Healthcare IT Talent Drought: How Hospitals Can Cope

Healthcare IT Talent Drought: How Hospitals Can Cope

It should come as a surprise to no one in the healthcare IT industry that hospital staff requirements have ballooned over the past few years and that providers are facing severe challenges in filling those empty positions. Informationweek recently reported that roughly two-thirds of healthcare organizations are having a tough time meeting HIT staffing needs. The need to achieve compliance with meaningful use mandates and the conversion to IDC-10 coding has left many hospitals struggling to hire enough talented workers with the necessary HIT skills. There is a vast shortage of healthcare IT talent.

In some cases, hospitals feeling the stress of short staffs are asking doctors and other medical staff to take on IT tasks. This results in seriously overworked physicians who feel harried and don’t have enough time for patients. Additionally, with physicians handling unfamiliar reporting systems, another result can be input errors and lost time. But CIOs are reluctant to hire HIT staff without the right credentials or experience.

HIT Staffing: A Double Challenge

As noted in industry magazine Healthcare IT News, the trouble stems from hospital administrators wanting to hire only employees with deep experience working in the new systems, or who already have training and credentials. Employees such as these are in very high demand these days, but they are few and far between. Additionally, they are now able to command much higher salaries than ever before, leaving smaller hospitals with small budgets at a loss.

On the other side of the hiring coin are people who want to break into the healthcare IT industry. They are ready to work but have difficulty landing their first jobs because they don’t yet have experience implementing the new medical records systems. The trouble is that despite their eagerness, they can’t get any experience until they first land a job.

Some hospitals are attempting to meet the challenge of staffing by bringing IT workers over from other industries. However, this isn’t a perfect solution either. These workers may have credentials and superior technical skills, but they are not familiar with the healthcare environment. This carries a steep learning curve, so it takes time for these workers to get up to speed.

Tactics for Addressing the Talent Shortage

Clearly, to grow HIT staff size, hospitals may need to simply hire new talent. If they are unable to compete with large institutions that can offer giant salaries, signing bonuses, fancy perks and the like to seasoned workers, smaller hospitals might consider hiring uncredentialed or inexperienced employees. These workers are fresh out of school or sometimes transitioning into a new career, and are eager to work. In many cases they are willing to volunteer or take a moderate pay cut just to get a foot in the door, especially if there are opportunities for training and career development.

As Helen Figge, clinical operations and strategies advisor, notes, one way to combat the talent shortage is from within. Creating a mentorship program for your HIT department can help nourish a committed staff. When junior staffers work one-on-one with senior employees, their commitment to the hospital deepens because they are able to envision and plan their career paths.

Additionally, when hospitals invest in training programs, either in-house or off-site, for junior HIT employees, they can target exactly the types of job skills they require. In case you missed it, check out our previous post to find out the hottest HIT skills hospitals need right now.

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