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More Complaints About the ONC Workforce Program

I think my post on Finding Jobs for ONC Workforce Participants and other related posts have been some of the saddest posts I’ve done. My heart really does break when I read the stories of the people who have done the ONC Workforce program and can’t find healthcare IT jobs. Here’s one such example that was recently left in the comments (minor modifications from the original):

I too completed the ONC Workforce Training Program in December 2011. I am an R.N. with over 20 years of healthcare experience.I have no prior IT experience…$19 billion dollars [the whole HITECH Act was $36 billion, so this number is off. I want to say the workforce program was just a little under $1 billion. Either way, it's still a lot of money.] of tax payers money has been invested in the training we should be prepared to get a job. I have been agressively looking for an entry level position also and have not been able to get work because when I speak to employers, recruiters, the outcome is always the same “the EHR companies want experienced people”, they are not interested in the HIT certification. The IT companies are being very selective at this time, they are looking for experts to implement the EHR systems. Eveyone is making money, the colleges, Ahima, Pearson Vue, computer companies, printer companies, and all of the supply companies that students buy equipment and supplies from. I have spent $3,000.00 on equipment in preparation for taking the ONC training. It may be tuition free, but it is very expensive to take the training. I have been unemployed for almost 4 years due to lay-offs. I have advanced training in healthcare and have spent large sums of money and remain unemployed. I thought that with my nursing background that I would have been a perfect fit for the ONC Trainer Role. I appreciate the training, but am greatly disappointed with not being trained for the job industry. Well if anyone has any lead on how I can get a job please share the information.

In that post, I linked to the EMR & EHR Jobs board that I have in the sidebar of my websites. There are quite a few EMR related jobs listed there. I haven’t quite figured out the reason for the disconnect. I’ve always been an experience over certification guy, but some of these stories really tug at the heart strings. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have many answers for these people searching for healthcare IT jobs.

May 23, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Transitioning to Health IT Jobs

I’ve made the transition to health IT relatively recently. In May that I started doing some contract work as tech writer for a health IT vendor, then looked around for health IT related gigs – if there was a business analyst or tech writer posted in the DC/Baltimore area on Craigslist or Monster, you can bet that my resume was in there somewhere. It took me a good two months of searching to land my current job (and after two months of email after email saying “sorry, your resume didn’t make the cut”, I got three job offers in the same week – true story.) This is what I’ve learned along the way:

1) Having health-care related credentials helps: It can be anything – a degree, college coursework, actual paying jobs or volunteer positions you’ve held. In my case, I had a B.S. in pharmacy with a minor in IT, and a masters in Communication, so it seemed as if a health IT tech writer gig would be perfect for me. I believe that adding the “My undergrad major was pharmacy” in my cover letters was the phrase that opened doors for me.

2) Volunteer: I have mixed feelings about this piece of advice. It’s a well known secret that employers want certifications in vendor-specific products in the candidates they shortlist, which makes it something of an impossibility for regular IT folks looking to transfer to health IT.

On the HIMSS blog, there was a really interesting discussion from some time ago on healthcare employers not getting enough trained health IT people. The comment section was really enlightening – a commenter said “I’d like to share a little known secret: many hospital employees, IT included, are hired as a result of volunteer activities at the very same hospital that he or she volunteered at.”

Someone else commented that “An open secret in the NPO world is that they get many person hours donated with the unstated goal of being hired but no person ever actually receives employment. Especially in towns with many colleges and universities, some NPOs glean many free person hours from students and depend on the myth that all NPOs hire this way.”

So in effect: you might get a paid health IT gig after volunteering at a hospital or similar setting, but such NPOs are also the most liable to take advantage of you by dangling the job carrot before you. Also volunteering when you’re a newbie to the workforce might make sense, but I’d really love to see how that might help a mid-career IT person with a few years of experience under her belt, and with mouths to feed at home. I’m not discounting it entirely, but I’d do my research (how many volunteers were actually hired, and so on).

3) Hone up on healthcare concepts skills: HIMSS has a great repository Health IT Body of Knowledge. Read some blogs, follow the #EMR #EHR twitter feeds, or check out the thought leaders on Quora. Figure out which aspect of health IT interests you – is it the mobile apps sector, or EMR product development?

4) Learn from the greats: I really lucked out that I got some great health IT mentors this year who worked with me into turning the raw ingredients of my healthcare knowledge into something semi-cooked. And this is true of any area where you’re a learner – the more you show your enthusiasm for something, the more people are willing to teach you what they know. If there’s someone in your office or friends circle who is a walking encyclopedia of anything health IT, talk to them, and ask for their advice. If you don’t know any such person, make online relationships by commenting on blogs or following conversations on twitter. Read what the greats read, engage them in conversations. Knowledge osmosis will take care of the rest.

November 14, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now writes about healthcare, science and technology as well as traditional news features.

Innovation Exchanges for Healthcare Stakeholders and IT Folks

Health IT is revolutionizing healthcare in front of our eyes. Every other day, you hear about yet another device or app that measures various aspects of your health, reports findings to doctors. Some of the biggest names in the business world have entered the healthcare market or at least experimented with it (sorry, Google Health, better luck next time). Between HITECH, HIPAA and the monetary implications of the Affordable Care Act, there’s a governmental push for HIT as well, which in some ways bestows an immediacy (and dollars) to health IT.

To regular IT people, health IT looks like a great industry to be in. Healthcare is generally considered recession proof, there’s ample opportunity for innovation, and there’s a certain democratization in how health is managed – an iPhone app can do what your optometrist did, and while you’re never going to be able to write yourself a prescription for sunglasses, there’s a lot more you can know about your health compared to 10 years ago.

And yet, here’s the secret. Not many IT folks know how to make the jump to health IT. I get this question all the time – how do *I* make the switch to healthcare IT? To me at least, it looked as if the best thing would be to network with healthcare industry people, and figure out a way to segue inwards. Clearly there’s a shortfall of health IT professionals (and the paradoxical personal experiences that the newly minted health IT certified folks face – not being trained on vendor specific software is making it difficult to get jobs, but that’s another topic for another day.)

That’s why I’m particularly enthused by what’s coming from the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). ONC is spearheading Innovation Exchanges as part of the White House Startup America initiatives. The idea for the exchanges is to bring together healthcare stakeholders with developers and others from the IT world, so they can work together from early stage idea innovation right through to the concrete realization of these ideas.

If you’re someone with a good health IT idea in proof-of-concept stages or even someone just breaking into the health IT market, here’s a great chance to test out the waters with healthcare people who are as eager to strike up collaborations with IT folk. Health 2.0 Conferences are scheduled in San Francisco, Indianapolis and the New England area.

September 6, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now writes about healthcare, science and technology as well as traditional news features.

Finding Jobs for ONC Workforce Program Participants

In response to my post about the ONC Workforce program, I got sent the following message:

I have also completed the ONC Workforce Program. Ms. Feldman is not exaggerating about its difficulty, though my program did not have assignment deadlines. Her comments prove to be another verification that the programs present the standard materials differently. We were told that the course work would take 15-20 hrs/wk, but found we had to double that to complete within 6 months (and work around the high attrition from instructors). When she mentions spelling errors, and missing or duplicated material, it may sound trivial until one sees the extent of the errors. In May, a “corrected” version of the material was released, however. I don’t know the extent of improvement because I completed the program with the beta version.

Perhaps worth discussion is the fact that there are few internships and NO positions that want HITECH graduates without Epic, NextGen, Allscripts, or GE Centricity experience. These vendors do not have classes/seminars on their software, except for facilities who have purchased their product.

When added together, I believe the Workforce Development Program has put people through an enormous amount of pressure, lost many capable people along the way (7000 entered, 2280 completed, according to ONC) and, because back-end gaps for transitioning into entry-level HIT positions exist, we are unable to gain entry to the fastest growing segment for the labor force. That helps nobody.

My heart definitely goes out to these people who’ve gone through the courses and can’t find the jobs. I was particularly taken back by the comment in the middle about there being no positions that want HITECH graduates without the specific EHR experience. Although, I think that might be location specific. Or maybe I just got lucky getting my first job in the EMR world without any EMR experience. I still remember when they asked me to tell them about my experience in healthcare and I responded, “I’ve been to a doctor.” So, there are exceptions, but you have to find them.

I took a few looks at the jobs listed on my EMR and EHR jobs board. Based on past postings, I can definitely say that it’s competitive to apply for an EMR job. Even if there’s a real need for a well trained healthcare IT workforce. I’m not sure if that’s a function of a down economy shifting many workers into healthcare or what.

I welcome other ONC Workforce Program participants to share their experiences in the comments. What have you found that works? Where can other graduates look for EMR and healthcare IT related jobs? I’ll be interested to hear your stories and suggestions.

August 25, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 14 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.