Finding Jobs for ONC Workforce Program Participants

In response to my post about the ONC Workforce program, I got sent the following message:

I have also completed the ONC Workforce Program. Ms. Feldman is not exaggerating about its difficulty, though my program did not have assignment deadlines. Her comments prove to be another verification that the programs present the standard materials differently. We were told that the course work would take 15-20 hrs/wk, but found we had to double that to complete within 6 months (and work around the high attrition from instructors). When she mentions spelling errors, and missing or duplicated material, it may sound trivial until one sees the extent of the errors. In May, a “corrected” version of the material was released, however. I don’t know the extent of improvement because I completed the program with the beta version.

Perhaps worth discussion is the fact that there are few internships and NO positions that want HITECH graduates without Epic, NextGen, Allscripts, or GE Centricity experience. These vendors do not have classes/seminars on their software, except for facilities who have purchased their product.

When added together, I believe the Workforce Development Program has put people through an enormous amount of pressure, lost many capable people along the way (7000 entered, 2280 completed, according to ONC) and, because back-end gaps for transitioning into entry-level HIT positions exist, we are unable to gain entry to the fastest growing segment for the labor force. That helps nobody.

My heart definitely goes out to these people who’ve gone through the courses and can’t find the jobs. I was particularly taken back by the comment in the middle about there being no positions that want HITECH graduates without the specific EHR experience. Although, I think that might be location specific. Or maybe I just got lucky getting my first job in the EMR world without any EMR experience. I still remember when they asked me to tell them about my experience in healthcare and I responded, “I’ve been to a doctor.” So, there are exceptions, but you have to find them.

I took a few looks at the jobs listed on my EMR and EHR jobs board. Based on past postings, I can definitely say that it’s competitive to apply for an EMR job. Even if there’s a real need for a well trained healthcare IT workforce. I’m not sure if that’s a function of a down economy shifting many workers into healthcare or what.

I welcome other ONC Workforce Program participants to share their experiences in the comments. What have you found that works? Where can other graduates look for EMR and healthcare IT related jobs? I’ll be interested to hear your stories and suggestions.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

15 Comments

  • I have completed the Implementation Manager Workforce program and I am also finding it quite difficult in finding my first (HER) engagement. Internships at the Regional Extension Centers are few and I can not find any positions that want HITECH graduates without Epic, NextGen, Allscripts, or GE Centricity experience.
    I believe there is a lot which needs to be done in to transitioning HITRCH graduates into entry level HIT positions and internship opportunities. Graduated have invested a lot of time in completing these workforce roles and I wonder if there is a silver lining at the end of the tunnel.

  • Took the HIT-Pro certifying exam; did not take any course work (I’ve been doing this for a while.) The test was a joke – basically a compilation of ONC jargon and very general questions to check that the meaning of the jargon was understood. Nothing practical… and nothing that I felt would allow me to point to the exam as an indicator of competency in anything other than jargon-speak.

    Nearly 4 months later (I took the exam at the first opportunity in late May), I still haven’t received notification of passing or failing! The testing center sent a letter in early June stating that my test would be graded after enough applicants had taken the exam to allow score validation, and others have commented on Linked-In of receiving the same letter as recently as 3 weeks ago. In other words, they’re grading (eventually) on a curve that they haven’t even developed yet. The whole thing is a mess; at best, it’s a poorly designed, hurriedly implemeneted program of dubious value; at worst, its a total tax dollar giveaway scam for FOBs in the education industry.

  • Al Davis,
    I must admit that some of what you say is pretty unbelievable. Not because I don’t believe you, but because it’s so hard for me to believe that they could screw stuff up so badly.

    The idea of it being a jargon test makes me sick.

  • I went through the training material from ONC and provided comments many months ago. The training was very simplistic and much is useless. I really don’t need my HIT staff to understand networking protocals. I need them to know HL7(which is barely touched upon) not TCP/IP – . I see the certification as similiar to A+ training for computer professionals. If you have a degree and some experience it may help. But it alone will not get your foot in the door and the training is so simplistic and unapplied that I feel it was a waste.

  • The HITpro certification costs $299 to take and $199 the second time you take it. If you have a free voucher from any of the community colleges, you would still pay $20 for registration and the $199 the second time you take it.
    Who is making money here? Ahima or pearsonvue?

  • I wholeheartly agree with all of the comments. I too completed the ONC Workforce Training Program in December 2011. I am an R.N. with over 20 years of healthcare experience.I have no prior IT experience. The college did not offer hands-on-training.They should partner up with the IT companies so that students like me can get EHR hands on training. I have learned from the school that there is a disconnect with what the school teaches and what is on the HIT Pro Exam. I failed the trainer exam by 9 points because I was not trained in IT and was unable to apply my training to the exam. Students are not being fully trained for HIT jobs. I wrote the president in reference to this issue. $19 billion dollars of tax payers money has been invested in the training we should be prepared to get a job. I have be agressively looking for an entry level position also and have not been able to get work because when I speak to employers, recruiters, the outcome is always the same “the EHR companies want experienced people”, they are not interested in the HIT certification. The IT companies are being very selective at this time, they are looking for experts to implement the EHR systems. Eveyone is making money, the colleges,Ahima, Pearson Vue, computer companies, printer companies, and all of the supply companies that students buy equipment and supplies from. I have spent $3,000.00 on equiptment in preparation for taking the ONC training. It maybe tuition free, but it is very expensive to take the training. I have been unemployed for almost 4 years due to lay-offs. I have advanced training in healthcare and have spent large sums of money and remain unemployed. I thought that with my nursing back that I would have been a perfect for the ONC Trainer Role. I appreciate the training, but am greatly dissappointed with not be trained for the job industry. Well if anyone has any lead on how I can get a job please share the information.

  • Rosa, I’m sorry to hear about your challenges. I’m going to share your story in its own post so others can read and know the realities you face.

    In that post I did add a comment that your $19 billion number is too high. It’s $36 billion for the whole HITECH act, and I think a little under a billion for the workforce program. Still far too much!

  • I’m currently enrolled in the HIT Implementation Specialist Certification course in MO. My experience has been different then those stated above. First, the school required I be employed in the healthcare industry and have some experience with Electroinic Records as a user. There’s an in depth interview with the program coordinator and he asked detailed questions about my work experience. He stated it this was a requirement for the program so I’m surprised to hear that not all schools have the same restrictions.

    For me, there’s been no cost or additional fee’s. The study time required is significant but the school prepaired me for that. I will finish in July but I’ve already had two job offers and multiple calls from headhunters because the school’s sharing our information with potential employers.

    I’ve worked in Healthcare IT for three years now and my first opportunity came because I was a user of the GE Groupcast program at a large hospital but I had no IT experience. A small regional hospital was looking for an analyst with experience in the program so I applied just to see what happened and I was hired right out of the interview. They didn’t care that I did not have IT experience, they wanted someone who understood the daily processes of the user to help them improve the program. It’s been great! For those who’ve been unable to find work with vendors consider the hospitals in your area? Hosptials are looking for people with knowledge about the work to help them implement and or maintain their systems. The small regional hospital I worked for had about 17 people but only 5 had any IT experience. Most of them were just like me, they were users who wanted to make things better. That same hospital has been selected as a Most Wired Hospital for 8 years straight now and it was nurses, registration clerks and billers who made it a sucess.

    I agree with some of the comments regarding the program content but I’ve tried to make the best of it. When I find the study material is inadaquate I use the internet to learn more about the subject.

    I for one am grateful for this opportunity because without it I could not afford to take the course and even though I don’t expect the certification to get me a job I do think in addition to my experience having the certification will make me more valuable in the market.

  • I had the exact same experience as Al Davis, MD in the above comment. The test was a joke. In addition, there was content on it that was not covered in the coursework I took. (Our instructor mistakenly had our entire cohort repeat one course and did not provide the “new” powerpoints when the error was pointed out to him.)

    I received the same email about not having enough students to provide us with the test results. Eventually, I received notice that I passed. But the test and course content appeared to be created by highly paid consultants in a huge rush. Much of the content was irrelevant in both of the workforce roles I took. My Master’s in Informatics from a top tier institution was excellent compared to the disorganized mess of the ONC HIT program. It was a huge waste of federal dollars.

    That said….where are the jobs???

  • I have completed two of the ONC certifications in the beta effort, finding the materials full of errors and duplications. I, too, was told the time required each week was 15-20 hrs but our class found that it took double that time. We experienced lots of instructor attrition and inconsistencies. No wonder there was a small number of program completers.

    When I first completed, prospective companies in which I tried to network had no knowledge of the ONC program, and my community college made no attempt to educate them. EHR companies refused to provide training materials to programs or participants. One couldn’t purchase training classes unless aligned with a company that had the EPIC, NEXT GEN, or GE products.

    I have 35 years of experience in several different healthcare roles but, because I have no IT background, I’ve had no luck finding an EHR-related position in a city of over 1 million. I completed in October 2010, so see the execution of this program as a total waste of everyone’s time and money.

  • I took the Workforce program and while I can’t say enough good things about the staff at National Park Community College in Hot Springs, Arkansas for their support, the program itself does indeed have limitations. As often mentioned, lack of “hands-on” exposure to the actual EHR systems is a major drawback. I put that however, more on the vendors rather than the program itself. I think the “jargon” that a lot of respondents are complaining about is a necessary evil; to get in the door you have to be able to speak the language. I personally find that the different components complemented each other fairly well. As for lack of practical experience, I have gone to various hospitals and clinics in my area and done observation/shadowing; most all the places I have contacted are fairly willing to help (and it never hurts to network while you’re at it). I completed the Trainer course in December ’12 and passed the exam last month. No job yet but in an economically depressed area such as mine that’s rather to be expected

  • After reading everyone’s comment, I am so worried. B’caz I am currently doing the HITECH course for TEch support/software in EAst los angels college, CA. I worked for 2 yrs in software development. Then I quit my job, got busy with my little one for 5 years. I couldn’t get job. In that time, I saw the HITECH 6 months course & I enrolled into this curse. I had a thought about finding job in Healthcare would be easy with this training. But I am so nervous about it now. I am in the critical position to support my family. IS it going to be a waste of time???????????. Now I am so confused should I continue this course. but we do have a face to face training after a month.How do I find out if my community college teach all those EPIC, Next gen ……tools.?????/

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