Healthcare Tech Talent: Not Just a Plus, It's a Must!

Published: Tuesday, Feb 19, 2008
The ANCC Content Expert Panel's process of evaluating and updating its certification examinations, including that for informatics nurses, involves a logical job analysis conducted every time the scope and standards are updated. Recommendations are made in between content outlines, and the committee reviews all of the submitted test questions and answers for the validity of the content. The written portion of the examination for informatics certification requires information on the length of time worked in a nursing specialty and any educational background specific to informatics that qualifies a nurse applicant.

The nursing informatics certification is not an advanced practice certification, however, meaning interested providers don't have to be a nurse practitioner (NP) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS) to be certified in informatics. Download an application.

License to Skill

Many professional medical associations have specific guidelines in place to ensure the highest caliber of its members. The American College of Physicians (ACP), for example, requires a medical degree, a current license to practice medicine, and certification in internal medicine to qualify as an applicant for their society. Information technology expertise may soon be added to that list, and not just for practicing physicians. "At the association level, we increasingly need people, particularly in our policy area, who understand the problems that hospitals face, adapting these technologies, and the regulatory and the legal barriers that they may face, as well as the resource constraints," says Rick Wade, Senior Vice President, Communications, at the American Hospital Association (AHA). "We increasingly look for people who understand the world that our members are going through."

To illustrate one area of need, Wade mentions the limited ability of small rural hospitals to adopt new technology because of their limited budgets, compared with those of larger multi-hospital systems and those in more urbanized areas. "You need someone who can use the technology at the association level to communicate with the members and to make the best use of the member's resources," he says. The transformations being wrought by the application of new technologies throughout the healthcare system have changed the qualifications being looked for in healthcare executives and consultants. "The ideal candidate [now] is the one that can handle interfaces at the programming level--service-oriented architecture, system maintenance, and business continuity," says Jeffrey C. Bauer, PhD, a Chicago-based partner in management consulting for ACS (Affiliated Computer Services, Inc.).

Part of the challenge in finding the right physician or healthcare IT specialist is hiring the right recruiter or human resources staff. "You almost always hire a CIO to be part of your executive team and then lean on that person entirely to navigate those waters," says Wade. "Some of them have been very happy with the outcome and others have ended up with an ice bag on their head, wondering how they got there because they poured a lot of money into something and six years later, it's junk and they don't know what to do with it." Bauer agrees, citing lack of understanding about job roles as a reason for the high health system CIO turnover rate.

Passiment suggests that the people who are most successful in managing the clinical information and faculty in a medical school environment "have a broad understanding of where healthcare is going, where their institution is going, and have a good business sense." The modern healthcare industry needs people "who understand the practice of medicine and the operation of healthcare, who can influence the development of our solutions and software, and who understand the workflow and how that can change," says Julie Wilson, Chief People Officer and Vice President, Cerner Corporation, a healthcare technology solutions company that designs and implements software and services for healthcare organizations and clinicians. Professionals who want to get ahead in a changing healthcare environment "need to be adaptive to technology."

The Long and Short of IT

Physicians and allied healthcare professionals are expected to treat an escalating number of patients efficiently while maintaining the highest quality standards. Meanwhile, healthcare organizations must increasingly deal with clinical staff shortages. One solution to the personnel shortage in nursing and other medical specialties is to promote widespread adoption of cutting-edge information technology to streamline workloads and incorporate the clinical decision support tools that ensure safety, creating a quality environment for patients. Successful implementation of this strategy requires recruiting the right people for the job.

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