What is a Nursing Home Administrator?

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Many careers in health care administration combine a knowledge of the health care field with business expertise. One of these careers is that of a nursing home administrator. As the individual in charge of supervising everything from the operational aspects of a nursing home facility to the medical and dietary needs of the facility’s residents, a nursing home administrator must have a broad range of both experience and skills. In Illinois, this requirement is reflected in the state’s requirements for licensure, which demand both one or more specific college degrees and professional experience.

According to the Illinois Long Term Care Ombudsman Program Statewide Training Conference 2006, a nursing home administrator “Directs the day-to-day functions in the facility in accordance with current federal, state, county, and local standards, guidelines and regulations that regulate long term care facilities and ensures the highest degree of quality is provided to residents at all times” (“Defining Staff Roles”).

Depending on the size of the nursing home, those day-to-day functions could vary from directing a large staff to personally managing a wide range of financial, operational, and administrative tasks. For example, in a large nursing home facility, the administrator typically supervises the heads of several other departments, including the financial department, the food service director, the building maintenance director, and the head of the social services or activities department. He or she establishes and maintains an annual budget. The administrator is also responsible for staff training, although each department head usually conducts his or her training sessions. A nursing home administrator is also responsible for the facility’s marketing and public relations program, interacting with residents and their families and ensuring that their needs are met and that all available openings are filled in an efficient, timely manner.

But perhaps the most essential function of a nursing home administrator is staying on top of new laws and regulations that govern long-term care facilities. These laws can be detailed and complex and require both expertise and diligence to understand and interpret. An administrator typically works hard to keep his or her facility in line with all current regulations by creating policies and implementing them, either personally or through each department head. In this way, a nursing home administrator is responsible for all aspects of the facility and reports directly to the facility owner if the administrator is not the owner.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) ‘s nursing home administrator license application outlines the state’s minimum educational and professional requirements. For example, a successful applicant must have either a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university in any field or must have completed an approved course of instruction in nursing home administration. An applicant could also apply with proof of graduation from a 3-year nursing program and two years of qualifying experience, or an associate degree with at least 60 semester hours of credit earned plus qualifying experience. An applicant also has the option to apply by endorsement, which requires certification of completion of the Professional Certification Program for Nursing Home Administrators developed by the Foundation of the American College of Health Care Administrators (“Instruction Sheet”).

According to IDFPR, all applicants must have “qualifying experience.” Qualifying experience is defined as “two years of full-time employment as an Assistant Nursing Home Administrator or Director of Nursing in a facility licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health pursuant to the Nursing Home Care Act; OR two years of management experience in a corporation which owns and operates licensed nursing home facilities” (“Instruction Sheet”).

Given the expanse of duties and responsibilities, a nursing home administrator undertakes, the minimum licensing requirements seem relatively attainable for health care professionals looking to expand their career. The state also allows applicants to work as an administrator for up to 90 days during the licensing process. But unless an applicant can demonstrate that he or she meets all of the minimum requirements, he or she will not be able to legally work long-term as a nursing home administrator in Illinois.

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.