The world of work as we know it is transitioning from traditional fulltime employment to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies as the “gig economy”.1 The Cambridge Dictionary defines this as “a way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer.”2 This describes the work of healthcare management consultant’s as they are temporary workers hired for specific projects based on their experience and expertise which generates over $20 billion a year in the US healthcare industry and is rapidly growing.
Over the past 10 years healthcare organizations have endured a constant stream of change such as the implementation of electronic medical records, meaningful use, hiring freezes, consolidations, acquisitions and mergers that have required consultants to fill the talent gaps. Healthcare organizations have come to realize that consultants do not require training, come in and ramp up quickly and stay only as long as needed saving time and money. Furthermore, as healthcare consultants work in a variety of healthcare settings they are knowledgeable about current trends and possess valuable insight, perspective and experience in organizational styles, change management as well as what works and what does not.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the BLS the need for management consultants is predicted to increase 14 percent between 2014 and 2024.3 The demand for healthcare management consultants is projected to be strong as healthcare organizations will need additional talent to deal with the challenges of an aging population and workforce, federal healthcare reform and emerging technologies. As of May, 2015 the median wage for management consults was $81,320 with the highest 10% earning $150,220. However, seasoned management consultants with a track record of success may earn considerably more.
While a bachelor’s degree will open some doors to entry level consulting opportunities, healthcare organizations are most interested in management consultants with a master’s degree and a minor in healthcare is helpful but not necessary.
Employee Versus Consultant
Full-time employees generally work 40 hours a week, are paid a salary or hourly rate, receive company benefits such as vacation, sick time, health insurance and 401K options. These jobs are usually secure except in the event of downsizing, layoffs or a buyout.
Independent consultants (IC), according to the Internal Revenue Service, are self-employed, responsible for paying quarterly self-employment taxes and receive a 1099 earnings statement from their client(s) to file their income taxes.5 They may work for one client 40 hours a week or for multiple clients at one time. IC’s set their own hourly rate, contract directly with the organization and do not receive any benefits. In addition, they must manage all aspects of their business such as marketing, billing and customer relations.
There are many consulting firms’, large and small, hiring healthcare management consultants. These firms contract with the client, charge them an hourly rate and pay a portion to the consultant. Many firms offer consultants 2 options, one working as an independent 1099 consultant responsible for their own taxes or choosing to work as an employee subcontractor where the firm will withhold and report taxes, provide a W2, may offer benefits and as one contract ends will actively search for the next consulting engagement. These consultants generally work 40 hours a week or more based on the projects need.
Healthcare management consultants generally work onsite at the clients’ location which in most instances requires travel and being away from home during the week. They may report to a hospital administrator or to a consulting project manager. Depending on the project tasks and timeline the hours may be long each day and occasionally may require weekend stays. Personal appearance is very important and professional attire is required.
Healthcare Management Consultant Jobs
The actual work of a healthcare management consultant varies widely depending on their area of expertise and the specific needs of the organization. Due to the rapidly changing healthcare environment there are consulting jobs in absolutely every type of healthcare organization and every field of management from human resources to information technology. All consulting jobs will require self-motivation, a high degree of client engagement at all levels of the organization, effective oral, written and presentation skills, diplomacy, ability to identify and solve problems, technology and spreadsheet savvy, project management and leadership skills, good organization, attention to detail, data analysis proficiency, confidentiality and a drive to exceed expectations.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2016, “Working in gig economy” https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2016/article/what-is-the-gig-economy.htm. Accessed, March 3, 2017.
2 Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2017, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/gig-economy#translations. Accessed, March 3, 2017.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-2017 Edition, Management Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm#tab-1. Accessed March, 2017.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-2017 Edition, Pay, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm#tab-5. Accessed March 3, 2017.
5 Internal Revenue Service, July 7, 2016, “Independent Contractor Defined” https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-defined. Accessed, March 3, 2017.
About the Author
Peggy Bird has been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years working in Neonatal Intensive Care, Healthcare Marketing and as a Director of Education. She earned a Bachelor’s of Health Science in Clinical Management and Leadership and a Masters of Arts in Education and Human Development in Education Technology Leadership from George Washington University (GWU). In addition, she taught as an online Adjunct Assistant Professor at GWU in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Over the past 11 years she has been implementing Electronic Medical Records as well as consulting to organizations across the US and is a Board Certified Nurse Informaticist. In this role she has held positions including Project Manager, Application Coordinator, Principal Trainer, Business Consultant, Regional Clinical Informaticist, and Clinical Nursing Analyst Consultant.
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