November 14, 2017

VSU Works to Alleviate Regional Shortage of Healthcare Workers

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University is helping to recruit and retain top quality doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals by providing the managerial infrastructure to support the ever-changing healthcare industry.

“As a manager in healthcare, your job is to support the clinical side, to make sure the doctors and nurses have the equipment and whatever they need to take care of patients and to ensure that everything runs smoothly behind the scenes,” said Dr. Gary Hackbarth, professor of management and healthcare administration. “That support and leadership is essential to bringing skilled medical workers to our area and keeping them here.” 

Through the Harvey Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration’s Bachelor of Business Administration in healthcare administration degree program, VSU is producing qualified healthcare managers who work to preserve and enhance healthcare access for South Georgia citizens.

“Healthcare-related fields represent about 22 percent of the United States’ gross national product, but there’s a shortage of people who are familiar with the business side of healthcare, which directly affects the overall quality of the healthcare process,” Hackbarth said. “The deficiency is found all across the nation, including in South Georgia.

“We’re trying to fulfill that need and support healthcare growth.”

The Bachelor of Business Administration in healthcare administration degree program is producing graduates capable of supporting the healthcare field through accounting, finance, logistics, marketing, office and project management, information technology, disaster preparedness, and data analysis.

“They’re the same kinds of jobs any large business has, but they’re focused on the needs and issues that are specific to the healthcare industry,” Hackbarth said. “For example, I know that in the healthcare field, there’s a real shortage of people who can do data analysis. We need better analysis of data to make better business decisions. That has to do with lowering costs, being more efficient, and improving business processes. We’re teaching our students to do all those things.”

In addition to business expertise, healthcare administration students acquire knowledge on healthcare coding, insurance, ethics, and law.

“Healthcare is highly regulated, so there’s a lot for our students to know and be aware of,” Hackbarth said. “We make sure they are prepared and ready to go when they leave here.”

Students are also exposed to Systems, Applications, and Products (SAP) technology, information software utilized by 82 percent of medical devices worldwide.

“Coming from a business school, our students are much more familiar with current technologies and business processes,” Hackbarth said. “They can actually run simulated companies and see financial and marketing results. When they go to the real world, they’re already familiar with the type of software the healthcare industry is using, which gives them a competitive edge.

“In any new job there’s a learning curve, but we’re shortening the time it takes for a new hire to be productive.”

A staple of the Bachelor of Business Administration in healthcare administration degree program is the internships that students complete.

“As interns, they’re already contributing to the healthcare industry even before they graduate,” Hackbarth said.

Some students are paid to intern at large hospitals and doctors’ offices in the area, while other students volunteer for unpaid internships at hospices and other nonprofits in an effort to give back to the community and gain experience for the next phase of their lives.

“To me the best thing about the program is the requirement to find an internship,” said Davis Roche, a healthcare administration major and member of the VSU golf team who expects to graduate in Spring 2018. During the summer, he worked as an administrative intern at the Mayo Clinic in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, and is now interning in the finance department at South Georgia Medical Center. 

“I’ve had a great experience in the healthcare administration program, and as I’m doing internships, I’m seeing that I have a good foundation of general healthcare knowledge to rely on.”

Roche’s goal is to one day run a hospital.

“It’s exciting to be in the business of making people better,” he said. “The management side of healthcare corrects policies and runs the hospital in a way that makes things more efficient and improves the outcome for patients.

“It’s a field with a lot of potential to make a difference but at the same time a lot of opportunity to be successful.”

Please contact Dr. Gary Hackbarth at (229) 245-3805 or to learn more.

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