Earning an MBA degree can mean many things to many different people. Some people pursue their MBA degree because it can be the difference in getting a coveted position at their organization. For others, it may be an interest in academia and higher education. Some may be wanting to shift career paths, while others are here to try and stay informed on recent trends in business practices. Whatever the reason, people’s interest in pursuing a higher degree is a noble cause and shows the lengths people will go to better themselves and their world. For me, my reason for pursuing an MBA stems from my years of work in healthcare as a mental health therapist, and my desire to play a larger role in the decision making process of healthcare services.
After receiving my M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy, I was eager to begin a career serving the mental health needs of the local community. I primarily provided individual and family therapy for at-risk communities in both residential and outpatient mental health settings. The work was good, the teams were great, and helping people with some of their ongoing health needs felt meaningful to me. At the same time, I found myself wanting to play a more active role in the leadership team and being able to participate in making decisions regarding healthcare delivery. My experiences as a clinician and working with management teams informed my decision to pursue an MBA in order to increase my skills and knowledge regarding the business of healthcare and nonprofit administration.
In one of my first clinical positions, our management team included a therapist who worked actively alongside the team to address concerns for our clients; however, to my knowledge, this person did not have any business education. While having a supervisor who could directly relate to the struggles and concerns of the clients was a benefit, I began to notice a pattern of issues such as turnover, transparency, low team morale, poor benefits and no retirement options, and overall job satisfaction problems. From my perspective, these issues were an area of growth at that organization, given their impact on sustainability and service. This experience made me curious about the potential positive impact of having leadership with both clinical and business knowledge.
At one of my more recent positions at a large nonprofit, my immediate supervisor was a clinician, but the primary decision makers fell into two categories: (1) clinicians who had been promoted into leadership positions but were no longer active in providing mental health services, or (2) individuals with MBAs/business degrees that had no clinical experience. In my experience, this organization ran very well for the most part. We received regular bonuses and raises (merit or time-based), and great benefits, including a strong retirement package. However, the negative was that major decisions about providing client care, electronic health records (EHR) systems, and general operations were at times riddled with bureaucracy, such that final decisions sometimes felt out of touch with effective clinical work. I left this organization realizing that clinical experience alone does not necessarily make a good administrator and business leader.
With this experience and knowledge in hand, I decided that getting more formal education and training in business administration and management would be an extremely useful next step in my professional journey. Moving forward, I hope to be able to use my MBA in combination with my background in mental health to support sustainable business decisions for healthcare and/or nonprofit organizations.