Make patients' lives easier as a nursing home administrator

Insider Advice - Nursing Home Administrator

If you want to have a profound impact on the lives of people who can't take care of themselves, you've likely made an excellent career choice as a nursing home administrator. You run the entire facility, from hiring and training staff to ensuring patient wellness. Jean Morris, a nursing home administrator who has worked in the industry for an impressive 23 years, calls this profession a "calling" instead of a job, noting that you need a passion for the work and a desire to make a difference if you want to succeed.

What Is a Nursing Home Administrator?

Nursing home administrators are long-term care professionals who run nursing homes. They're responsible for ensuring that the facility complies with regulatory codes, meets its budgetary needs, and provides a safe, nurturing environment for its residents. Morris calls it a "24x7 responsibility" because the administrator must respond to every need and emergency, no matter the hour.

It's a fast-paced job that carries tremendous responsibility and often requires long hours. However, the best professionals in this career assemble a capable team of other department leaders, relying on them to carry some of the weight. When administrators foster a culture of teamwork, both employees and residents benefit. Additionally, teamwork makes regulatory compliance much easier because everyone pays attention to small details and helps correct mistakes before they become bigger issues.

What Does a Nursing Home Administrator Do?

If you decide to work as a nursing home administrator, you'll spend your days hiring and training staff, ordering materials and supplies, maintaining inventory, managing staff, overseeing cash flow, and creating financial documents. The nursing home administrator job description can vary from one facility to the next, but most professionals in this career handle both administrative and clinical duties. According to Morris, the administrator is responsible for the "running of [the] nursing home over all departments," from the janitorial staff to the medical care for patients.

This career path sometimes sees high turnover because of the intense pressure it creates. Since nursing homes are highly regulated by the state, they must comply with numerous standards and reporting regulations, which can create significant paperwork for the administrator. Although Morris says she likes just about everything about her job, she "dislikes government involvement."

What's Training Like for Nursing Home Administrators?

If you want to excel as a nursing home administrator, Morris says a master's degree can prove beneficial — in fact, some states require it. These professionals also need more coursework in many states, such as an administrator-in-training program (up to 1,800 hours, according to Morris) and "an approved course of instructional training in Nursing Home Administration (at least 9 semester credits or 144 clock hours)."

Nursing home administrators must also submit to background and credit checks as well as other state-mandated requirements. These restrictions help protect nursing homes as well as their residents and will make sure that the nursing home remains eligible for state funding. Fortunately, however, now that you've completed the requirements, you can continue your work as an administrator. Most states do not demand continuing education.

How Much Do Nursing Home Administrators Make?

Nursing home administrators bring home an average annual salary of $75,000. Administrators in cities like Sacramento and Los Angeles often earn more than $100,000, so if you're hoping to maximize your salary potential, consider researching jobs in other geographic locations.

Other factors can influence your wages, including the size of the facility and your experience. According to CareerBuilder, more than 50 percent of nursing home administrators have at least 16 years of experience, and 36 percent have more than 21 years of experience.

What Skills Do Nursing Home Administrators Need?

Developing your skills as you work as a nursing home administrator might increase your salary potential and enable you to do your job more effectively. For instance, Morris mentions computer literacy as an essential skill. Administrators use software to generate forms and ensure compliance with United States Department of Health guidelines, for instance. They also use electronic health record, or EHR, software.

You must have excellent communication and presentation skills, whether you're meeting with a prospective resident's family or conducting a staff meeting. Additionally, successful nursing home administrators often have both clinical and administrative experience. If you lack in either area, consider taking courses to increase your knowledge base.

It's also essential to delegate tasks effectively. While much of a nursing home's operation falls to the administrator, most facilities have large staffs with many professionals on the team. Administrators must delegate any tasks that they don't have to perform themselves.

What Are the Rewards and Challenges for Nursing Home Administrators?

Although your staff might spend more one-on-one time with the residents, your actions as a nursing home administrator can have a profound impact on the lives of your patients. Morris calls the "care of the elderly and disabled" the most rewarding aspect of her career. You're providing a home and medical care for people who cannot care for themselves.

While governmental intrusion and budgetary constraints might cause stress, they're a necessary facet of the job. Administrators sometimes struggle to balance all their responsibilities, but they can improve their workflows with high-level organization and time management skills.

What Does the Future Hold for Nursing Home Administrators?

You have numerous options for your future career as an administrator. If you're not happy with your current job, you can always look for other opportunities. Alternatively, you can use your administrative skills to find work at other health care facilities, such as hospitals and assisted living facilities.

Morris says, "I hope to continue this calling at least 10 additional years and use my chaplaincy to improve the facility." She used to work as a chaplain at a nursing home, which means she has experience ministering to residents and helping them overcome emotional obstacles."

As you continue your career as a nursing home administrator, find ways to overcome challenges and improve your job prospects. If you decide to find better jobs in this field, you'll discover new ways to improve residents' lives and further your professional goals.