By Lois Thomson
The Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) at Florida Atlantic University College of Business is intended for professionals who are currently working in the healthcare industry, but who are going to be in need of a master’s degree if they are seeking to advance in the healthcare industry or be promoted within their organization. According to Salvatore Barbera, DHA, MSM, FACHE, associate program director for health administration programs, “The MHA is the degree of choice within the industry if you have committed to a career in health services administration, and our executive program was designed to meet that need.”
He called it “a unique program, because it meets on weekends, and we found that’s one of the attractive pieces about it. Students like it, and we realize we are attracting those who are working full-time.” The program is taught both in a face-to-face traditional format as well as fully online. Barbera said the face-to-face component meets every third weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Online students work at their own pace off of an established curriculum. “What’s been attractive about the program is that the students are able to take part in getting a master’s and also not having it interfere with their work schedule. It’s a great convenient feature for full-time professionals.”
Not only does the EMHA give students an opportunity to move up within their own organization, but it also gives them a broader perspective of the healthcare field. Barbera said the centerpiece of the healthcare system is hospitals, but “What we’re seeing is the healthcare environment expanding and becoming a lot more diverse. I try to make sure students understand that there are other opportunities within healthcare that are not in hospitals, which are just as gratifying and rewarding. When they graduate, they are aware they have a multitude of healthcare opportunities they might not have ever thought of.”
As examples, he mentioned that long-term care is a great opportunity for someone who is looking for a career in health administration. Another is home healthcare, which is growing significantly – not only because of the graying of America, but also because of what the pandemic taught us. “Consumers love (home healthcare) because they can stay in their own home environment and have service and providers come to them. Physician practices need to be managed as well. Then you have general outpatient care, whether it be ambulatory surgery, urgent care centers – these are all opportunities that require management to oversee what they’re doing.”
The 15-month program requires that students come in with a certain amount of experience in healthcare. Barbera explained, “We do that because we are cohort-based, so we have a collection of students who are in the same class and pretty much follow the program together. The benefit is that they learn from each other, and by the time they graduate they are very close to each other; so it makes a nice environment for teaching and for learning. They learn by discussing things, and that’s the best way for these programs to function, where you have cohorts with similar-style students in them.”
Barbera pointed out another important facet of the EMHA: “We started a faculty ambassador program where every student is assigned a faculty member. I’m one. I have students who are connected with me, and I will always be in touch with them to see how it’s going, if they have any questions.” He said it’s been extremely effective, because it provides students – especially online students who need someone to connect with – with a direct link to the university. “They’re doing the program at their own pace, but because of their busy schedules, they don’t have time to make that commitment. This makes them feel a part of the program.”
Perhaps the most important reason for pursuing an EMHA is that, as Barbera said, healthcare is never going to go away. “Healthcare is here forever, so you can devote your education and your direct experience in an industry that you know is going to be around. The other thing about healthcare is it’s extremely challenging and dynamic, because it changes on a daily basis.” He talked specifically about how things will be different in the post-pandemic environment, how some concepts healthcare providers and organizations had prior to the pandemic will have little value. “They’re almost going to have to start new. They’ll be thinking more along lines of virtual care, like telemedicine, telehealth. That’s where a lot of changes are going to be taking place.
“So it’s exciting. Never a dull moment in healthcare, it’s an industry that’s so dynamic, so diverse.” And full of opportunities for professionals with an EMHA.