Bridging the Gap Between HIT Education and Workforce Development

I came across a recent article about an initiative between the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the US Dept. of Labor to “train students at community and technical colleges for health IT jobs at hospitals and clinics in rural areas.”

The struggle for rural healthcare facilities to find qualified candidates – in healthcare IT or otherwise – has been well-documented, as has the struggle that healthcare IT students face when it comes time to find a job. Prospective vendor employers typically require that job candidates have experience working with their systems, yet few make those systems available to academic institutions via internships or technology donations.

The rural health IT training program highlights specific objectives that I think would apply to health IT workforce development in any area:

  • Reach out to potential workers and employers to inform them about career pathways in health information management and technology
  • Support employers in educating potential health IT workers, which would include current staff that need training and newly recruited staff
  • Support employers in staffing health IT positions

This disconnect between academia, graduates and employers is one that I think all healthcare IT education programs are facing, no matter what area their students will eventually end up working in. Another of which I was recently made aware is the lack of communication between academic institutions and the employer community. There are several schools in my home state of Georgia that currently have HIT programs in place, but the surrounding business community is not aware some of them exist, and therefore completely overlook graduating classes full of job candidates.

The Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG’s) Health Society is working with several area schools including Georgia Tech, Georgia Perimeter and Southern Polytechnic to help bridge this gap, and hopes to bring graduates and employers together at its HIT Job Fair on March 23rd.

In talking about the upcoming event with Deleise Lindsay, Founder and Principal of Well-Change Group and a member of TAG Health’s Board of Directors, she explained that not only do we need to make HIT job candidates and employers aware of each other, and ensure that graduates have proper training on software systems, but we must also equip them with the necessary professional skills that will make their transition into HIT that much quicker.

She highlighted three main challenges that academia and business currently face:

  • Building awareness of HIT job opportunities
  • Determining who is a viable candidate for these types of jobs – typically folks with clinical or IT backgrounds
  • Educating graduates on how to market themselves by equipping them with resume-building and networking skills

I’d love to hear from readers – job candidates, recent hires or employers – as to what you believe the secret to job hiring success is, and how you would recommend academia and employers work together to clear up this mystery.

About the author

Jennifer Dennard

Jennifer Dennard

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.


  • Jennifer,
    I am transitioning from a career developing and implementing CME programs for clinicians, have recently graduated from a HITECH EHR Certificate program, and have passed the HIT Pro Specialist Exam. So your comment resonated well with me!!
    Every job posting specifies 1-3 years experience. That’s fine but where can this experience be obtained? Even the jobs listed by the school are asking for a prerequisite number of years experience. Understandably, there isn’t an easy answer. Perhaps if enough recent grads vent their displeasure maybe the message will get heard by decision makers – somewhere.

  • Hi Jennifer,
    You make some valid points. I am the Health IT Talent Specialist working with Region A of the ONC’s College Consortia. My smart Project Director saw that disconnect long before it materialized and hired me with an HR and recruiting background to do three things: work with students to give them the resources they need i.e. personal attention, resume help, linkedin assistance; to reach out to employers and let them know not only that we exist but how we bring value, and to support the other colleges in the region to do the same -and they have. There are some very dedicated individuals in our region that have worked very hard not only to get people trained but to get them into jobs. I hope we all learn from that and yes, continue to build bridges between employers and workforce training programs.

  • Hi Jennifer,
    I transitioned into HIT from another industry about 1 year ago and have been through some of the Atlanta training programs.

    From my experience, one secret to job hiring success is to understand that there is not a single approach that applies for every person trying to transition into the HIT industry.
    – many years experience in another industry – OR – looking for very 1st job out of school
    – have healthcare experience (e.g. was a nurse or worked in a doctor’s office) – OR – have no healthcare experience
    – have a technical background – OR – have no technical background

    For an older worker attempting to retrain, compared to a younger person just coming out of school – there could be very different approaches to breaking into the HIT industry.

    The training programs tend to be very broad with a somewhat technical flavor. In my experience, a HIT employer typically is looking for someone with deep experience in a single area. Thus simply going thru a training program may not give someone enough critical mass to land a particular job.

    Anyone looking to help folks transition into HIT might want to consider developing different approaches for the different types of seekers. The thinking is similar to how when applying for a job, you always want to tailor your resume for the job rather than using a generic resume for all job applications.

  • I wrote a very helpful comment and before I completed the comment, it was deleted out before I could submit it. Is there another way that I can rewrite and submit a comment?

Click here to post a comment