How to Transfer Your Skills into Healthcare IT

We’ve written a lot about how the push toward integrating technology into healthcare will keep increasing the number of available jobs. The healthcare business simply can’t fill positions from the pool of people already working in the industry. If you’re in another sector, that means you have an opportunity — actually, a lot of opportunities — to jump in. But while we keep hearing about the great numbers of people needed, we haven’t seen a lot about the skills they need.

Surgeons at Work

“Business analysts, project managers and reporting analysts are in demand,” says Cathy Northamer, district president of Robert Half Technology, Creative Group in Minneapolis. “Because of changes to system hardware, we’re also seeing a need for people on the infrastructure side, although not as much because that’s traditionally at the end of the development life cycle.”

Steve Garske, Ph.d., the Vice President & Chief Information Officer for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, says he’s looking for people that can program as well as handle server and desktop administration. He also needs network and systems analysts, and SAN specialists.

Employers do prefer applicants to have Health IT experience, but they recognize that many skills are transferable. For example, healthcare requires a lot of reporting and reporting analysis. Applicants with the ability to slice and dice data, or with experience working with tools like Cognose or Datastage, “are very place-able,” Northamer says.

Also, Garske adds, applicants skilled in PeopleSoft and Oracle support, SQL, Java, JavaScript, Web support, and network engineers “are critical to the success of our IT organization.”

Soft skills — like having the ability to communicate well and negotiate with other team members and departments — are exceptionally important in healthcare. Initiatives often cross a number of disciplines, so you’ll be especially attractive if you understand the people side of the business and can work with all levels of users.

“If an organization is changing their code, a business analyst would need to sit with users and see how they’re doing what they’re doing,” explains Northamer. “They’d need to understand the people, the technology and the business elements before going back to IT to say ‘here’s what we need to change and this is the impact it will have on the business.’”

“When applying for a job, stress your soft skills and the ability to incorporate what you already know into a healthcare environment,” she suggests. If you can provide examples of how you learned something new in another position, then applied it and added value back to the company, you’ll be especially attractive.

This was reported and written by Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson, a reporter based in Los Angeles.

Comments

  1. BY ddub says:

    Interesting article but I also have a question – how does one transfer to Healthcare EDI. My colleagues and I have garment EDI skills – from setting up trading partners to mapping to troubleshooting and SQL reporting – but we are finding it hard to know what is required to be part of an EDI team in a healthcare environment. thank-you..

  2. BY Max says:

    If you ask me, the health care industry has often thought themselves special when they truly are not. HIPAA? Yeah, like there aren’t 100 other regulations in IT that we all deal with on a regular basis. Most of us were managing server pools before the medical industry even started using them. HIPAA just got them to quit storing everything on paper. It may have been revolutionary to the medical industry but there is not much special about it and any Infrastructure guy worth his salt is already employing controls that would meet this.

    As to soft skills, I don’t know many corporate IT jobs that do not require this. It is silly to think that only in the Health Care industry you would need to sit down with end users and discover user requirements, negotiate compromise, and deal with people who believe they are the experts (although doctors and engineers are the worst usually).

    At the end of the day, hiring IT staff based on industry is largely ignorant outside of some application development. We are in a fast paced world now. Most corporations require 24/7 availability, high redundancy, secure environments. The financial industry has a better claim on uniqueness. Time to wake up you medical HR folks!

    • BY Brooke says:

      Absolutely agree with Max’s comments – at some point health care will have to accept that in order to get experts, someone has to learn, and our soft skills make us perfect candidates. Hope you figure it out soon!

      • BY Pat says:

        After a career as a Business Analyst and Programmer and a stint in EMR training, I found that after learning the medical terminology, clinical flow and the software, the biggest difference is the arrogance of the customer, i.e., many doctors don’t like to listen to and learn from anybody. Beyond that, if you can turn on a dime and learn on your feet, it’s no different than many other environments. The so-called shortage of people in this area is contrived, just like the IT skills shortage. Discarded IT workers can be retrained for these jobs a lot easier than medical workers that might not already understand IT, but industry is dropping the ball on this. It’s the early 2000′s all over again.

  3. BY Rob says:

    No thanks. Anything having to do with things that function below the level of the skin does not interest me…

    But sadly, it’s the big medical industries that seem to be running the world these days.

  4. BY David says:

    Hey Max, excellent and right-on comments. I could not agree more.

    I’m an unemployed IT tech writer (with relatively brief BA experience) who has applied to a number of health care related companies over the last four months. They always seem to disqualify me based solely on “no health care experience,” as if I have never learned what I needed to know over the last 16 years for several other types of industries, including accounting, government, sciences, library, DoD, and several others. It’s as if they just don’t even want to hear it.

    As for them, they lost a quality IT person would have ramped-up quickly and provde them with quality work. As for me, I’m left with this on-going job search.

    David

  5. BY Mike says:

    Funny. I began my IT/IS career in “healthcare”, with a company that was ultimately absorbed into McKesson. I have also worked in IT/IS for a hospital. So, why is healthcare not knocking on my door?

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