What’s In a Name: Titles for Quality Professionals

Starting today, some of the blog posts on the Quality Social Service website will begin to discuss results from the National Study of Quality Professionals in the social services. Our team at the University of Chicago, with funds from the Center for Health Administration Studies, surveyed 264 quality professionals in social service agencies that serve children, youth and families.

Today, let's talk titles. We learned that there are lots of titles used by quality professionals.

nameplate alteredTheir titles included root terms like: quality, performance, standards, compliance, safety and utilization. Titles often mixed these terms together. People were in charge of both performance and quality or safety and quality or performance and standards.

Their titles included verbs that indicated what they did related to quality. They improved it, assured it, evaluated it, analyzed it and measured it. No one's title used one of my favorite quality verbs: monitor.

Their titles also signaled their status within their organizations. They were chiefs of it, vice-presidents of it, directors of it, analysts of it, managers of it, and administrators of it. Sometimes a Chief of Quality reported to a VP of Quality. In another agency, it would be the other way around.

In the social service world, we have some sense of what a CEO does. We know what a CFO does. We are beginning to understand what a COO or a VP of Clinical Programs might do by their titles. But, is the Vice President of Performance Improvement the same job as Chief of Quality Management? It sounds to me like a Director of Standards and Compliance should have a different set of responsibilities than a Director of Quality Improvement, but I am not sure this is so.

Quality seems to have some strange bedmates in the social services. Especially in smaller agencies, titles often combined responsibilities in the quality arena with other areas of responsibility. So people's titles suggested they were in charge of quality and things like IT, HR,  Grants, Development and Training.

Finally, lots of people said that 70% or 80% of their job was monitoring and improving quality, but they had titles like COO, Clinical Director, and VP of Administration. Are these people just as much quality professionals as the VP of Quality Improvement?

To me, the titles reflect the confusion in the field. Many executives don't know exactly what quality professionals are supposed to be or are capable of doing for their organizations. And, they don't know how to value quality monitoring and improvement within their organizations. Plus, they are not sure if the skills quality professionals offer are technical or managerial. Are quality professionals more like a statistician or a middle manager? A researcher or a bookkeeper? Should they have backgrounds as clinicians or not?


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