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Time for IT Boot Camp?

August 29, 2008
by anonymous
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It’s the Friday before Labor Day so it is time to think about packing up for the long weekend (and posting a not-so-heavy blog entry). Looking back this past week, two different news bytes come to mind -- that are thought-provoking and somewhat connected. One was a recently released white paper by Walt Zywiak - my office buddy and esteemed co-worker in Emerging Practices on the multi-generational healthcare IT workforce. The paper discusses the challenges of managing professionals from several generations (e.g. boomers, gen x, gen y, etc) who have different expectations and skill sets. It has become one of the most popular pieces from EP and has been quoted in a number of healthcare and IT magazines.

The other was a short piece was in the September issue of CIO magazine entitled “30 Skills Every IT Person Needs.” So where is the correlation? Ah – check out the “30 skills” article and you will find a list of skills that includes working at the help desk, fixing basic PC issues, running cable, understanding the basics of system administration and networking, and working all night on a team project. In reading the white paper and speaking to Walt, it is clear that one of the concerns for CIOs is that people with these experiences and skills are often the ones who will be retiring in the near future. He calls it the brain drain. One quote from the paper sums it up pretty well - “The new generation is used to more robust products, understands less about their inner workings, and has generally not been exposed to formal IT management processes and disciplines.”

So where does this leave tomorrow’s IT work force that is expected to make great progress on all fronts – electronic health records, robots, and integration of clinical systems with medical devices – just to name a few? One CIO decided to put together a basics IT boot camp training course for new employees to set the baseline. Is it time for IT boot camp? Please share your experiences and thoughts.



Michael and Joe - thanks for the interest in this topic. Like many I have been in this business for more than 25 years starting from the technical side. When you start to program in basic assembler language you learn (the hard way) just how computers work. Thankfully we have progressed way behind the need to know this as part of the programming process. However learning it has provided an incredibly sound foundation for all of the work I have done since then. I get concerned when people know how to use a computer but do not not understand how a computer works fundamentally. The need is not only the number of IT professionals it is the training.

Fran, enjoy your Labor Day weekend

You touch on a subject which is of great concern to me. I too have been faced with the challenge of finding Healthcare IT professional. I now make it a point of duty (whenever I speak to undergrads) or IT staffs in my organization to emphasize that health care IT professionals are not like our traditional IT (Techie) staff they are two different animals....so to speak.

The industry we work in (Healthcare) is one of the most important industries in the world. The forces and dynamics of this industry affect the entire human race. At present, many (including myself) important voices say that global health care is in crisis and heading for even worse conditions if intelligent and disciplined action is not taken soon. One such action is the development and training of technology (informatics) for the industry. At the same time, amazing possibilities for progress and positive change are presenting themselves through technology.

The global healthcare industry is undergoing a much needed transformation, focusing on improving internal operations, reducing administrative and clinical costs, and becoming more customer-focused by means of innovative technologies, but at the rate at which this change is taking place our healthcare IT work force is not enough. However, we have a plan.....AMIA 10x10 program's goal is to train 10,000 health care IT professionals by the year 2010.

Michael and Joe - Thanks for the comments about this interesting topic. Like many I have been in healthcare IT for the past 25 years, starting out on the technical side. When you learn to program in basic assembler language you understand (the hard way) how a computer works. Thankfully technology has progressed way behind the need to know this for progremming purposes. However I have found that this knowledge has been a solid foundation for all of the work I have done since then. I am concerned that people understand how to use a computer, not necessarily how a computer works - fundamentally. I agree we need more IT professionals - the need is not only the number but the training too.

Joe, very good links.
I would go a bit further by say that all IT recruiter should add these 30 questions to their list of interview questions.

Thanks Joe.