Profile: Health Administrator

Learn about the daily experiences of a health administrator in a nursing home.

David Klanderman
Licensed Nursing Home Administrator
Wild Rose Manor – Wild Rose, WI

hospital room representing health administrator

As a "people person," David Klanderman has made nursing home administration his life work. He sees it as "the caring business," a field that is all about taking care of residents, their families and his employees.

"Whatever is needed on a day-to-day basis, I do. Bringing blood samples to the hospital, interviewing staff, attending Medicare meetings, quality assurance meetings. Talking to doctors or to families. Talking to residents. Helping to get someone to eat."

What are some qualities of a good health administrator?

Keep open lines of communication. I moved my office so that when people come in the door, the first person they see is me. We're in this business to be interrupted. It's not enough to have an open door policy—you have to go talk to employees in their break room, to the residents in their rooms. 

You must be vigilant. We work in the most regulated industry in America. Violating even the smallest regulations can lead to fines of up to $5,000 per day. 

I’d like to see people with direct patient care experience move into administrative positions. You need to know about health care, not just talk the talk. You also need to be a people person. This isn't the kind of job where you can hide in your office—you need to go out and meet people. 

What challenges do you face in your work?

There are people who share a room and don't get along with each other. They're in a room with 200 square feet and one TV, and they have diametrically opposed personalities. That's frustrating. We move people around all the time, trying to get the right fit. 

When residents or their families have criticisms, I consider whether they are legitimate and how they can be addressed. Also, aging and illness cause pain that cannot always be fixed. Sometimes, your job as a health administrator is just to listen. 

We need caring professionals who are willing to take on the difficulties of working as health administrators. The number of people taking the administrator's test [in Wisconsin] is actually down, but there's going to be a huge need. 

What type of personality will thrive in health administration?  

Leadership requires a focus on service to others. If you flip the organizational chart and put the administrator on the bottom, that's this job. Nobody cares if you have paperwork to do. If they need you, they need you now. It's demanding as hell, and you have to be open with people and let them be who they are. But it's a wonderful experience when people rely on you. 

The difference between a leader and a manager is that the manager is doing the thing right, and the leader is doing the right thing. My job is to figure out what's the right thing. It sounds like it should be so simple, but it isn't. I just appreciate the opportunity to try.