Jennifer Wee
By Jennifer Wee
Director, Communications,
SingHealth and SGH

November 2014 marked my fifth year in healthcare – a toddler in every sense of the word, but what a fulfilling journey it has been.

At a recent townhall, a colleague commented that “as administrators, we feel like second class citizens”.   This prompted me to reflect upon the role that we play as administrators. Most of us do not have direct contact with our patients. The work we do may not seem to impact patients – ultimately, we do not heal, nurse nor comfort. But is that really so?

A key term in healthcare is “team-based multi-disciplinary care”. I recently read the article “Interprofessional Care Teams: The Role of the Healthcare Administrator” by Begun, White and Mosser(1). It spoke of how often times when we think of “team-based”, we think of clinical professionals.

Administrators are often not part of the equation.   Yet it is important that we, as administrators, must see that we have a shared responsibility to deliver care to patients. We need to have an appreciation of how the system works, build our familiarity with clinical care, understand how different members of the healthcare team work, how we relate to one another – so that we can shape structures, strategies and culture.

A friend once commented to me that “The hospital administrator plays a vital role in saving lives, without having to take a scalpel in hand because you must make sure that your hospital operates efficiently and your system works. Then the care team can do their work properly.”   How true that is.   If our HR machinery does not function, we will not be able to attract and retain a robust workforce that is optimally and rightly resourced to provide care to our patients.

If our IT system fails us, our care team will not be able to access patients records promptly to ensure that the right care is administered, and that pertinent information is not overlooked.   We will not be able to maximise the use of technology to help us with analytics to improve organisation and patient outcomes. In fact, given our reliance on IT, we will be totally immobilised.

And imagine if our business office gets our patients’ bills wrong, what unhappiness it will cause!   When we administrators get it right, we create an environment that supports our doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. They can then focus on bringing the best care to patients.

I am an administrator who feels very much part of the team. And I think it boils down to 5 simple tenets:
1. Believe in the value of our work; add value.
2. Look beyond our daily functional duties - see how the dots connect, the bigger picture. Be interested, be hungry.
3. Be a great partner to our stakeholders. Understand their needs, appreciate different perspectives, find a win-win.
4. Think “Why not?”. See possibilities, not constraints.
5. Enjoy what we do - passionately, whole-heartedly. It shows.

1. James W. Begun, Kenneth R. White, and Gordon Mosser, “Interprofessional Care Teams: The Role of the Healthcare Administrator,“ Journal of Interprofessional Care, vol. 25, no. 2, March, 2011, pp. 119-123.

This article was published in Tomorrow's Medicine Issue 15.