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How to Become a Hospital CEO: Requirements & Responsibilities


Hospital CEOs are experienced professionals who oversee almost every aspect of a medical facility, making sure operations run effectively. They must be adept at streamlining processes to improve efficiencies and allocate resources for effective patient care. A hospital CEO balances the management of operations, staff, and finances to ensure the facility is using its time and resources effectively.

Wondering how to become a hospital CEO? This challenging and rewarding career starts with education, but candidates must also have several years of professional healthcare management experience. Hospital CEOs work in private or public healthcare facilities of various sizes, structures, and missions.

What Does a Hospital CEO Do?

Hospital CEOs directly and indirectly impact every decision in their facilities. Their most important task is patient safety, including staying up to date on best practices, implementation, and standards of care in the hospital. The CEO is responsible for staff and operations, in addition to patient well-being. These duties typically involve balancing budgets, planning expenditures, recruiting employees, monitoring employee and patient satisfaction, representing the hospital, and creating or revising new procedures to maintain a high quality of care.


To accomplish all of those tasks, hospital CEOs usually possess the following skills:


Organization: Organizational skills are vital to the job. With many disparate departments of the facility, hospital CEOs must be up to date on all operations and personnel matters. They must delegate when necessary and assemble a high-functioning senior staff to run the facility’s day-to-day functions.


Attention to detail: Hospital CEOs work at the macro level but also focus on micro details, such as low standards of care, patient or employee dissatisfaction, broken equipment, and unbalanced budgets. Paying attention to smaller details provides hospital CEOs with a more holistic view of the facility and how to make meaningful improvements.


Interpersonal skills: Hospital CEOs communicate with patients, employees, families, staff, vendors, and other stakeholders. They must convey messages clearly and confidently. They are the “face” of the entire facility and must use exemplary interpersonal communication skills.

Hospital CEO Responsibilities

A hospital CEO’s fundamental tasks collectively represent a few key responsibilities that drive the quality of a facility’s healthcare. For instance, the hospital CEO’s underlying responsibility is to provide leadership. CEOs encourage staff and operations to enthusiastically strive toward providing optimal patient care. Strong leadership can also help minimize instances of nurse burnout, a phenomenon that could negatively impact a facility’s healthcare delivery system.


Another vital CEO responsibility is ensuring the facility aligns with current healthcare regulations and policies. Because federal, state, and local healthcare laws are in a state of constant flux, hospital CEOs must keep abreast of even the slightest policy changes, ensuring their facilities become compliant with the changes immediately. Failure to do so could potentially cause issues that could compromise the ability to deliver quality care.


In some cases, hospital CEOs may have to oversee individuals who handle a facility’s operational elements, including human resources, accounting, and other administrative aspects.

Hospital CEO Salaries

In 2018, the median annual salary for healthcare and social assistance CEOs was $173,770, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, hospital CEO salaries can fluctuate due to numerous factors, including education level, skill set, years of experience, certifications, and job location.

How to Become a Hospital CEO

Becoming a hospital CEO requires several years of education and professional development. Here is an overview of the key accomplishments associated with this career path.


When professionals think about how to become a hospital CEO, education should be a key consideration. To qualify for executive roles in the healthcare sector, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree, and hospital CEO positions usually require at least a master’s degree, typically related to healthcare or business. Some potential areas of study include healthcare administration, nursing, and business administration.


An advanced nursing degree can help professionals develop fundamental skills for high-level management roles, such as interpersonal communication, leadership, strategy, and planning. The online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, for example, provides a path for professionals who already possess a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to learn more complex theories and structures in the healthcare industry, including clinical practices, large-scale administrative systems, advocacy, and policy. In addition to earning a DNP degree, graduates of DNP-NP programs also qualify to take credentialing examinations to become certified nurse practitioners.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Hospital CEOs may need to hold industry-related licenses, although specific requirements vary between states, according to the BLS.


Aspiring hospital CEOs may choose optional certifications and distinctions to improve their prospective career progression by gaining additional knowledge and skills. For example, they can become certified in medical office management via the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management. The American Health Information Management Association offers a health information management certification, and the American College of Healthcare Administrators offers nursing home and assisted living administrator distinctions.

Professional Experience

Healthcare professionals pursuing a CEO career track with at least a master’s degree also need to gain several years of practical experience while staying up to date with changing policies and best practices. Further experience in different healthcare managerial roles, such as health services manager, at both small and large facilities, in either a public or private setting, is also helpful.


Healthcare professionals with a nursing background may be equipped to advance to senior management due to their practical skills and hands-on experience in clinical environments. Over time, the additional knowledge gained from high-level instruction and experience helps hospital CEO candidates become well-rounded professionals.

CEO Positions in Healthcare

Hospital CEOs can work in numerous types of facilities. While the fundamental tasks of the position remain consistent, the nature of the employer may place those in CEO roles in slightly different work environments.


Some of the types of organizations in which hospital CEOs can work include:


  • Public hospitals: These hospitals are fully funded and operated by the government. They are typically run via taxpayer funds that have been earmarked to fund healthcare programs and initiatives.
  • Private hospitals: These hospitals are operated and funded by non-government groups or individuals. They can be for-profit or nonprofit entities.
  • Nursing home facilities: These facilities specialize in caring for elderly patients who need various levels of assistance to perform day-to-day activities.
  • Veterans hospitals: These hospitals focus on providing care to veterans from all branches of the military.
  • Outpatient care clinics: These clinics provide care to patients not requiring an overnight stay at a care facility.

Becoming a Crucial Leader in Healthcare

Hospital CEOs are entrusted with a significant task. They must ensure the hospital delivers the highest quality of care to its patients and is compliant with current regulations, staffed by professionals passionate about delivering optimal care, and operating efficiently. These components make it one of the most intriguing advanced professions in healthcare. For those with the proper level of knowledge and skills, it can also be one of the most satisfying. Learn how Maryville University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs program can help prepare you to become an impactful leader in the healthcare field.


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