Learning the behavioral intricacies of health care


The Northwood University site in Grand Rapids now offers a health care management degree that can be taken online or as a mix of online and classroom sessions, according to Brett Blythe, program center manager at Northwood, 515 Michigan St. NE.

According to the program description provided by Blythe, the Bachelor of Business Administration degree in health care management provides the student with “a well-rounded education in management for the health care industry” and is “well suited for individuals who are looking to advance into management or administration careers.”

The course is designed on a business education foundation intended to prepare its graduates for a variety of health care industry careers. The program emphasizes “developing the tools and skills necessary to successfully manage the comprehensive challenges and issues facing industry professionals.”

Laurie Thiel, an experienced health care executive from southeast Michigan, is one of Northwood’s adjunct faculty members who teach the health care management program. When asked about those “comprehensive challenges and issues facing industry professionals” in health care administration, she said they include a surprising amount of “little intricacies” — not the least of which is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Of course, PPACA is the elephant in the waiting room these days, and the Northwood course will address it first and foremost. However, PPACA is still so new and so broad in impact, and so much of what will actually happen is still up for debate, that the Northwood class focus on it is necessarily limited at this point. Thiel noted that there aren’t many classroom textbooks on PPACA yet, if any.

But there are many other health care “intricacies” with which new managers need to be familiar. For example, U.S. health care is “heavy in compliance,” noted Thiel.

Thiel is the CEO of Alliance Mobile Health in Troy, a private, nonprofit organization that provides emergency medical services to Oakland County and that recently expanded into Genessee County. She also has worked for years for McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens and has a total of 14 years of management experience in EMS in Macomb and Oakland counties.

When you are managing a clinical work force, that comes with a lot of challenges in making sure their licenses are up to date,” she said.

In this rapidly changing day and age, there are also “a lot of patient issues that you never had to think about before,” she said. One, for instance, is patient harassment of the health care staff.

When Thiel was studying human resources issues years ago in preparation for a management career in health care, she said,

“No one ever thought about a patient actually harassing a staff member — and what are you going to do about it?”

But the fact is, it does happen, she said, as many nurses and physicians can testify.

When I ask (students in her classes), ‘What are you going to do? Kick your patient out of the hospital?’ it generates a really good discussion,” said Thiel. “I like to use a lot of thought-provoking questions in my classroom,” she added.

She said one of the most interesting classroom discussions came about when she mentioned an actual case in which a hospital CEO had an affair with a hospital employee and then was “let go” by the board — with a $1.6 million severance package. Thiel asked her students what they would have done if they had been on that board, which generated an interesting discussion.

Another issue health care administrators everywhere have to deal with are physicians and nurses who become impaired by drug abuse.

My students never even thought about that,” she said. “You don’t see a lot of information or literature about it.” But it is included in her classroom texts.

There is a lot more to bring to the classroom on things going on in the health care system that (students) are just not aware of,” she said.

The course description for the Northwood University health care management program states that “organizational behavior, culture and language in health care” are issues explored in class. Others are the economics of health care, history of health care management, accounting, budgeting and financial management, HR management within the industry, legal and ethical aspects, quality management, marketing management and management systems.

Blythe said almost all of the students in Grand Rapids taking Northwood University classes are working adults, so classes are held in the evening.

Northwood University, which has its home campus in Midland, has a total enrollment of 6,450. Founded in 1959 in Alma as Northwood Institute, it is a private, nonprofit school with three residential campuses: Midland; Cedar Hill, Texas; and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Northwood became a university in 1993 and is regionally accredited. As noted on its website, it specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education.

Northwood has multiple connections with Rich DeVos, co-founder of Amway Corp., and his family. DeVos serves on Northwood’s Florida Board of Governors and his son, Dan, is on the university’s Board of Trustees. Both Dan and his brother, Dick, are graduates of Northwood University.

The university just announced that its DeVos Graduate School of Management will offer a weekend MBA starting in January. Classes are held Friday evenings and Saturdays, twice each month; it is a two-year MBA program. The weekend MBA will be offered in Grand Rapids, in addition to Midland, Lansing, Troy, West Palm Beach and Cedar Hill.

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