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September 18, 2013 Readers Write 2 Comments

Healthcare Talent Shortages: So Where Are All the Mentors?
By Helen Figge, PharmD, MBA, CPHIMS, FHIMSS

9-18-2013 6-22-19 PM

Healthcare is a business from every angle, and from each of these angles there is a need or a demand for something, whether it is a skill or some other attribute. It’s all about supply and demand. The age-old problem in healthcare of finding qualified staff never seems to land on a solution. It is now pointed out in virtually every article of why milestones are missed or professional burnout occurs.

Even a new survey from SSi-Search reports, for example, that the CIO is now more than ever under pressure to perform and execute day-to-day issues and processes to move their institutions to the next level. In this recent study, it was again pointed out that CIOs are finding it hard to find qualified help to diffuse the pressures being felt on them and their IT teams in order to execute the various technology projects within their organizations.

Most of these pressures being discussed and felt firsthand reportedly are mapped back to the HITECH Act of 2009 and healthcare reform in general. In the end, to add to the conundrum, these various healthcare reform changes are all dependent on technology enablers and qualified help to use these technologies to support the various healthcare programs being implemented in the institutions. Alas, potential full circle turmoil.

This particular survey even catalogued the “standard” CIO as a “highly educated male, who has served in the role for 10 years and earns $286,000.” Approximately 178 individuals responded to the survey, probably even adding to their stress load of the day. The study also presumed that increased responsibilities would result in greater compensation, but the findings did not support this line of thought. In the end, workload was viewed as not being compensated compared to job responsibility and stress of performing.

But when all was said and done, the CIOs queried really focused on having the right teams in place to support the ability to continue to deliver good quality results. Those who answered the survey wanted “more and/or better qualified resources." What is a CIO, or for that matter anyone, facing this issue in healthcare today possibly doing to resolve this?

Not sure, but one suggestion: create a mentoring program and create others who “grow up to be just like you.” The gaps we are seeing in healthcare today will never be filled by “Stepford wives” or cookie cutter personnel. These individuals just don’t exist and probably never did or will. But the healthcare IT roles in particular out there today can be filled with those in the lower ranks of many organizations. If these individuals have the base skills and degrees required and then get groomed and cultivated by those who have been there and done that, we might be surprised just how effective this approach might be filing the healthcare IT void once and for all.

Early in American history we had apprentice programs for virtually everything from growing crops to shoveling coal in the coal mines. These industries survived and flourished. Why not create the same programs in healthcare IT and address the workforce shortage once and for all? Besides, there are some really great CIOs out there (and they know who they are) who have lectured, cultivated, mentored, and even picked up the phone to answer a question from a nobody like me to offer up guidance, patience, and direction to help the cause. These are the true leaders out there today and we need them now more than ever.

I say create a true mentoring program with these individuals (and not all are male or award winners) and create bonds between a these giants of healthcare IT industry ( the mentor) and the “I want to be a CIO someday” (the mentee). This in turn can create an opportunity to train by example of what needs to be done and the necessary steps involved in making things happen in healthcare IT.

Be a mentor, personally achieve some personal growth and career satisfaction, learn more about yourself as a human being, and really make a difference in your life and those you touch. This approach might not help the healthcare IT shortage immediately, but within three to five years if we have enough good mentors training mentees, this conversation would most likely be not worthy of much discussion.

Helen Figge, PharmD, MBA, CPHIMS, FHIMSS  is advisor, clinical operations and strategies, for VRAI Transformation.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Thank you for this important suggestion. I had a wonderful mentor for my first HIT position (late-1970s), and because of this person, I never left the profession. Thankfully, several professional associations to which I belong have formal mentor / protege programs, such as ACHE and AHIMA (national and state levels). However, many times I tried to establish such a program sponsored by HIMSS Fellows, but to no avail. Perhaps your article will make unaffiliated and affiliated HIT professionals take the lead.

  2. Hi Helen,

    Thank you so much for a wonderful timely article, it’s like, you are reading my mind. I am a healthcare IT professional who is really struggling to get a healthcare executive to mentor me. My interest is to be a healthcare CIO. I have become a member of the prestigious organizations ACHE and HIMSS. But, these organizations mentor/protégé programs of executives are not actively involved working with talented healthcare IT professionals who are interested to be an executive such as myself. I have been actively reaching out to these executives to no avail. I sincerely hope the healthcare executives that read your article really take into consideration to actively move forward with constructing such an apprenticeship program themselves for us healthcare IT professionals without camouflaging through such organizations such as ACHE and HIMSS.

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