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From the Trenches of Healthcare IT Education

Posted on April 5, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I’ve been writing about and commenting on the plight of healthcare IT students for a few months now, and the recent HIT job fair I spoke at gave me a great chance to talk one-on-one with folks finishing up their course work and getting ready to enter the job market. One – Helen Murphy, who is currently Director of Sonographic Education at Worldwide International Emergency Medical Services in Atlanta – was nice enough to share her experience with me first-hand.

What educational program are you in right now?
I have recently completed the Health Information Technology (HIT) Workforce Development Program Trainer Role being offered through the Atlanta Technical College.  Atlanta Tech is one of the Community College Consortia designated to educate HIT professionals.

What prompted you to enter a healthcare IT curriculum?
I understand the value of Healthcare information technology, and the benefit EHRs will bring with regards to patient safety, workflow efficiency and return on investment.  The opportunity to use my healthcare education along with my training experience was a perfect combination to me. Educating and/or training have been a part of all of my work experience, and this program is an opportunity to be a part of a profession that is in its infancy.

What did you find to be the most challenging in your studies?
My background is healthcare-based, so understanding some of the IT areas are challenging to a degree.

When do you anticipate graduating?
I have completed the course and I am now studying to take the competency exam.

How is your program helping you with system training? Apprenticeships/internships/co-ops, etc.?
Atlanta Tech has initiated a six week program/internship where students who have completed the curriculum will have the opportunity to work with Pristine Technology Solutions – an Atlanta-based technology company that focuses on EHR application sales, implementation, training, support and understanding the steps to help providers reach the goals of Meaningful Use.

How has your school helped you in looking for a job?
The school has had one job fair that I attended prior to me completing my curriculum.  The internship that I am currently in made us aware of the Technology Association of Georgia Health IT Job Fair where I met you, and where the students from the Atlanta Technical College program were able to see what companies are looking for in a health IT workforce graduate. This is helping me to understand how to align my education and experience with the needs of the employers to create a tailored perspective that will show the immediate value I can provide for them in health information technology.

What do you anticipate your chances of finding employment to be right after graduation?
I anticipate employment in the very near future because the Atlanta Tech program has provided us with an internship that gives us direction in the job search.

Do you get the feeling it’s a competitive field?
I do not think there are enough trained HIT workforce individuals. Employers in some cases at this point are not completely sure what they need in potential employees, and until the field of healthcare IT has developed further, there will be a continued need for HIT trained professionals.

What are you doing to stand out from the pack?
I am developing a presence on Twitter, upgrading my LinkedIn Profile, and starting a blog about my process of becoming a health information technology professional.  I am also gaining as much knowledge and experience as possible through the internship that is being provided by Atlanta Technical College. I also understand the importance of training, and am building a strategy that will allow me to understand the needs of the providers so that I can learn to create targeted engagement methods to meet their individual needs.

Do you have any other tips for those seeking employment in HIT?
Of course, updating your professional profile to highlight your HIT experience and education is critical. Attend job fairs where a job seeker can become aware of the types of positions that are available and how they would best qualify for those positions.  It is also crucial that the job seeker understand the HITECH Act and be able to speak knowledgeably about Meaningful Use.