2010 Salary Survey Results

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Health care reform, regulation can open job opportunities

Turmoil in health industry means 'full employment plan' for RMs

The health care industry is in a state of flux, with many changes coming in the near future with health care reform, but many of the specifics still are unknown. On the whole, that may make this a great time to be a health care risk manager, says Michelle Hoppes, RN, MS, AHRMQR, DFASHRM, president-elect of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) in Chicago, and president and CEO of Patient Safety and Risk Solutions in Grand Ledge, MI.

Hoppes recently queried the ASHRM board members on behalf of Healthcare Risk Management and found that most were optimistic about the career opportunities for risk managers in the coming year.

"There's a consensus that this is a pretty good time to be a risk manager," she says. "With everything happening in health care — increased regulatory activity, health care reform, pay for performance, demands for quality and patient safety — they've all come together to highlight the importance of the risk management field."

The economy has affected risk management along with all other health care disciplines, Hoppes says, and that means tighter budgets and more competition for scarce resources. Some risk managers report having to work without assistants, while some hospitals have been folding the risk management role into other departments. Still others have had the risk manager focus on patient safety while outsourcing claims management, she says.

Risk managers who are leaders in their organizations, not only controlling financial losses but also demonstrating the return on investment for risk management, are in very high demand, Hoppes says. The changes facing the health care industry only make those risk managers more valuable, she says.

"Particularly for those risk managers who become subject matter experts in these complicated issues, I think there are going to [be] ample opportunities," Hoppes says. "I actually heard someone refer to health care reform as 'the risk manager's full employment bill.' I think that's true."

To make the most of the opportunities, Hoppes advises risk managers to continue improving their skill sets and seeking the credentials that will mark them as valuable additions to the health care organization's senior leadership team. Enterprise risk management and data analytics are in high demand right now, and those are not skills that risk managers have typically had in the past, she says.

"The nontechnical aspects also are important," Hoppes says. "The ability to collaborate, build teams, and work together — these are all skills that are going to be more and more important. Risk managers need to excel in communication and presentation skills."

Clinical background important

An experienced recruiter agrees with that assessment. Risk managers seeking to optimize their career opportunities are going to have to continue improving their resumes, says Brad Ellis, a partner and health care division leader with Kaye/Bassman International Corporation, an executive recruiting and placement firm based in Dallas. He previously worked in health care at HCA, the large health system based in Nashville, TN. Ellis regularly places risk managers in hospitals, and he says employers are getting picky.

Even though there are plenty of opportunities in the risk management field, the competition also is heating up for those jobs, he says. Advanced certifications are a big draw for employers now, Ellis says. At a minimum, he says, risk managers will need a CPHQ (Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality) or CPHRM (Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management), Ellis says.

In particular, many employers are now demanding a clinical background for applicants in risk management and compliance, he says.

"If you are not coming from a physician or nursing background and you're planning on changing jobs in the next three to 15 years, you'd better be going back to school and getting the certifications and the nursing degree," Ellis says. "Once you leave your position and go to change jobs, we're asked to weed out those without the clinical background, and then we're asked to present only the ones with the certifications."

The demand for a nursing background is particularly high when risk managers take on compliance roles. Ellis recently had a candidate come across his desk who had been working in health care quality and risk for 10 years, and Ellis had personally worked with him at HCA and could vouch for him. On paper, the person looked like an excellent candidate for a compliance officer position he was trying to fill at a hospital.

"He was a perfect fit in terms of experience, salary, job location, everything," Ellis says. "But because he's not a nurse, he was immediately disqualified. The nursing degree is super critical now."

Don't get comfortable

The path to a successful career in risk management is clear, but not necessarily easy, Ellis says. Even if you are comfortable in a hospital compliance position now, Ellis says you would be well advised to build your worth to your current employer, because you never know when someone else will come along with better qualifications. Look for every opportunity to save money for the hospital, Ellis says, because ultimately that is what matters most to many hospital leaders.

"The more you can learn about all the various ways that regulatory bodies are putting more requirements on hospitals regarding quality assurance and fraud prevention, the more you are putting yourself in a position to succeed," Ellis says. "You keep a hospital from losing several million dollars, and you are gold to that organization. You've established yourself as someone who they will want to keep around for a while."

Sources

Michelle Hoppes, RN, MS, AHRMQR, DFASHRM, President and CEO of Patient Safety and Risk Solutions, Grand Ledge, MI. Telephone: (517) 881-8987. E-mail: mhoppes@psrisk.com.

Brad Ellis, Partner, Healthcare Division Leader, Kaye/Bassman International Corporation, Dallas, TX. Telephone: (972) 265-5298. E-mail: bellis@kbic.com.

Income on the rise for risk managers

The struggling economy is reflected in the 2010 Healthcare Risk Management Salary Survey, which shows that income is holding steady for those risk managers who still have a job, ending the increases of the past few years.

The exclusive 2010 Healthcare Risk Management Salary Survey was sent to about 1,200 readers in the June 2010 issue. A total of 64 were returned, for a response rate of 5%. The results were tabulated and analyzed by AHC Media, publisher of HRM.

The median income for health care risk managers in this year's survey is $125,000, the same as last year, which rose from the 2008 figure of $95,000. (See the chart, page 1.) The flat income level might be expected considering the state of the economy and the health care industry, but it marks a change from gradual increases since 2006. About 25% of respondents reported income in the $100,000 to $129,999 range, and 16% reported income of $130,000 or more. Another 18% reported income in the $90,000 to $99,999 range.

The median salary increase over the past year was 1% to 3%, the same as last year and lower than the 4% to 6% reported in both the 2008 and 2007. (See the chart, page 2.) About 47% of respondents report salary increases in the 1% to 3% range, much more than the one third of respondents last year. Only 14% report increases in the 4% to 6% range, and less than 2% report increases in the 7% to 10% range.

Thirty-two percent report that their salaries had not changed this year, and one reader reports a salary decrease in 2010.

Risk managers continue to work long hours, but not quite as long as last year. After a trend in the 2007 and 2008 surveys suggested that hours worked was leveling out, the 2009 survey showed longer hours becoming the norm. Now the 2010 survey shows 25% of respondents working 46 to 50 hours per week, down from the 35% in this year's survey. (See the chart, page 4.) Eleven percent report working 51 to 55 hours per week in 2009, down slightly from last year's 12%, and 15% report working 56 to 60 hours a week, up sharply from the 10% shown in the 2009, 2008 and 2007 surveys.

Less than 2% report working 61 to 65 hours, the same as last year's survey.

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