With health care eating up such a large portion of both the federal and provincial governments’ budgets — and growing — it’s no surprise more and more health-care courses are being offered at universities across Canada.
“We need to pay attention to how we manage these organizations,” says Dr. Linda Peritz of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. “We need to learn more about how to manage them.”
Peritz says the people running hospitals tend to be people who work their way up through the ranks, such as nurses and physicians. They do not always have management training.
To deal with these challenges, the Sauder School of Business offers a 21-month executive MBA in health care, the only one of its kind in Canada. Students begin the first seven months of the program doing core topics, such as accounting, finance and ethics. After that, students specialize in courses such as Patient Flow and Resource Allocation and Priority Setting.
Peritz says having this well-rounded background is necessary to make the right decisions.
“What you really, really want is senior managers to understand accounting and finance,” she says. “You want them to be able to make decisions based on information and look at a balance sheet and understand what their position is and use a strategic approach to that information. You need people to be able to do that.”
But Dr. Beatrix Dart of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto doesn’t see the value in executive MBAs in health care.
“We actually don’t do specialized executive MBA programs because we find it defeats the purpose,” she says. “The purpose is to make them more general and more strategic thinkers. So quite frankly, I don’t see the value in limiting it then to an industry sector.”
With an aging workforce, there will be lots of openings in the health-care sector at all levels.
“There will be jobs there,” says Dr. Kellie Leitch of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
Leitch has noticed increased interest in health-care courses over the past two years. She attributes this to a greater discussion of issues facing the health-care system.
“There has been a focus by provincial and federal governments on wait times and other health issues,” says Leitch. “I think we all in an academic environment reflect on those things.”