Compliance Director - Education, Certification & Daily Responsibilities
Every game needs a set of rules. Industry regulations ensure a safe and equitable playing field for all involved participants. But these types of rules are far more complex than those found in an NFL game, and that’s why organizations operating in regulated areas hire experts specifically tasked with regulatory adherence.
Imagine for a moment that the federal government has just passed a sweeping set of new regulations that help protect patient data collected by healthcare facilities. In physical terms, those new regulations start as nothing but a few hundred (or thousand) pages of dense legalese. But their implications come with massive consequences: if an institution fails to comply with these regulations, they can accrue heavy fines, be the subject of costly lawsuits, and even see their license to operate revoked. The situation is compounded further by the fact that regulated entities are often large and unwieldy and comprise many moving parts.
That’s where a compliance director comes in. It’s their responsibility to interpret the new regulations and put them in clear terms for their organization’s senior management. Furthermore, compliance directors need to design and implement internal policies which ensure that the organization is able to meet these new external requirements. Finally, compliance directors are responsible for training staff on these internal policies and monitoring their effectiveness. A single mistake can be cataclysmic.
This is an enormous job and it requires linking together several different departments that aren’t used to working in harmony. A compliance director at a hospital, for example, has to get the care providers, the financial team, the insurance partners, the IT department, the senior management, and even the low-level staff all on the same page. Doing all that requires both an expert understanding of the regulatory landscape and a near-superhuman level of communication skills.
But it’s also rewarded handsomely: according to Salary.com, an employment data aggregator, compliance directors working in healthcare earn an average of over $138,000 per year.
This isn’t a profession that just anyone can do. But, at its core, it changes the way large entities do business—and changes them such that they protect the previously unprotected. If you’re curious about how that looks in practice, read on to get a glimpse into a day in the life of a compliance director.
Work Environment of Compliance Directors
Compliance directors can specialize in one of several regulated sectors (banking, public utilities, and import/export), but they often choose to work for the nation’s biggest employer: healthcare. Within healthcare, compliance directors can work in a wide range of organizations: from an insurance provider, to a hospital network, to a pharmaceutical company. In each instance, a compliance director is likely to call an office home base. But their mandate requires them to be familiar with and present in every department of their organization.
Especially in a field like healthcare, certain parts of a large organization can be siloed off from one another. But it’s the job of a compliance director to move between those silos and get everyone marching to the same rhythm.
In the course of their work, compliance directors need to coordinate the actions of IT workers, care providers, financial professionals, and outside bodies like insurance companies and regulatory entities. Learning how to listen to each of those separate departments and also knowing how to develop and communicate policies that each department can implement successfully are the main tasks of a compliance director.
Typical Daily Responsibilities of Compliance Directors
The work of a compliance director can be categorized into two tiers: external compliance duties and internal compliance duties.
External compliance duties consist of interpreting regulations that are imposed from outside of the workplace. It means studying new governmental regulations and devising policies that can be implemented to help an institution align with them. This portion of a compliance director’s job comes and goes in phases that align with the political tides.
Internal compliance duties involve ensuring that the workplace is adhering to its own systems of control and successfully following internal policies which have been devised to comply with external rules and regulations. This is the bread and butter of a compliance director’s work, ensuring that the organization is operating ethically and efficiently.
Some typical daily responsibilities of compliance directors include:
- Writing clear summarization reports of new external regulations
- Designing and implementing internal policies to meet external regulations
- Running internal audits which check for adherence with external policies
- Educating both senior management and lower-level staff on compliance issues
- Liaising with lobbyist groups and regulatory bodies
A compliance director’s daily work is further defined by both the facility they work in and any sub-discipline of compliance they’ve chosen to specialize in. Compliance directors who specialize in patient privacy may work closely with IT departments and data security, while compliance directors who specialize in payments are more focused on billing and coordination with insurance providers.
Required Skills & Knowledge
Even though a compliance director’s day-to-day activities vary based on their employer and area of specialization, a few characteristics stand out as mandatory for work in this profession.
- Communicative. Compliance directors have to speak many different corporate languages. In the course of their work, they have to both be able to understand dense legal texts and then translate these to members of an organization’s staff in a way that can be metabolized into the facility’s culture.
- Persistent. Compliance is a constantly shifting landscape. In order to stay abreast of new developments and how they can impact one’s organization, compliance directors need a fierce commitment to professional development and proactive research. There are no ambiguities in compliance and directors have to persist in each individual case to clear and definitive answers.
- Ethical. The heart of compliance is in doing the right thing, no matter how inconvenient it may seem. Compliance directors don’t play favorites: they self-report any breaches of policy and foster a culture where others self-report, too, regardless of whether the breach was intentional or unintentional.
Soft skills are one thing, but compliance directors also need a healthy dose of fundamental knowledge to go with them. While some current compliance directors have only a bachelor’s degree, it’s becoming increasingly common for employers to seek out candidates with graduate-level education. An MBA or MHA can not only boost a compliance director’s foundational understanding of the gears of regulation but also provide opportunities for sub-specialization in areas of emerging importance.
For compliance directors, education doesn’t stop at the master’s level, either. Continuing education and professional development are crucial in a field as dynamic as regulatory compliance. Whether seeking out professional certification by peer-led organizations or by attending state-level or national conferences, the best compliance directors maintain a commitment to lifelong learning in order to stay at the top of their profession.
Certification for Compliance Directors
While professional certification is not a requirement to serve in this profession, many compliance directors seek it out in order to establish their expertise with employers and peers.
The Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) has a Compliance Certification Board (CCB) that offers premier industry certifications in three areas: healthcare compliance, healthcare research compliance, and healthcare privacy compliance.
For the Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC) designation, applicants must have one year of experience in a full-time compliance position in the last two years; and 20 continuing education units approved by CCB (and completed in the previous year). Once deemed eligible, applicants must pass a two-hour, 120-question examination in order to earn the CHC designation. Those who do earn the CHC designation must recertify every two years by completing 40 hours of continuing education units and paying a renewal fee.
Health Ethics Trust (HET) offers two more professional certifications for healthcare-focused compliance directors: a Certified Compliance Professional (CCP) credential for early-career compliance directors and a Certified Compliance Executive (CCE) credential for mid and late-career compliance directors.
Eligibility is determined by scoring a mix of the applicant’s work history, educational achievements, and letters of recommendation. Once deemed eligible, applicants must pass an essay examination. Holders of either certification are required to renew every three years by completing 40 hours of professional education.