In region C during the first year, 52 percent of students had a master’s or
bachelor’s degree, and 58 percent had more than 21 years of experience
in healthcare or IT.
Students with Experience
Graduates of the program are not fresh-faced students. Many
are mid-career professionals with more than 20 years of experience in the IT or healthcare field, Morganti says.
While more students have been coming from the healthcare
industry, a “substantial number” are also coming from IT, Mohla says. The average age of the student is 44, and many are taking
the classes online.
“Some people are already in the field who want to get some
skills that let them be more useful, so moving up the career ladder, using this program as a way of getting a job with more responsibility,” Kendall says.
In region C during the first year, 52 percent of students had a
master’s or bachelor’s degree, and 58 percent had more than 21
years of experience in healthcare or IT.
Consortia graduate Julie Simmons, RN, was working as a clinical documentation improvement specialist in a Texas hospital
when she entered the program’s clinical/practitioner consultant
education track. The 53-year-old sought the training necessary
to become a nurse practitioner who worked directly with tele-medicine systems.
During class, she learned about the need for project managers and other specialists to help facilities implement a federal
health IT initiative—the EHR meaningful use program. When a
position for a meaningful use project manager opened up at a
hospital in Louisiana, Simmons applied for the job.
During the interview, she discussed her background as a
nurse, CDI specialist, and her other project management and
quality experience. But what impressed Simmons’ interviewer
most was her knowledge of EHRs and the meaningful use program itself, information she obtained entirely from the consortia educational program.
“Out of 10 applicants I was the only one who had the knowl-
edge base of what meaningful use was and understood what
electronic health records were,” Simmons says. “She said, ‘I can
work with you on the IT part of it, I need someone who has clini-
cal knowledge and knows the stages of meaningful use in order
for us to get started.’”
Simmons got the job and started while finishing up her con-
sortia training program.
“I was really excited to accept this position because I think it is
going to be such a door-opener to other opportunities later on,”
AHIMA members are ideal candidates for the consortia training programs, ONC’s Kendall says, and many HIM professionals are joining classes. For example, top certifications held by
region C students include the CCA, RHIT, and RHIA.
Gooding believes more HIM professionals should take ad-
vantage of the program, especially now, when federal funding
is flowing. “We are one of the few academically prepared profes-
sions to give us the edge in the electronic health record field,”
she says. These are not the HIM jobs of the future, but the pres-
ent, she says.
Landing Health IT Jobs
Solid data on the number of students either being promoted or
landing new jobs as the result of consortia training are not yet
available, though ONC is compiling that information. Preliminary data show that some graduates are getting jobs, typically
in hospital systems as health IT consultants, implementation
specialists, or workflow redesign consultants. EHR vendors and
the regional extension centers (RECs) are also hiring graduates,
Consortia regions must actively work with the healthcare industry to promote and identify jobs for graduates. Some regions
have held job fairs or partnered with employers to recommend
When the consortia program was created, the RECs were considered a key employer. But many RECs launched in mid-2010
to help providers implement EHRs, well before the first consortia graduates hit the market in spring 2011. Industry experts
wondered if the RECs would have any jobs left by the time consortia students were ready for work.
But the RECs are still recruiting workers, Mohla says. The RECs
continue to grow, and they have moved from a focus on enrolling participants to actually helping them implement health IT,
which requires more implementation specialists.
Frank Lillo began his part-time job as an EHR consultant at
the South Florida Regional Extension Center in June. He’ll be
conducting EHR needs assessments for providers, a role he feels
will lead to a healthy career in health IT implementation. Ultimately he’d like to work full time implementing EHR systems,
but “this is a great step in the right direction,” he says.
Even in areas where the RECs are fully staffed, they have
served as a bridge between health IT employers and consortia
colleges, enabling introductions and passing along job prospects, Morganti says.
Demonstrating the Value to Employers
But not everyone has had success following the program. Getting the word out that consortium graduates have the skills to
aid providers with health IT issues has been challenging.
A complaint from some consortia graduates is that many providers and other employers have not heard about the program
and do not understand the value of the training.
Part of an online networking group of former consortia students, Lillo has spoken to frustrated students who feel their
training is not being recognized in the healthcare industry.