I Want to be a Compliance Officer!


By Jessica Vander Zanden
CHC, VP, Compliance and Audit, Network Health

It’s rare or even nonexistent to hear a child stating: “I want to be a compliance officer when I grow up.” However, here we are in need of qualified and sharp individuals ready to take on the numerous challenges of working in a compliance role. In addition, with healthcare fraud and identity theft on the rise, the need for compliance professionals will seemingly only continue to grow.  So, what’s the solution? I would argue it’s important to focus on the desired attributes of individuals who seem best suited for the role, thereafter focusing on training them to be successful in the field. Furthermore, I believe it’s the responsibility of those experienced in the profession to be fostering the growth of individuals who show potential to someday wear the compliance officer hat.

Many of us had to learn the job in a trial by fire fashion, or somehow fell into the “opportunity” of compliance one way or another, with very little coaching or training. However, as the industry becomes more complex and the schemes of corruption more present, we will most definitely need versed and confident compliance officers and compliance professionals to protect the patients, members and customers which we serve into the future.

Backed by many years of experience as a healthcare compliance officer, I have identified the following key attributes as great potentials for a future in the compliance department, even in cases where no previous experience exists.

  1. Natural Curiosity– Compliance officers must continuously be digging deeper to identify the root cause and to help create the best path of action in the event an issue of noncompliance is identified.
  2. Confidence– The compliance officer is not a role for the faint of heart. In order to fulfill the duties successfully, command the room and push for a root cause, unfettered confidence is a must have.
  3. Integrity– Arguably a prominent value we want all employees to have, but for the compliance officer integrity, at all times, is an absolute necessity.
  4. Collaborative– While objectively making decisions is a key function of the role, the compliance professional’s success is only as strong as the relationships they hold with individuals in the organization, from the top down. The compliance officer must be relatable enough to connect with front line employees, while also possessing poise and confidence when discussing difficult topics with the organization’s CEO or the board of directors.

In summary, there’s no perfect profile or educational background which will result in the “ideal” compliance officer or professional, but rather a grouping of common attributes that collectively can form a great fit for the field.  With this in mind, I encourage my fellow compliance professionals to focus heavily on attributes of individuals and job applicants we meet in order to select, mentor and train successful compliance leaders for our increasingly important field.


  1. I loved this post! I totally agree with the attributes you mentioned, but I would include one more, passion. Compliance Officers have to be passionate about their work!

  2. Based on This, I’m read to be a CCO right away. I’m a lawyer and I have ALL the conditions listed above.

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