Bridging the Gap Between HIT Education and Workforce Development

Posted on February 29, 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 came across a recent article about an initiative between the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the US Dept. of Labor to “train students at community and technical colleges for health IT jobs at hospitals and clinics in rural areas.”

The struggle for rural healthcare facilities to find qualified candidates – in healthcare IT or otherwise – has been well-documented, as has the struggle that healthcare IT students face when it comes time to find a job. Prospective vendor employers typically require that job candidates have experience working with their systems, yet few make those systems available to academic institutions via internships or technology donations.

The rural health IT training program highlights specific objectives that I think would apply to health IT workforce development in any area:

  • Reach out to potential workers and employers to inform them about career pathways in health information management and technology
  • Support employers in educating potential health IT workers, which would include current staff that need training and newly recruited staff
  • Support employers in staffing health IT positions

This disconnect between academia, graduates and employers is one that I think all healthcare IT education programs are facing, no matter what area their students will eventually end up working in. Another of which I was recently made aware is the lack of communication between academic institutions and the employer community. There are several schools in my home state of Georgia that currently have HIT programs in place, but the surrounding business community is not aware some of them exist, and therefore completely overlook graduating classes full of job candidates.

The Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG’s) Health Society is working with several area schools including Georgia Tech, Georgia Perimeter and Southern Polytechnic to help bridge this gap, and hopes to bring graduates and employers together at its HIT Job Fair on March 23rd.

In talking about the upcoming event with Deleise Lindsay, Founder and Principal of Well-Change Group and a member of TAG Health’s Board of Directors, she explained that not only do we need to make HIT job candidates and employers aware of each other, and ensure that graduates have proper training on software systems, but we must also equip them with the necessary professional skills that will make their transition into HIT that much quicker.

She highlighted three main challenges that academia and business currently face:

  • Building awareness of HIT job opportunities
  • Determining who is a viable candidate for these types of jobs – typically folks with clinical or IT backgrounds
  • Educating graduates on how to market themselves by equipping them with resume-building and networking skills

I’d love to hear from readers – job candidates, recent hires or employers – as to what you believe the secret to job hiring success is, and how you would recommend academia and employers work together to clear up this mystery.