Considering a career in healthcare operations? Check out the skills and knowledge you’ll need to thrive in this booming field.

When you think about healthcare professionals, who springs to mind? You’re probably picturing doctors, nurses, first responders and all the other remarkable frontline staff. But behind the scenes in hospitals and other care settings are an equally vital contingent of workers — the healthcare operations professionals.

These individuals support the core functions of a health service, from administration, IT and finance to legal, quality enhancement and delivery of care. Think of them as the backbone of any care facility — the people who make the service possible so that patients get the scans, checkups and surgery they need. Here’s a rundown of the top six skills you need for a successful career in healthcare ops.

1. empathy

Healthcare ops professionals interact with people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. This includes staff, patients, visitors and emergency workers. In roles such as hospital administrator or patient services coordinator, you’ll need to deal with different personality types in often challenging circumstances while remaining professional, friendly and discreet.

2. problem-solving skills

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, you're constantly fielding curveballs, and emotions often run sky-high. Maybe a patient is contesting an invoice, an insurance company is on your case about a paperwork mix-up or you're butting heads with a supplier. Across all healthcare ops functions, professionals must relish the opportunity to untangle tricky situations and fix processes that aren’t working.

3. communication

Communication and teamwork go together like peanut butter and jelly in healthcare ops. Imagine you’re in the finance department planning next year’s clinical budget. You need to be crystal clear on how funding decisions will impact employees and spell out new procedures so everyone’s on the same page. Or maybe you’re a patient service coordinator juggling the needs of clinicians and patients. Your job? Keep communication lines open and tweak your message depending on who you’re talking to.

4. attention to detail

There’s no wiggle room for error in a healthcare setting. Whether scheduling patients or ordering bandages, paying meticulous attention to detail means you’re less likely to make a mistake that could have severe consequences for patient care. And because it’s always better to be safe than sorry, be prepared to double or even triple-check your work.

5. IT skills

Cutting-edge technology and automation are on the march in today’s healthcare environment. Therefore, it’s critical to be tech-savvy so that patients receive a seamless service, whether interacting with administration, finance or the pharmacy. This could include anything from keeping electronic record systems current to navigating billing software or even spearheading telehealth initiatives.

6. legal knowledge

Professionals in healthcare compliance or administration must have their fingers on the pulse of various rules and regulations, from patient privacy and data security to workplace safety and labor laws. Every decision made by you or your coworkers can have serious legal consequences. So it’s up to the healthcare ops team to make sure everyone’s playing by the rules.

Think you’ve got what it takes to succeed in this fast-paced, deeply rewarding industry? Take a look at our rundown of today’s best healthcare jobs, or browse thousands of open positions to find exciting opportunities near you.