in order to ensure that we understand our own strengths, weaknesses, as well as our motivations. Self-regulation, an important ethical descriptor, allows us to improve our own personal ethics in order to make difficult decisions more easily and without troubling remorse. Tough choices are made daily in the health care setting, and a leader should be able to make these decisions ethically with compassion and understanding. Self-motivation involves challenging one’s self daily to preserve the desire and passion personally and professionally. Social awareness is borne of the former components that allow one to consider the effect decisions have on others. Finally, social skills are necessary for effective communication, especially when considering the need to promote ideas and negotiate with others. These skills, inherent in great leaders, are beneficial to the health care administrator and beneficial, over all, to the health care organization.


Buchbinder, S. B., Shanks, N. H., & McConnell, C. R. (2012). Introduction to healthcare management. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Buchbinder, S. B. & Thompson, J. M. (2010). Career opportunities in health care management: Perspectives in the field. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Freshman, B. & Rubino, L. (2002). Emotional intelligence: a core competency for health care administrators. Health Care Manager, 20(4), 1-9.

Profile of a Health Care Manager

According to Buchbinder and Thompson (2010), formal training in hospital administration did not exist until 1934 when Michael M. Davis, along with the University of Chicago, developed the first Health Administration program, combining both business and social education to meet the dynamic and unique needs of health care. In today’s economy of almost 10% unemployment nationwide, the health care field continues to grow, even in the face of uncertain regulation and remuneration (Fiscella, 2011; Sanburn, 2011; Scangos, 2009). However, as the economy continues to stagnate, health care providers still require to paid for their services. This is where the health care manager comes in.

A good health care manager is expected to make decisions that benefit both the organization and the client. Although health care is a business, one might say that it is expected to be the most ethical of all businesses as people’s lives are dependent upon its efficacy and continuity. As such, health care managers are expected, according to Buchbinder and Thompson (2010), to have a high ethical standard along with a requisite savvy business sense. Health care managers are also expected to have refined interpersonal skills, leadership, and integrity. Katz (as cited in Buchbinder & Thompson, 2010) defines the characteristics of an effective manager as possessing critical thinking and complex problem solving skills, expertise in their field, and the ability to effectively communicate with others.

Health care managers can work in a variety of settings and operate under many titles; however, these settings can be defined by two descriptors: direct care and nondirect care. Direct care settings, as described by Buchbinder and Thompson (2010), are those settings in which services are provided directly to the patient. Managers within direct care settings should be customer-focused with great interpersonal skills and dedication. These managers should also be excellent problem solvers, as direct consumers tend to require more expedient solutions than ubiquitous deadlines permit. A person may be better suited for this role if he or she enjoys dealing with the general public and solving complex problems with limited information. Nondirect care settings, on the other hand, can be described as health care support organizations as they might provide supplies, logistics, and expertise to those in direct care settings. Managers within nondirect care settings need to be more business savvy as they will typically interact with clients and associates on that level than, per se, a patient-provider level. Nondirect care managers must also be skilled in marketing and finance. Those with an affinity to these roles might possess more professional or technical skills, focusing more on business than personal relationships.

Both direct and nondirect care settings are important to the delivery of health care, today. Buchbinder and Thompson (2011) describe each as well-paying with opportunity, commensurate with education and experience, to advance within the field of health care management. Health care is both growing and changing, and it is a promising occupational arena.


Buchbinder, S. B. & Thompson, J. M. (2010). Career opportunities in health care management: Perspectives in the field. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Fiscella, K. (2011). Health care reform and equity: promise, pitfalls, and prescriptions. Annals of Family Medicine, 9(1), 78–84. doi:10.1370/afm.1213

Sanburn, J. (2011, August 18). Health care industry growth beginning to slow. Time Moneyland. Retrieved from

Scangos, G. A. (2009). Proceeding in a receding economy. Nature Biotechnology, 27(5), 424-425. doi:10.1038/nbt0509-424

Self-Assessment: Finding My Niche

 Combining the business-sense with the altruistic nature of health care, a health care manager is truly unique in focus. Some of the virtues and qualities a health care manager must posses for a long and rewarding career include a high sense integrity and of one’s self, emotional intelligence, the ability to think critically and globally, and must be equitable and just to both colleagues and clients, customers, and patients (Buchbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012; Buchbinder & Thompson, 2010a).

A qualitative self-administered inventory instrument, presented by Buchbinder and Thompson (2010b), provides some insight into the qualities and virtues useful and, perhaps at times, necessary to pursue a management career in health care. The instrument, designed in Likert fashion, presents quality statements with which the subject is to agree or disagree, whether strongly or not (Likert, 1932). Although this instrument is based on the authors’ opinion, albeit expert, and there is no scoring mechanism recommended aside from high is better than low, I performed the inventory as a self-assessment to help identify some of my strengths and weaknesses (Buchbinder & Thompson, 2010a). The scoring was performed by assigning values to the the statements: 5 for strongly agree, 4 for agree, 2 for disagree, and 1 for strongly disagree, and dividing the sum of the answers scored by the median neutral value of 3 (Garland, 1991; Likert, 1932).

My score using the instrument was 153 out of 180 (85.00%). According to Buchbinder and Thompson (2010a), I possess more skills than not for a management career in health care. The lack of import placed on time management and project management seem to be two of my weaknesses, according to the instrument; although without further scrutiny, it is hard to tell if these particular items may actually suggest otherwise (Buchbinder & Thompson, 2010b; Clason & Dormody, 1994). The instrument helped to identify my critical thinking skills and my communication skills as strengths that would be useful in a health care management career (Buchbinder & Thompson, 2010b). It also showed that I have a strong ethical focus on integrity and equity.

Qualitative self-assessment instruments, such as the one developed by Buchbinder and Thompson (2010b), allow the subject insight as to the appropriateness of something like a career choice or lifestyle. Being honest with one’s self in using these self-assessment tools will also help to inform the subject of characteristics in need of cultivation.


Buchbinder, S. B., Shanks, N. H., & McConnell, C. R. (2012). Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Buchbinder, S. B. & Thompson, J. M. (2010a). Career opportunities in health care management: Perspectives in the field. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Buchbinder, S. B. & Thompson, J. M. (2010b). Healthcare management talent quotient quiz. Career opportunities in health care management: Perspectives in the field (pp. 5-7). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Clason, D. L. & Dormody, T. J. (1994). Analyzing data measured by individual Likert-type items. Journal of Agricultural Education, 35(4), 31-35. doi:10.5032/jae.1994.04031

Garland, R. (1991). The mid-point on a rating scale: Is it desirable? Marketing Bulletin, 2, 66-70. Retrieved from

Likert, R. (1932). A technique for the measurement of attitudes. Archives of Psychology, 22(140), 1–55.