What is a pracademic in healthcare management?

4 min read



In healthcare today, innovations arise from collaborations between academics and clinicians who combine theoretical constructs with insights from on-the-job clinical experience. 

Pracademics, also called scholar-practitioners, are people who are both academics and active practitioners in their field. With skills and training in both domains, pracademics help to combine scholarly research and clinical knowledge — making pracademics highly sought-after collaborators. 

Divides between science and practice

Pracademics play a crucial role in bringing insights from academic and professional domains together. Why don’t the two groups collaborate more often? Consider the following factors that often divide academics and practitioners.

Academics vs. practitioners: Different work environments and incentives

Academics typically work at colleges and universities, conducting research and teaching students. Because academics are tasked with producing publications, few have the time, resources, or incentive to disseminate research results to the wider healthcare community. 

On the other hand, practitioners are fully immersed in their respective healthcare communities. Unlike academics, who are often employed and evaluated based on their publication record, practitioners are focused on providing high-quality healthcare services. Practitioners have little time to conduct research, evaluate their practices, and communicate the insights gleaned from their experience with patients, other providers, healthcare policymakers, and other members of the healthcare system. 

Academics vs. practitioners: Systematic and anecdotal knowledge

The distinct work cultures of academics and practitioners lend themselves to different ways of gathering knowledge. 

While academics and practitioners both draw from research, academics tend to produce more of the formal, systematic studies of healthcare phenomena. Lacking extensive, if any, clinical experience, researchers often rely on clinicians and other healthcare professionals for insight into emerging issues in the field, or gaps in research that need to be addressed. 

Practitioners, on the other hand, gather practical knowledge from their experience in the field. This knowledge may be gained by observing patient trends and other firsthand experiences. Practitioners must keep up-to-date with recent research to stay sharp, yet practitioners may weigh their own experiences with patients as more important when making treatment decisions. 

Pracademics: Bridging the gap

By working in both the academic and clinical spheres, pracademics are able to gather and leverage knowledge and experience from both domains. As a result, they can perform the much-needed service of initiating conversations between academics and practitioners. 
Pracademics are uniquely suited to create new ways of working in healthcare, improving research, developing innovative interventions, and engaging communities when developing public health solutions.

Benefits of pracademics in healthcare management

How can pracademics affect meaningful change in healthcare at an organizational level?

Because these scholar-practitioners engage in both scholarly inquiry and active practice, pracademics can serve as knowledge brokers for both sides. 

Here are some examples of ways that pracademics can benefit healthcare management, and public health in general:

1. Translating and disseminating research

At times, research goes underutilized by practitioners who lack the time and resources to stay current on the latest studies. Pracademics can distill research and facilitate its quick dissemination to a broad audience, translating key findings in a language that is easy to understand.

2. Developing and implementing practice-based research

Because of their close connection to the communities they serve, pracademics are well-positioned to drive targeted research. Scholar-practitioners have knowledge of specific communities; they know the people they serve, their community’s needs, and what research would be most beneficial. For example, they may work alongside healthcare leaders in rural communities to develop and expand services that are tailored to the unique needs of residents in those areas.

Pracademics who collaborate with researchers can develop and implement more grounded hypotheses for study, which in turn can result in studies that better serve the local population. 

3. Working well with diverse stakeholders

Healthcare managers work in a variety of settings: hospitals, urgent care clinics, private practices, colleges and universities, public health centers, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance agencies, to name a few. This means that healthcare management involves communication between diverse stakeholders, including doctors, nurses, researchers, and other healthcare practitioners. 

Pracademics speak the language and have the skills to navigate the expectations and norms of both academia and health practice. As a result, pracademics may become master communicators, bringing people together from divergent ends of the healthcare system.  

Pursuing management in healthcare services as a future pracademic

Pracademics are well-suited to become the next innovative healthcare leaders. With skills in both scholarly and practice-based domains, pracademics can help healthcare teams overcome challenges in research and delivery of healthcare services.          

Training pracademic healthcare leaders

Do you enjoy both research and real-world clinical experiences? Do you want to develop a skill set for translating complex medical jargon for a broad audience? Do you feel passionate about making healthcare more accessible and equitable? 

Pracademics in healthcare management provide an invaluable service to the healthcare community. The insights, techniques, and resources developed by pracademics drive healthcare research and improve healthcare outcomes for patients

If you are curious about pursuing healthcare management as a career, learn more about the Master of Business Administration in Healthcare offered by Northern Arizona University in partnership with OpusVi. The curriculum of this program is informed by leading healthcare industry experts and features foundational business courses recontextualized within a healthcare context. Through a blend of lecture-based courses, an applied practicum, and direct engagement with healthcare professionals, our MBA in Healthcare will arm you with the leadership, communications, and collaboration skills to affect meaningful change in healthcare at an organizational level.