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Clinical vs Non-Clinical Roles in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is full of both clinical and non-clinical roles, meaning you don’t need to be a doctor or nurse to make a lasting impact in a clinical setting. 

Non-clinical roles form the foundation upon which medical institutions are able to function. From hospital executives to administrative staff to IT specialists and more, they provide support across diverse and essential non-clinical medical jobs. 

In this article you will find the clinical definition for various important roles in healthcare. We’ll discuss potential career pathways in a non-clinical setting that can help you find your ideal health industry job, as well as recommended qualification levels

Defining clinical roles in healthcare 

The meaning of clinical within the context of healthcare refers to most healthcare positions that are commonly known in the industry. These are medical professionals who provide direct patient care and often spend many years studying and training to specialise in a specific field of medicine. 

Some of the most common health industry jobs in a clinical setting include: 

  • Physician: Doctors work across all healthcare specialties and can also become general practitioners (GP). Senior physicians may take on more administrative duties. 

  • Nurse manager: While nurse managers still carry out clinical care duties, their role bridges the gap between clinical care and administrative processes. 

  • Registered nurse: RNs manage patient care and liaise directly with other caregivers. 

  • Allied health professionals: A variety of roles including medical assistants, lab technicians, physical therapists, speech pathologists and more. 

Non-clinical medical jobs 

It takes a significant number of non-clinical personnel to keep the wheels turning in healthcare organisations. So, if you are invested in building a career as a modern healthcare leader but would rather not work in a direct care role, there are many different positions for you to investigate. 

Here are some of the most common non-clinical health industry jobs: 

  •  Hospital executives 

  • Clinical coders 

  • Transcriptionists 

  • Administrative assistants 

  • Receptionists 

  • Human resources 

  • IT specialists 

  • Pharmaceutical representatives 

  • Biomedical engineers 

  • Medical recruiters 

  • Medical device salespeople 

Essential skills to thrive in a non-clinical setting 

Non-clinical healthcare professionals may not have to physically save lives every day, but their contribution to the industry ensures clinicians are able to perform their duties and patients are provided with the quality care every human deserves. 

To ensure you thrive in a non-clinical medical job, here are some of the key attributes employers will seek: 

  1. Time management 

  1. Taking ownership 

  1. Organisational skills 

  1. Effective communication 


1. Time management 

Information workers – and especially those who are professionals in the IT sector – waste up to 28 days every year searching for documents1. In a data-heavy non-clinical role, such as administrative healthcare positions, this lost time could be detrimental to patient care. Whether it’s setting clear goals and meeting deadlines, or adopting useful technologies to streamline your day-to-day tasks, good time management can help you stand out in a non-clinical healthcare role. 

2. Taking ownership 

In the context of leadership, taking ownership refers to having the initiative to deliver positive results. In non-clinical roles, this involves making positive actions for the betterment of your customers – or patients. It’s also about caring about outcomes as much as senior leadership and being accountable for your actions, to become an influential leader yourself in time. 

3. Organisational skills 

Depending on the non-clinical medical job, you will likely need strong organisational skills to carry out your day-to-day tasks. These may involve updating patient records, organising schedules for appointments and surgeries, as well as being the ‘face’ of the healthcare business to a broad range of clients. 

4. Effective communication 

Whether it’s reading, writing or speaking with co-workers and patients face-to-face, communication is an inherent part of most non-clinical roles. One part of your day could be reading patient charts and diagnoses, while another could be spent on back-end data entry. Many positions will also require you to converse with the public as well as stakeholders in the healthcare organisation. 


Why healthcare professionals switch to non-clinical roles 

It is not uncommon for patient-facing clinicians to look for a career change, often finding their way to various non-clinical positions that allow them to combine their industry knowledge and passion for healthcare. 

If you are interested in switching from a clinical to non-clinical medical job, here are some of the reasons why a change could be the best move for your career:  

  • Your personal goals have changed. 

  • The opportunity for burnout may be lessened in a non-clinical role. 

  • You don’t necessarily need to work in a physical hospital setting. 

  • A good way to return to healthcare after a career break. 

  • Greater work-life balance. 

Non-clinical roles offer many inroads to diversify your skills. There may be more opportunities for part-time and flexible work in non-clinical health industry jobs. 


How to embrace a career in non-clinical healthcare 

A strong healthcare system can only remain so with the continued support of both clinical and non-clinical professionals. So, if you are looking to make your mark in the health industry but want to forge a separate path from the traditional role of doctor or nurse, there are countless healthcare management jobs that may be perfect for your career aspirations. 

If you are ready to develop your healthcare skills and find out what opportunities await in non-clinical medical jobs, the University of Adelaide has study options to meet your needs: 

Want to know more about the various ways you can make your mark in the healthcare industry? Find out more about how to become a nurse manager


A Guide to Healthcare Management Jobs

It is important to be aware of the entry requirements for a healthcare management degree, such as a MBA in Health Management, before applying. Take a look at some of the health management jobs which typically prefer a master’s qualification.

What does modern health care leadership look like?

Health care has always been a fast-paced and rapidly evolving industry, but recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have put increased pressure on industry leaders to remain relevant and forward-thinking. 

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