Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to "BREAK INTO" Healthcare Information Technology - Updated 2016

I receive multiple calls and emails monthly from people that are interested in becoming employed in HCIT.  People hear there is a huge need for Healthcare Technology professionals so it would seem finding a position in this industry would be a piece of cake.... but there is a catch-22:
The Healthcare Systems and Consulting Firms are seeking people that have years of experience in the industry and many opportunities require certifications in specific EMR Vendor products to boot. With this in mind, even someone with a substantial IT background in another industry or a Nurse with no informatics background can find it challenging to land a position. Over the years I've read numerous publications claiming to provide the solution to this dilemma, it is my impression that there is no fool-proof method to the madness.

Below are some useful suggestions for breaking into the Healthcare Technology Industry. Initial steps will be listed and then the information will be divided into sections that will give tips that are associated with specific background and education.
Step 1. Create a resume that highlights your Healthcare and/or Technology background and education.
Step 2. Be prepared! Know the type of opportunities you want to consider, the geographical area or areas you will be searching and the salary range you need to support yourself.
Step 3. Don't fly blind! Create a spreadsheet to track your employment processes and be diligent about filling it in. Finding a career can be a full time job. Be ready to spend at least a few hours a day focused on your search.
Step 4. Get connected! Use social networking to connect with industry professionals that might be able to assist you in your search.
Step 5. Get Educated! Beyond your education.... link to industry related web sites and sign up for industry related newsletters (Like HIStalk) to stay on top of the latest information.
Step 6. Use the job boards and search engines like to assist you in your search.
Step 7. Make sure you're applying to the right places. Most Consulting Firms hire industry professionals with extensive prior experience because their clients demand highly qualified consultants however, some consulting firms are open to hiring professionals with limited experience but tons of potential, and offering training (or certification) in exchange for a 12 to 24 month agreement of employment.  Additionally, most consulting firms do not provide perm placement .....meaning they will not seek people to place permanently with a client as an employee of the client.  On the other hand, Staffing Firms DO provide perm placement to their clients and are more likely to be able to assist people that are just entering into the Healthcare Technology Space.

For Healthcare Professionals lacking Informatics experience... is your current healthcare employer planning to implement a new EMR or upgrading their current system? If so talk to your Supervisor and the internal HIT Supervisor about your desire to enter into a Informatics role. Your current employer is always your best bet. If your current employer is not involved in an implementation seek a Healthcare role at a healthcare facility near you that is. Make your desire to fill a dual role between your healthcare expertise and informatics clear when you are involved in the interview process. Another idea would be to continue with your healthcare career while going to college for Healthcare Informatics Management or to obtain your degree in Computer Science.

For IT Professionals lacking Healthcare/HIT experience.. most healthcare systems have a need for core technology professionals with a background in DBA, Wireless, helpdesk and many other areas. Try to find a position within Healthcare facility that can utilize your previous technology expertise. When you interview, make it clear that you would like to eventually advance your career into working with the EMR software. Sometimes you will find opportunities that need a combination of both EMR software experience and other technical expertise, in these situations if your existing experience is strong enough many healthcare facilities will hire and train for permanent positions.

For College Graduates that have a Healthcare Technology Degree but no work related experience... while a degree in HCIT looks fabulous on a resume, it can be more difficult than the above scenarios when trying to land a career with no prior work experience. Use your school's career-placement team to assist you. Normally most colleges will have a career-placement department that partners with area companies that are eager to hire recent graduates. Next focus your efforts on all the hospitals within a sensible commute distance from your home. Scour their web site career section for any entry level position that will match your educational background. Follow up by looking on Linkedin for the person that might be the manager of that position and message them with your interest and inquire if they have any suggestions on how you can land an interview. If you are having challenges finding the ideal position, settling for second best until you gain valuable experience is never a bad idea.

The option of working directly for an EMR vendor... sometimes the EMR Vendors will hire people with any of the above qualifications. The Top EMR Vendors are Epic and Cerner followed by the rest (Meditech, McKesson, NextGen, Allscripts, etc). Most EMR Vendor companies will require relocation to the city that houses their corporate offices. (Ex:  Epic Verona, WI and Cerner...Kansas City)
While Epic and Cerner may be considered a dream space for most HCIT Professionals due to the strength they have in the market, most vendors have strong non-compete clauses in their employment contracts. If you chose to work for a large EMR vendor you will gain invaluable experience but if you decide to leave their employment you may find yourself unable to work with their product or at their clients for 12 - 24 mos.  One should always pay attention to the fine print when signing an employment contract.
Hopefully this information will help you in your journey into the Healthcare Technology Industry.

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  1. Good advice. It is definitely challenging to get started in Informatics. As more hospitals and practices strive to meet meaningful use & qualify for ARRA money, I think the demand for skilled workers will only increase, thereby reducing (in theory anyway) the stringency of the requirements.

  2. Would you kindly list some of these consulting firms you mentioned?

    "Some consulting firms are trending toward hiring professionals with limited experience but tons of potential, and offering training (or certification) in exchange for a 12 to 24 month agreement of employment"

    1. Thank you for your comment. I do not list firms on this site because I want to remain I do not promote any specific firms / vendors etc. Typically you can find the companies by watching the posts on various Healthcare IT Job sites and linkedin groups.

  3. Via Linkedin: Milena (Lena) Matyas, MSN, BSN, RN • Great information. As an RN with 18 yrs. of experience and with a Master's degree in Nursing Informatics, I am still trying to break into HIT. Your information about EPIC non compete agreement was also a great information
    Ishisha Timmons • Thank you for sharing the information on your blog. The non compete agreement that is required by EPIC was a great share.
    Racheal Galloway • This information helpful as the opportunities, especially at entry levels, are not always advertised or easy to research.

  4. Via LinkedIn:
    Daniel Schutzberg, PMP2nd
    "As a PMP with over 15 years of project, portfolio and program management, I found this article offers a rare treasure: a road map to transition into healthcare! As with any job search, the timeline (sorry!) is flexible and 'depends'....."

  5. Via LinkedIn:
    Diana Bishop1st

    "Great post. Education is key, especially for those new to the industry. Study up on key lingo and acronyms. Keep up-to-date on new regulations and dates important to your target employer(s). Search out local industry groups/newsletters for the industry subsets (hospital, biotech, etc.) and locales that

  6. Via LinkedIn: Tina Czopek, BSN, RN
    Nice article. I would add (1) learn what government initiatives and legislation are being implemented and how they affect healthcare, 2) attend annual industry conferences like ANIA, AMIA, SINI, and HIMSS to see what interesting trends are in the HIT market, 3) join local chapters related to these organizations, and (4) attend their local meetings to learn innovative HIT trends, make local industry contacts, and find professional inspiration. These activities may inspire you to refine your HIT interests, possibly becoming a nurse or other health professional.