Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Purple Squirrel in Healthcare Employment

In Human Resources, a “Purple Squirrel” is the perfect employee. The “Purple Squirrel” will have every box checked on the employer’s list, the degrees and certifications will match exactly, as well as previous job descriptions. As you, dear reader, may surmise, it is very hard to find the perfect employee.

In Healthcare, the Purple Squirrels are women in management positions. A new study has confirmed what we in healthcare already know, “While many women work in the healthcare services industry in entry-level roles, there is a scarcity of women in top health management positions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"New data cited by the newspaper from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co shows women in entry-level roles, such as nurses, home health aides and recently graduated physicians, represent 75 percent of employees in a sample of more than 20 companies. In those same companies, which includes hospital systems and other direct-care providers, women in C-suite roles represent 33 percent of employees, while women in senior vice president positions represent 41 percent. Women in vice president roles represent 47 percent."

Women over-represent men in all aspects of healthcare, with the exception being Medical Doctors. Women are the managers in the Medical Practices, nurses, medical assistants, clerks, mid-level providers, billers/coders, to name a few of the positions we occupy.

In a typical visit to a medical office, a patient will have a minimum of 3 interactions with a women and only one (the doctor) with a man. If that patient has a concern or a question, then the manager that they deal with will in 9 out of 10 occurrences be a women. So with so many women in all positions in Healthcare, why then such a lack of women in the Executive Level.

Janette Dill, PhD, a professor of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota, told The Wall Street Journal that in healthcare, one of those barriers may be not having the education required for certain management roles.

In healthcare, other than clinical, there is no formal training required or expected in order to do a particular job. Thus, women usually begin working at a Medical Office as a front desk check in clerk and if all goes well, will work their way up the ranks until many years later they are now in management. However, there was no expectation or opportunity for the women to improve their expertise through classes or training. Thus, when there is an opening in an Executive Level job, the women will have the work experience but lack the professional training to qualify. Men, on the other hand, will have the professional training without the work experience. In rare cases you will find a women in an Executive Level that worked her way up, but that is usually only found with a women who has worked in that organization her entire career. She is trapped in that organization, as she has no professional training to qualify for a similar position in another company.
Overall, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey& Co conclude that "women continue to be underrepresented at every level. To change the numbers, companies need to focus where the real problem is. We often talk about the 'glass ceiling' that prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions."
"In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is much earlier in the pipeline, at the first step up to manager. Fixing this 'broken rung' is the key to achieving parity," researchers added.
I recognized that in order to move up the ladder in this career field, I would need to obtain the needed degrees and certifications in addition to my work experience. Even with my credentials, I have lost out on job opportunities to men (and to women who have worked in the organization their entire career, but do not have the educational credentials). While I always knew this was the case, it is nice to have it validated.
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