Lifelong Learning and the Healthcare Executive

November 1994
November 1999 (revised)
November 2003 (revised)
November 2008 (revised)
November 2013 (revised)

Statement of the Issue

The need for healthcare executives to expand their professional competencies and leadership capabilities has never been greater. Changes in both the financing and delivery of care continue to occur at a rapid pace, and the expertise and skills needed to respond appropriately to the resulting challenges are not easily obtained. Only through deliberate, ongoing professional and leadership development can healthcare executives be assured they have the management and leadership skills needed to serve their patients, organizations and communities effectively.

A commitment to professional and leadership development is also critical to the career success of healthcare executives. As new patient care delivery models emerge, traditional career ladders are giving way to new paths in healthcare that include all aspects of the healthcare continuum. An ongoing commitment to growth prepares healthcare executives for the resulting career opportunities.

Policy Position

The American College of Healthcare Executives believes healthcare executives have a responsibility to take charge of their professional and leadership development throughout their careers and, as part of the profession, to play an important role in supporting the professional and leadership development of others.

Developing management and leadership skills within an organization is an investment in the future and should be supported at both the individual and employer level because fostering leadership talent is key to sustaining the organization. At the same time, developing professional skills is a personal responsibility, necessary to enhance individual effectiveness, growth and advancement. As such healthcare executives should invest time and resources in their own professional and leadership development, even if employer support for such efforts is not available.

To engage fully in professional and leadership development activities, healthcare executives should:

  • Undertake periodic self-assessment that involves taking stock of one’s career in terms of individual professional strengths and weaknesses and specific competencies needed for current and future responsibilities. Self-assessments also should be used to identify career aspirations ensuring a professional development action plan is in place to achieve career goals and progression.
  • Participate in both employer-based and external offerings that contribute to developing a balance of healthcare management competencies and general business skills. Embrace and master new information, new skills and emerging technologies to enhance professional performance.
  • Attend face-to-face education offerings, which provide the richest environment for gaining insight from and sharing knowledge with experts and peers. Face-to-face education should also be supplemented with other learning formats including distance learning opportunities.   
  • Regularly review journals, books and other resources such as relevant social media that provide insight into the trends, issues and challenges affecting the healthcare management field. In addition, review resources offering broad-based business management information on an ongoing basis.
  • Keep up to date on any relevant certifications and licensure requirements. Maintaining professional certification is key to demonstrating a professional competency and commitment to lifelong learning. Current requirements to maintain board certification in healthcare management as an ACHE Fellow require 36 hours, including 12 face-to-face and 24 qualified education hours every three years.
  • As part of the healthcare leadership community, engage in active networking that includes both one-on-one interaction with peers and professional society and trade association involvement. Networking benefits the individual and contributes to the professional and leadership development of others.
  • Continue to seek professional relationships that avail you of the insight, experience and knowledge of others. As you grow in your professional development, mentor others to share your knowledge, skills and experience.  Mentoring others is another way to learn and grow as a leader. (See ACHE’s Policy Statement “Responsibility for Mentoring.”)

It is only through an ongoing personal commitment to lifelong learning—essential at all career stages—that healthcare executives can thrive. By continually developing professional and leadership competencies and supporting the development of others, healthcare executives can better serve patients and communities, advance their careers, and help secure the future of the profession.

Approved by the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives on November 11, 2013.