Roles & Responsibility for a Chief Operations Officer of a Community Health Center

by Alison Green

A chief operations officer working in a community health center translates the facility’s goals into projects, strategies and programs, leads adherence to industry standards, manages care contracts, resolves day-to-day problems and participates in policy development. To qualify for this position, you need to earn a master’s degree in health administration, human services or business and have strong leaderships and communication skills. A COO reports to the facility’s chief executive officer or executive director.

Developing Policies

Because a COO oversees the everyday operations of a community health center, he often participates in development of policies to ensure adoption of effective regulations. For example, if the facility wants to introduce a policy that requires nurses to work more hours, the COO may advise against implementing the decision because it may result in reduced job performance. If the board plans to make organization-wide changes, the COO may gather employees' views and present them to the CEO. This helps ensure the administration is conscious of employees' interests before making major changes.

Leading Adherence

As a chief operating officer, you ensure the community health center adheres to professional industry standards. This may involve collaborating with nurse leaders to organize periodic training programs to make sure the performance of nursing staff is consistent with modern nursing practices. Given that the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide workers with a hazard-free workplace, a smart COO implements strategies to ensure continued regulatory compliance. For instance, you can ask management to create a workplace safety department and task it with making the facility safe for workers, patients and their families.

Negotiating Contracts

Most community health centers enter into procurement contracts with health care suppliers to ensure excellent delivery of service. When the facility wants a supplier of drugs and medical equipment, for instance, a chief operations officer may study the supplier market to identify reliable service providers, invite bids and lead his team in the contract negotiation process to ensure the facility secures the deals at discounted prices. The COO also oversees managed care contracts and maintains positive working relations with various providers.

Resolving Issues

Although a chief operations officer works toward minimizing operational challenges, some are inevitable. For example, if the number of patients suddenly increases and overburdens the facility’s nursing staff, a quick-thinking COO can contact a local nursing agency for more nurses and offer them temporary contracts to help avert the shortage. A good COO addresses issues as they arise and consults with colleagues to ensure his decision is agreeable to everyone.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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