Healthcare Administration vs. Leadership and ManagementHealthcare Administration vs. Leadership and ManagementHealthcare Administration vs. Leadership and Management

The shortage of qualified healthcare professionals is of growing concern. According to a 2020 Association of American Medical Colleges study, the U.S. will face a projected physician shortage of up to 139,000 by 2033. The nursing profession is also facing a growing shortage, according to the American Nurses Association.

A major reason for these shortages is the growth of the 65-or-older population, which is expected to expand by 45.1% by 2033. This number affects both patients and professionals: Studies indicate that 2 in 5 active physicians will be 65 or older in the next decade. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an  through 2029 due to job growth, retirements, and workforce exits, with the total RN workforce growing by 221,900 positions between 2019 and 2029.

These numbers do more than indicate demand for new medical talent: They demonstrate the need for effective leadership in the healthcare industry to ensure that patient care remains unaffected by these concurrent shortages. Those in leadership roles can help establish a care-driven environment that emphasizes safety and promotes efficiency — two metrics that can ultimately keep the potential negative effects of the nursing and physician shortages in check.

Two important fields in spearheading this charge are health administration and health leadership and management. Those interested in advanced healthcare careers should have a thorough understanding of each concept to choose the profession that suits them best. Students who pursue an advanced degree, such as a master’s in management and leadership, can gain a strong foundation in the skills required to become a healthcare leader.

Healthcare leaders meet with medical staff

Definitions: Healthcare Administration vs. Leadership and Management

Healthcare administrators, also known as medical administrators, make sure that healthcare facilities operate smoothly. This overarching task comprises overseeing different elements, including staffing, finance, and budgeting, and complying with government regulations. The precise scope of what they oversee can differ depending on facility size. For instance, healthcare administrators may be in charge of overseeing a small clinic’s entire operations. If they work in larger clinics, they may focus on a specific area of operations.

Those in healthcare leadership and management roles develop key strategies and goals pertaining to patient care delivery. These strategies can integrate new forms of healthcare technology or ensure that a new healthcare policy improves patient benefits. They may also build strategies to react to healthcare-based market conditions, such as emerging technologies or trends like value-based care. Healthcare leaders and managers also set facility goals that can ultimately optimize patient care delivery.

Both roles are fundamental for healthcare facilities to deliver effective, efficient patient care. Together, they can not only help a facility of any size stay at the forefront of the healthcare industry as it changes and evolves, but also help create a healthcare space that allows its employees to deliver patient care on a more efficient basis, from using technology to developing proactive patient care strategies.

Similarities Between Healthcare Administration and Leadership and Management

Plenty of crossover exists between healthcare administration roles and healthcare leadership and management roles. For instance, both roles oversee critical functions in a healthcare facility that can push it toward constant, consistent high performance, even as healthcare policies, technologies, and patient attitudes toward care delivery evolve.

Those in either role can work in many healthcare-related environments, from large hospitals to small private practice clinics. Their tasks may differ depending on the institution’s size, but the primary objective of helping a healthcare facility deliver the best possible care will remain intact.

Additionally, the job market for healthcare administrators and healthcare leaders is projected to be robust, thanks in part to the growing need for healthcare professionals. The BLS classifies both professions as medical and health services managers, a job category that’s expected to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029, far faster than the job market as a whole.

Differences Between Healthcare Administration vs. Leadership and Management

The biggest difference between healthcare administrators and healthcare leaders is the role they play in healthcare. Healthcare leaders develop key facility operation strategies, and healthcare administrators work to execute the operational elements stemming from these strategies on an effective, efficient basis.

This difference also helps to drive the different roles’ objectives: Healthcare leaders typically focus on the business of healthcare, whereas healthcare administrators chiefly focus on daily operations. Additionally, healthcare leaders are usually focused on strategies for the facility as a whole, while healthcare administrators may narrow their focus to a specific operations element, such as budgeting or staffing.

Healthcare leadership roles and healthcare administration roles may also have different education requirements. Both roles often require an advanced leadership degree. Students seeking healthcare leadership roles may enroll in a program such as Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership, while those seeking healthcare administration roles may  , such as a Master of Health Administration. These advanced degrees are designed to help those interested in advanced healthcare roles develop the specific knowledge and skills needed to make a substantial impact in the healthcare industry at a pivotal time.

Leaders in a Critical Field

While healthcare administrator roles and healthcare leadership and management roles differ, their symbiotic functions create cohesive care delivery that optimizes strategic initiatives and ensures that they’re executed effectively. Ultimately, these roles can help facilities deliver optimal healthcare. Find out how Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership can help you cultivate the knowledge and skills to make a real difference in healthcare.

Recommended Reading

The Importance of Business Ethics

Organizational Development Guide: Definition, Process & Development Models

Halfway to the Top: Career Advancement for Mid-level Employees


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Leadership Role in Improving Safety

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage

American Nurses Association, Workforce

Association of American Medical Colleges, “U.S. Physician Shortage Growing”

Business Insider, “How and Why the Value-Based Payment Model is Trending in the Healthcare Industry”

IntechOpen, “The Concept of Leadership in the Health Care Sector”

National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Nursing Shortage”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

World Health Organization, “Leadership and Management”

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