How Stressful is the Life of a Healthcare Executive?

Healthcare executives earn big salaries and do important work. It’s a prestigious job, the sort people organize their entire lives around getting. Even landing a job like this is an enormous accomplishment, but what happens once you get it? Any position within the healthcare system has the capacity to be enormously stressful. In this article, we look at how that stress plays out in the life of a healthcare executive.

What Do Healthcare Executives Do?

Basically, healthcare executives or administrators are the ones in charge of making big-picture decisions at a hospital. This alone should give you a hint of how demanding their work is. The actual responsibilities will depend on the specific requirements of their position. They may be in charge of finance, or they might make decisions that are more closely related to patient care.

Whatever the case, their choices have a very direct impact on how a hospital is able to serve its community. This burden of responsibility is, in its own right, a source of significant stress for people who feel weighed down by the enormity of what they are being asked to do.

As a result of this burden, healthcare executives are usually forced to take a long circuitous route toward their ultimate professional destination.

How to Become a Healthcare Executive

The road to becoming a healthcare executive always starts with an undergraduate degree. The actual degree itself can vary pretty significantly depending on what part of the hospital you want to work in. Of course, as an eighteen-year-old, you probably don’t have that level of farsightedness.

You don’t necessarily need to have your whole future mapped out to make a choice that will eventually lead toward being in healthcare management. Majoring in something related to healthcare is usually a pretty safe bet.

If you want to handle the financial side of things, of course, that will be its own, distinct educational path. Otherwise, choose something in the medical field, and work hard. Rest assured, if you want to pivot into a different direction later there will be opportunities to do so. The road to being a healthcare executive is paved with degrees.

Once you’ve graduated from college, it’s time to accumulate some professional experience. Naturally, you’ll want to prove yourself in the hospital setting to show that you’ve got the right stuff. The amount of time people spend in the trenches will vary considerably from case to case.

Some of the variables impacting how long you can expect to wait on the promotion tract depend on the size of your network. If you are working within a relatively small system, job openings may be few and far between, and there may be a line of people ahead of you that will be considered first.

It definitely helps to be willing to move around for the promotion. Otherwise, you’ll need to buckle down and wait things out.

You also need to make sure you are bringing your all to the job every day. It’s a steppingstone, sure, but if that’s how you treat it, you’ll find that the arrangement will be much more permanent than you prefer.

For most people, it takes at least 2-3 years to start being considered for a promotion. Enough time for your employers to confirm that you are the person they expected you to be. You won’t go right to the top, but good work will be rewarded with steady promotions all leading toward the executive level.

As you work, always pursue advanced degrees, professional development opportunities, and further accreditations. Your employer only wants the cream of the crop at the top level, and you need to show them you fit the bill with every decision you make.

The Job Itself

So getting the job obviously carries a high degree of stress as well. You need to outwork your peers and dedicate yourself completely to ethical and professional growth. Even then, you may find yourself waiting much longer than you’d care for to get that long-sought-after promotion.

But let’s say you’ve done all that. You’ve logged the work and been recognized by your employers in the form of a pretty sweet promotion. Great news, right? But what is the job like?

On an ordinary day, you’re probably dealing with more or less the same amount of stress that comes with a high-level job. Plenty, to be sure, but nothing you can’t handle. Not after all that work and learning, you put in.

But then come the difficult days. You work in healthcare, so there will be plenty of those. Covid-19 served as a very dramatic example of how hard it can be to work as a healthcare executive. Doctors and nurses were on the front lines, yeah, but executives made decisions every day that directly impacted whether or not people would live or die.

Of course, there is no reason to expect that anything quite so significant as Covid-19 will come around again soon. But there is always the element of significant decision-making that comes with the territory of being a healthcare executive.

Your decisions have human consequences, and that alone can carry a lot of stress.


You can’t quantify stress. It’s not a physical thing that exists in the world. Rather, it’s a subjective experience that will impact everyone differently. Some people won’t want to be in the hot seat. Others thrive in int. You’ll just have to decide for yourself what category you fall under.