Urgent Care Manager - Education, Certification, Career, Duties & Salary
Urgent care centers represent an important link in the chain of healthcare services. Positioned between private practices and emergency departments, they provide fast, low-cost care for minor illness and injury. To oversee that care and to ensure a facility’s safe and profitable operation is the urgent care manager.
Within that broad mandate, there is a lot of variation. Urgent care facilities can vary drastically in their size and their scope of operation. In small, rural settings, an urgent care center may be the only healthcare facility within reach for many community residents. In larger, urban settings, an urgent care facility may be dealing with a constant flow of patients with a wide range of different needs. In each case, it’s the role of an urgent care manager to ensure that a facility is providing top quality care, adhering to all internal and external policies, and meeting its financial goals.
As the demographics of the nation age with the retirement of the Baby Boomers, there will be an increased need for healthcare services managers. Urgent care centers, in particular, have a key role to play in supplying low-cost quality care. Urgent care managers will need to leverage a unique blend of healthcare knowledge, business acumen, and leadership skills to ensure that urgent care centers are running at peak efficiency and serving their community faithfully. To get a look at the details of the urgent care manager role and how to join this profession, read on.
Responsibilities of an Urgent Care Manager
The responsibilities of an urgent care manager will vary based on the particular setting in which they work. At a smaller, rural facility, an urgent care manager may be very hands-on in areas such as revenue cycle management, human resources, or even minor clinical responsibilities. At larger institutions, such as those partnered with a hospital system, there may be a more clear hierarchy of defined specialists to handle individual aspects of the facility’s operation, and a manager will be focused more on day-to-day operations.
Some typical responsibilities of an urgent care manager may include:
- Hiring, training, and supervising a facility’s staff
- Addressing customer service issues
- Overseeing aspects related to billing and accounting
- Monitoring and maintaining a facility’s inventory
- Ensuring clinical functions are aligned with policy
- Performing and reviewing regular risk assessments
- Promoting educational opportunities for staff
- Gathering and addressing staff and patient feedback
- Developing and implementing a facility or departmental budget
- Maintaining strict adherence to HIPAA guidelines
The overriding task of an urgent care manager is to ensure a facility provides top-quality care while also adhering to the business necessities of profitability. That may seem like a paradox, but it’s not—it’s just difficult. To achieve those results, urgent care managers need specialized education and a strong, multidisciplinary skill set.
Skills and Personality Traits of Urgent Care Managers
Urgent care centers are fast-moving facilities where the primary product is people. Urgent care managers therefore need to be extremely communicative, adaptive, and organized. For their center’s patients and care providers alike, urgent care managers need to be the even-tempered oasis of calmness in an otherwise hectic environment. Their primary job is to run a center that provides top-quality care while still keeping focus on profit-and-loss, but it’s also to provide motivation, mentorship, and mediation. The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine also points to professionalism and engagement as two of the defining personality traits of an urgent care manager.
Still, certain raw and technical skills are necessary. Employers are looking for urgent care managers who understand general healthcare policy, medical terminology, billing functions, medical coding, general accounting procedures, customer service, and management principles. These things are hard-coded into the job, and urgent care managers cannot function without them. While some of those technical skills can be learned on the job, most urgent care managers learn them in undergraduate- and graduate-level education.
Education, Experience, and Certification of Urgent Care Managers
Job listings for urgent care managers generally ask for at least two years of supervisory experience in an urgent care setting. For those just starting their careers, this may seem like a catch-22, but in practice there are several ways to build one’s resume and candidacy. In practice, both administrative and leadership positions in other, non-urgent healthcare settings may be sufficient experience for employment as an urgent care manager.
A bachelor’s degree is often required for work as an urgent care manager, but some clinics may forgo this requirement in lieu of a candidate’s experience. On the other hand, an urgent care manager with a master’s degree will be especially attractive to employers, seeing as they’ve had graduate level training in the complexities of leading a healthcare organization.
Healthcare administration is a constantly evolving field, and urgent care managers need to be lifelong learners. To demonstrate a commitment to continuing education, and a mastery of industry best practices, many urgent care managers choose to pursue professional certification. Offerings by the Urgent Care Association (UCA) cater specifically to the urgent care setting, while those from the Association of Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP) focus on the broad fundamentals of healthcare administration.
How to Become an Urgent Care Manager
Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)
After graduating from high school, aspiring urgent care managers will need to earn a bachelor’s degree. While they have several possible majors to choose from, healthcare administration or healthcare management provide the most direct path into this profession.
Maryville University has a bachelor of science in healthcare management program that can be completed entirely online. Typical courses include: population health management; healthcare informatics; healthcare compliance and quality; and communication in a healthcare setting. Further coursework explores areas such as financial management, risk management, revenue cycle management, and business operations, all with a focus on their application within a healthcare setting. The program prepares graduates for immediate employment, while also setting them up for graduate-level education in the future.
Step Two: Gain Early Work Experience (One Year or More)
After earning a bachelor’s degree, many urgent care managers start their careers by gaining early work experience. Where this experience occurs can vary, but working in an administrative or leadership role within a healthcare setting is ideal. There’s no better education than working on the job, and what one learns during these early stages can better inform one’s choices about how to proceed with building their career skills, certifications, education, and experiences in the future.
Step Three: Achieve Professional Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)
Unlike the care providers in an urgent care center, urgent care managers do not need professional certification in order to practice. However, an increasing number of urgent care managers are seeking out such certification in order to demonstrate their commitment to continuing education and their mastery of best practices.
The Urgent Care Association (UCA) offers the Certified Urgent Care Management Professional (CUCMP) designation for urgent care managers who wish to distinguish themselves in their field of work. In order to be eligible, candidates must have a clinical degree and at least a year of supervisory experience in ambulatory care medicine.
Once deemed eligible, candidates will need to complete 62 credits of qualifying continuing education, as determined by the UCA, and then pass a final examination on that content. Examination fees are $395 for UCA members, and $595 for non-members. The CUCMP certification must be renewed every two years by completing 25 credits of continuing education and paying a small renewal fee.
Those looking for a more generalized certification to demonstrate their broad competencies within healthcare administration can pursue the Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP) designation from the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP). In order to determine a candidate’s eligibility to take the certifying exam, the AHCAP uses a points-based system which can be found in their online cHAP handbook.
Step Four: Earn a Master’s Degree (Optional, Two Years)
While a master’s degree is not a requirement for urgent care managers, many employers give preference to candidates who have one. A master’s in healthcare administration (MHA) can provide the mix of leadership skills, financial acumen, and policy understanding that’s necessary to meet an urgent care facility’s unique management needs.
The online MHA program at Appalachian State University prepares graduates to advance their management career in a variety of healthcare settings, including urgent care centers. In addition to the robust core curriculum covering the fundamentals of healthcare administration, students may choose to specialize in either healthcare leadership or healthcare information systems. The 46-credit program costs $1,072 per credit for non-residents of North Carolina.
Work Setting and Salary of Urgent Care Managers
Urgent care managers work in urgent care facilities, but that encompasses more diversity than the name suggests. The nature of a particular urgent care facility will vary based on its size, its location, and the needs of its patient population. An urgent care facility in a rural area, for example, will have a dramatically different set-up than, say, an urgent care facility in a bustling urban community.
Location is one determining factor of an urgent care manager’s salary. Experience is another. An urgent care manager with a master’s degree, professional certification, and years of supervisory experience will command a higher rate of pay than one who has only a bachelor’s degree.
PayScale (2020), an employment data aggregator, surveyed just under 2,500 urgent care managers and found their average salary to be $65,776 per year; the 10th percentile made $42,000 per year, while the 90th percentile made $95,000 per year. ZipRecruiter (2020), another employment data aggregator, puts the national average salary for urgent care managers at $81,960 per year.