July 8, 2015
Starting a career in health IT is an exciting challenge. There’s a lot to know, a lot to learn, and a lot of possibilities along the path to a successful career.
Although it may be hard to imagine, top health IT pros were once green new hires unsure of their future in the industry. They didn’t know the ins and outs of the field, the rules of the professional world, or the best ways to advance their careers. I spoke with two of these pros from the Baby Boomer generation to learn what they wished they know at the start of their careers and what advice they had for new health IT professionals.
Here’s what they had to say:
Health IT is changing, and new professionals should be prepared for a fast-paced and exciting industry.
“This is a time of transformation and that means risks of some instability,” said Christina Thielst, FACHE, healthcare administrator and author. “However, if you are up for a wild ride and willing to be flexible there will be tremendous opportunities in health IT.”
As both technology and healthcare advance, health IT professionals need to adapt quickly and embrace the changes in order to succeed.
“Never be afraid to learn new things,” said Peter Gilbert, Application Development Manager at Meridian Health Plan. “You would be surprised how many IT people are resistant to change.”
To keep up with the fast-paced field, accept new responsibilities and look for ways to continue developing your skills, Thielst suggests.
“Look for positions that are interesting and where there is opportunity to learn and grow as a professional,” Thielst said. “This will best prepare you for the opportunities that will lay ahead.”
Remember the basics.
Although the changing industry will require new skills and knowledge of new technology, the basics are still the most important tools health IT professionals need.
“Learn the fundamentals, but expect the technology to change,” Gilbert advises. “The basics of problem solving and coding do not change, but languages and tools will.”
Expand your knowledge.
Health IT is a complex field, and you need more than just tech skills to get by. Knowledge of the business and a clinical background can help to open more doors, Thielst suggests.
“The most critical thing for health IT professionals is to understand the broader strategies of the organization and the needs and perspectives of the doctors, nurses, techs, and administrators,” Thielst said. “When both parties understand each other, they will be more successful together.”
Understanding providers is only one part of the equation. Health IT professionals also need to be knowledgeable about the business side of the operation. Without this information, professionals can’t make improvements.
“Just knowing IT is not enough,” Gilbert said. “You need to know the business that you support to make effective use of technology. It is not all about technology. It is about using technology to do good things.”
Find your passion.
Even with top skills and knowledge, success in the field is up to an individual and his or her actions and attitudes.
“Success comes from our individual passions and our internal drives,” Thielst said. “Certainly there are other environmental influences, such as, really hitting it off (or not) with a supervisor. But, in the long run, commitment and hard work will see us through even the most uncertain times.”
Gilbert agrees that passion is a critical part of a career in health IT.
“Doing something that you love to do is the most important,” Gilbert said. “I have worked with too many people who hated their jobs and made the rest of us miserable.”
No matter where your passions lie in health IT, being open to the opportunities and changes in the field will ensure a satisfying and rewarding career.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
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