Getting to Know Your Community College Consortium: Part 1, Region A

Providers will need an increased workforce of skilled health IT specialists as they transition to electronic health records (EHRs).

That’s why the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) created the Community College Consortia to Educate Health Information Professionals Program, which is a part of ONC’s Health IT Workforce Development Program.

The Community College Consortia program includes five regional groups—Regions A, B, C, D, and E. The five consortia currently include 82 member community colleges representing all 50 states. The member community colleges received funding to develop or improve non-degree health IT training programs that can be completed in six months or less. The programs are designed for professionals with an IT or health care background.

In all, the community colleges in the program hope to train a total of more than 10,500 new highly skilled health IT specialists a year once the programs are at full capacity.

Over the next few blog entries, a representative from each Region will summarize the activities and accomplishments of the students and community colleges in their area. This post focuses on Region A.

Region A 101

By: Patricia Dombrowski, Bellevue College

I am director of the Life Science Informatics Center at Bellevue College, which is leading a consortium of community colleges in Region A.

Region A is the largest geographic region in the program, but has the smallest overall population. We are comprised of 10 states: Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. There are eight member colleges in our Consortium:

  • Washington: Bellevue College
  • Oregon: Portland Community College
  • Idaho: North Idaho Community College
  • Montana: Montana Tech
  • Utah: Salt Lake Community College
  • Colorado: Pueblo Community College
  • North Dakota: Lake Region College
  • South Dakota: Dakota State University

Some of our member colleges have well established health IT programs, while others created new courses to participate in ONC’s grant program. The member colleges are different in many ways, but we are all are genuinely united in the fast-moving mission to create skilled health IT professionals for the future.

The health IT training programs provided by our community colleges include certificates which can be completed in six months or less. Many classes are available online. We provide internship and job placement assistance to students, and some of our programs offer financial assistance for students who qualify.

The Region A Community College Consortium will train 2,400 people for employment in health information technology by the end of 2012. Like our students, we are moving full steam ahead to prepare a workforce to support the adoption of EHRs in health care organizations in our region.

Our Students

Our students come from diverse backgrounds, many bringing decades of experience to the health IT industry. These motivated learners welcome the challenges that await them as both students and graduates, and are eager to become a critical part of the changing face of health care.

The first group of graduates from Bellevue College are entering the job market now. Some have been immediately successful finding positions; others are still in process. Each member college has a staff member in place to assist with employer outreach and placement. In addition, ONC-supported resume reviews, mock interviews, internships, and networking events have proved helpful resources for our graduates. The colleges also pursue job placement opportunities through social networking, professional association conferences, and public health organizations.

Hilary Facer, a recent graduate of the Bellevue College Health IT program, exemplifies the type of person this program attracts. Facer has a Bachelors degree and training in Software Quality Engineering, as well as strong technology skills and database systems experience. Shortly after completing the program, she was hired by Highline Hospital where she is currently a Systems Analyst involved in designing and developing EHRs. Facer was profiled in the Winter 2011 Washington Health IT Workforce Newsletter.

Mark Miller, another Bellevue College graduate, has been involved with technology and training since 1978 in military, aviation, electronics, and computer fields. He discovered the Bellevue College HIT program at a job fair in Renton, WA, and decided to attend. After working on a successful launch of a major update to EHRs in a large area hospital, Miller has moved on to creating e-learning courses for the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT). In this position he has been able to directly apply the Bellevue College program information, helping hospitals navigate their way through the Health Information Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to earn EHR incentive money.

Just a few years ago, Lamar Community College student Michelle England landed a job at a local nursing home, which sparked an enduring interest in health care. After she was injured on the job and unable to do any heavy lifting, she started working with medical records. She completed a medical coding program and passed the Registered Health Information Technician National Exam. Equipped with a solid Health Information Management foundation, she is now taking advantage of the health IT training programs offered at Lamar Community College in Colorado. England will also be adding two Health IT certificates to her list of achievements in May.

For More Information

Interested in learning more about College Consortium programs in Region A? Visit http://nwhit.org/ for more information.

You can also follow us on Twitter, and “Like us” on Facebook to join the conversation!

Not sure which colleges are participating near you? Contact the consortium leader for your geographical area.

Look for more blogs about the other regions participating in the consortium in future Health IT Buzz blogs. We encourage you to post any comments below.

4 Comments

  1. Eduardo Gonzalez Loumiet says:

    This is wonderful. It is important that the program work with minorities to assure they are receiving the same opportunities as others. I recently wrote an article where I mentioned this program and how Latinos should participate:

    http://www.wiredlatinos.com/commentary/health-information-technology-in-need-of-latinos/

    Eduardo

  2. Steve Beckmann says:

    I just completed a ONC- HIT certification program at my local community college. Unfortunately I find that there are no job opportunities for me and the other graduates of my program.

    The hospitals in my area are not impressed by the HIT certification and will only talk with candidates with 5+ years of HIT experience.

    In other words the potential employers in this field are busy stealing employees from each other and there are no entry level opportunities, even for those with technical experience (outside of the medical field).

    The ONC might consider using some of the incentive money to encourage employers in the HIT field to open their doors to HIT internships and new employee training programs so we can start getting new blood into the system.

  3. Eva G. says:

    This blog brings up a number of really great issues in both health care and the job economy. First, is the issues of electronic health records. This is a relatively new phenomena as many health care organizations are in the process of digitizing records. The demand for this field is much greater than it has every been in the past in such a technologically-driven society.

    As internet technology and technology in general become and continue to become a booming industry, training students in health IT will expose them to a new and growing field that needs professionally trained individuals. Offering this at a community college level will offer a wider variety of students the ability to enter the workforce and be prepared for a growing field.

    In response to other blog comments, I think that finding a job today continues to be a challenge. Like any profession, you have to gain experience and find the right opportunities to get a job. However, being in the right field at the right time (such as IT Health) will be beneficial in the long run.

  4. Joe N. says:

    Steve’s right on. I’m a registered nurse in the NW with a master’s in HIT, and I have been looking for an HIT position for the past 6 months. Everyone is looking for seasoned, 5+ years HIT experience, with vendor certification – which it is almost impossible to achieve certification unless you are already in an HIT position.
    There are simply no entry level positions for new grads. Organizations are feeling the time/budget pressures due to Meaningful Use, ICD-10, and ACO and are looking to hire people able to deliver them a miracle.
    Like Steve mentions, internships would go a long way to help us new grads out!

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