In the last of our 4 part series, one of HCI’s most senior consultants Cynthia Gallegos, RN, ND reflects on the changing roles of healthcare IT consulting over the years.
The first week in Nursing Theory, I was introduced to Dr. Patricia Benner’s, “Novice to Expert Theory.” She describes five stages of nursing experience; Novice, Advanced beginner, Competent, Proficient and Expert (Benner, 1982). I remember memorizing the key points I would need to remember for the exam but never truly understanding the relevance that Dr. Benner’s theory would have throughout my professional career.
After earning my nursing license, I started working on an adult medical-surgical unit. I remember being overwhelmed by not having the one-to-one guidance of a preceptor or instructor. It was at that moment I realized I was a Novice, a baby nurse, a health care professional knowing nothing more than what I learned in a classroom. I spent the next several years working as a nurse moving through the five stages of nursing experience until eventually I became an expert. When I decided to leave patient care and embark on a new adventure in Health Care IT (HIT), I once again found myself in the role of a novice.
When I began my career in healthcare IT, I had the privilege of progressing over two-years, an advantage no longer afforded to new HIT professionals. A recent report published by Burning Glass Technologies, cited that since 2007, postings for health informatics jobs have increased 10 times faster than healthcare jobs (Burning Glass Technologies, 2013). Given the current demand, new healthcare IT professionals enter the field as novices, and for some, they have the additional pressure of becoming experts before they have had time to really develop in their area of practice. In the 1st Annual HIMMS Workforce Survey, respondents working for both healthcare providers and vendor organizations cited the lack of qualified talent pool as their biggest challenge to fully staffing their environment (1st Annual HIMMS Workforce Survey, 2013).
It is estimated that one of the top areas for IT hires in the next year by healthcare organizations will be in clinical application support. This hiring phenomenon has diluted the number of full-time helathcare IT experts working in healthcare organizations. Due to the lack of qualified individuals, clinical application support is one of the top areas in which outsourced staff are being used (1st Annual HIMSS Workforce Survey, 2013). With the lack of qualified individuals and the push by regulatory agencies for healthcare organizations to implement an Electronic Health Record (EHR), healthcare IT consultants are beginning to see a shift in role qualifications and expectations.
In an article written by Dr. Omudhome Ogbru, a consultant is any person or firm with a specific set of skills or knowledge (expertise) that another party needs in order to complete their projects or achieve their goals (Obgru, 2011). Often times, consultants are finding themselves in positions where they are amongst few or are even the sole expert on a project. Not only do consultants have the pressure of Project Leads and Managers looking to them to provide expert skills or knowledge on a project, now consultants are expected to help guide and educate full-time employees.
The Changing Role of an Healthcare IT Consultant
The definition of our role as healthcare IT consultant is changing with the current market demands. Luckily, with change comes opportunity. A quote from Mark Sanborn, "Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business.” Both independent consultants and consulting firms are in a good position to utilize their reputation as the “Expert” and expand their level of services to include clinical application staff education and support in addition to continuing to provide creative and cost effective staffing solutions for health care organizations. Moving forward as a progressive healthcare IT consulting firm demands an evolution of consultants from simply being masters of the build to adding a skill set of guidance and instruction. This new skill set is a requirement by the full-time employees on site and therefore becomes a requirement of the institution at large. Though today’s market is flush with opportunity, operating in tomorrow's market always requires change, it’s those companies which see change coming and get ahead of the curve which we will all be working for tomorrow.
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