The efficiency of our national health service is one of the most important and widely discussed issues in contemporary Ireland, particularly in light of recent scandalous revelations regarding breast cancer. There is a lot more to building an efficient health service than acquiring and training a large number of accomplished doctors, nurses and health professionals. To enable these skilled individuals to maximise their potential, sound management practices must be implemented. To help achieve this, there are now a number of postgraduate options available in Ireland, which focus on training and implementing successful management techniques within the health sector.
These administrative skills are of use to both trained medical professionals, and to those who are involved in their management (but may not be qualified in a medical discipline themselves). But what postgraduate options are available to health workers and professionals who wish to brush up on their administrative technique?
University College Cork’s College of Business and Law devised an MBS in Health Services Management some 8 years ago, in response to what they saw as ‘a gap in health management education in Ireland’. According to the current Programme Director, Dr. Jim Walsh, this gap has since been filled by a number of courses (including his own), though the UCC course remains the only specialised masters degree in health management in the South Munster region. Dr. Walsh and his colleagues were inspired to create this postgraduate course not just by the perceived gap in Irish health management education, but also by the professionalisation of nursing. ‘Nurses who would previously have been ward sisters or matrons, and so on, were now moving into this career structure called Clinical Nurse Manager,’ Walsh explains. ‘They have a career path that requires awareness of, and best practice in, management.’
Postgraduate courses in health service management play a different role in the careers of their attendees to many other programmes. In numerous other fields, a postgraduate course represents a career starting point, which the student will seek to build on upon receiving their qualification. Postgraduate courses in health service management, on the other hand, provide an addition, or boost, to existing careers. They broaden existing career paths, rather than create new ones. ‘Our course is not designed to be a career beginning, it’s meant to be a career accelerative,’ Walsh explains. ‘Our emphasis is on accelerating people’s professional development into, or through, management. So, we’re taking people who have already moved into a management role, or are about to. Or, people who consider it important in terms of a health role they might be taking.’
As a result, the course is aimed at a slightly older demographic than many other postgraduate programmes. The average student age is 35, and Dr. Walsh feels that the course is not particularly well suited to ‘people who are beginning careers, or who are interested in serious career change’. Still, while such courses may not appeal to a wide variety of age groups, they are of great interest to people from wildly contrasting areas of the health industry. Among the more administrative/ management-focussed types attending the UCC course, there is also ‘one doctor, who is a senior house officer, a pharmacist, a number of clinical nurse managers, the manager of a nursing home, and people from the voluntary health sector’.
Dr. Walsh’s comments regarding the focus and demographic of his own programme are reflected in the outlines of several other notable courses in health service management. The UCD Michael Smurfit School Of Business offers an Executive MBA in Health Care Management and like the UCC course; its primary aim is to enhance the management skills of experienced health service professionals.
Trinity College offers an MSc in Health Services Management, which is along similar lines to the aforementioned programmes. It accepts applicants who are currently employed in positions of planning or management within health service organisations, and aims to prepare them for middle and senior management positions within this sphere. Like the previously mentioned courses, it offers a wide range of subjects, which cover all conceivable bases. Modules include Management and Organisational Behaviour, Population Health, Financial Management, Health Economics, Health Policy and Information Management – among numerous others.
All three of the aforementioned postgraduate courses are completed over two years, in a part-time capacity, so that they can sit comfortably alongside their participants’ day jobs. The UCC postgraduate takes place on Friday and Saturdays, so that it can ‘support, not interrupt, the career’, in Dr. Jim Walsh’s words.
The mixture of administrative and health issues tackled in these postgraduate courses are reflected in the university departments that participate in their instruction. The UCC postgraduate programme, for instance, contains input from the Department for Epidemiology and Public Health, alongside instruction from the Departments for Law, Government and Philosophy (among others). Trinity’s MSc in Health Services Management combines input from the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences.
However, these courses also look further afield, to provide a greater range and depth of instruction in health management. The Trinity programme, for instance, includes contributions from ‘leading policy makers and senior managers in the Irish health system’. Given the fast moving and rapidly altering nature of the health industry, this input is vital in keeping students abreast of current and recent developments. The UCC course also includes numerous contributions from visiting speakers, in addition to internal instruction.
Postgraduate courses in Health Service Management may not be open to as wide a range of students as many other programmes, but their significance in the development of an efficient health service cannot be overstated. By fusing input from authorities in both management and medicine, these programmes have created a practical and challenging method of boosting the health sector’s quality of administration.
Postgrad.ie - Ireland's leading guide to universities, colleges, third-level and PLC courses is published under licence by Seats Are Ltd T/A Careers Unlimited. Reg in Ireland No. 533272. Registered Trademark. All rights reserved.