After being laid off from a private sector technology job, Linda Gebaroof directed her energies toward starting a career in health I.T. Having worked as licensed practical nurse many years ago, and with an associate's degree in computer science, she figured moving into health care I.T. wasn't much of stretch.
And to increase her marketability, she enrolled in and completed an HIT training program at a nearby community college, a program funded by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology's Community College Consortia program, designed to train more than 10,500 new HIT professionals a year.
But even armed with clinical and I.T. experiences, plus the program degree, she's been unable to break into the market. "I finished the program last March-and I still have not been able to find a job in a hospital," says Gebaroof, who is working as a device tester for a wireless communications company.
Gregg Hoshovsky had a different experience. When he realized his job as a senior Java developer at an e-commerce company was going to be outsourced to India, he decided to do something to increase his employment prospects here in the United States.
He enrolled in the ONC's University-Based Training Program, another workforce development program that's designed to add 1,500 workers with advanced, university-level HIT training to the labor pool.
After completing the program, he was hired as a senior application analyst, working to install electronic health records at St. Charles Health System, Bend, Ore.
"The training program made it much easier for me to make the transition to the health care industry. I was able to talk the talk during the job interview," Hoshovsky says. "The classes that Oregon Health and Science University require for the master's certificate in biomedical informatics enabled me to talk about a wide range of subjects such as evidence-based medicine, public health informatics and heath care quality."
For your consideration: HDM Readers Debate ONC’s HIT Training Program
The ONC programs, the two main initiatives under the office's Workforce Development Program, have punched the ticket for some workers trying to get into health I.T., which by many accounts faces an acute labor shortage and will continue to need more manpower for the foreseeable future.
But on the flip side, some program graduates say they are still struggling to get their foot in the proverbial door, and question the marketability of the training they received.
Likewise, many I.T. executives are seemingly reluctant to hire program grads because of a lack of specific skill sets, an issue that workforce program leaders acknowledge but are having a tough time addressing in the classroom.
The ONC effort was launched in April 2010, so it's still difficult to gauge the success of the program. But program leaders, graduates and industry execs agree that changes need to be made to better match up skill sets with market needs.
Health Data Management’s June cover story, “HIT Help Wanted: Will ONC-Funded Programs Do the Trick?” looks at the progress and challenges of the continuing effort to bring new information technology talent into health care.
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