New ARRA-funded Health IT Programs Open to Students

The first group of ARRA-related health IT classes began on schedule in community colleges across the country recently, filled with students hoping to break into the emerging EHR implementation market.

In late September, more than 80 community colleges nationwide began offering health IT classes through the Community College Consortia to Educate Information Technology Specialists in Health Care. The program is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The six-month, non-degree training programs are being offered in six different HIT tracks, training people in roles like practice workflow, information management specialist, and EHR implementation manager.

With many programs being continuously offered online and in classrooms throughout the year, interested students can still join the program. Most colleges in the consortia offer full or partial financial aid that allows qualified students the ability to complete the course at minimal cost, according to Kay Gooding, MPH, MAEd, RHIA, the consortia’s region D project director, based in Pitt Community College in Greenville, NC.

The programs are great for HIM professionals looking to work in the growing EHR implementation industry, Gooding said. In order to get individuals placed in jobs quickly after completing the program, students must have some healthcare or IT background in order to qualify for enrollment.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the health information-trained folks of AHIMA to move right into this,” she said. “We think that it is going to be an excellent career ladder opportunity to bring them into the HIT field.”

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT allocated about $70 million for the program with the hope that participants would fill new health IT jobs expected to come from increased EHR implementations, thanks in part to the ARRA-based EHR implementation incentive payments.

While official consortia-wide enrollment numbers are not yet available, the consortium’s region D, which covers 20 community colleges, has seen 450 students enrolled in its first offering of six tracks.

This number meets region D goals and is a positive sign interest in the program is high across the country, Gooding said. As part of the program, region D must train a minimum of 3,300 students over the two-year program. ONC hopes the national consortia will train 10,500 students annually for entrance into the health IT workforce.

Many of the students are displaced IT workers, clinicians, and HIM professionals looking for a new or expanded career, while others are retired individuals looking to re-enter the workforce, Gooding said.

The consortia programs were launched on time despite having only months to be developed. ONC announced winning consortium members in April 2010, leaving colleges five months to create programs, recruit faculty, and enroll students. Many colleges, like Pitt, leaned on their HIM and HIT faculty to help with courses.

Curriculum for the six certificate programs is still being created by a group of educators selected by ONC. Only half of the program’s six-month curriculum was delivered to colleges prior to the program’s launch, making it difficult for educators to initially provide a full syllabus of course material to students. The second half will be delivered to educators by October 29, 2010, well before that material will be presented to students in late December/early January, Gooding said.

For more information on enrolling in the HIT certificate programs and to view a nationwide list of participating community colleges, visit the ONC Web site.

7 Comments

  1. A physician friend told me about this program months ago, so I sent out my respective emails to get myself on the waiting list, applied to the program, sent required transcripts, resume, and guess what?…I was not accepted. This program speaks as if it is this great opportunity to create trained individuals for all these HIT jobs but then a person like myself who is a current HIT student with an excellent GPA, a degree in pharmacy technician, 4 years work experience in pharmacy, unemployed, single parent, trying to educate herself to get ahead in life, is denied because I lack 5 years work experience and I don’t have my associates yet.I am very disappointed. I have proven myself as a student but apparently the desire to learn and excel isn’t enough.

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  2. Lynn,
    You are not alone. Many people who do finish courses such as Health IT courses, coding and billing courses etc. etc. and have outstanding GPAs can not land jobs because they lack experience.
    I hate to say it but only when associations like AHIMA and AAPC and the Federal government partner hand in hand with employers to give opportunities for employment to people who have finished these programs will it be *Beneficial To All*

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  3. I’m sorry that you weren’t accepted into the program, Lynn. I’m currently a RHIT student but after this semester, I’m going to change my major to something that’s much more marketable. It’s a shame that many people who finish courses in the Health IT field can’t get employment due to lack of experience. It appears to me that AHIMA only caters to the those who are already working in the Health IT field because from what I’ve read, many of those pursuing a HIM degree are not being catered to. I wish you the best in your pursuit of meaningful employment in the HIT arena and appreciate your post. It’s the most recent one I’ve read regarding the issue of employment for yourself and many others, and it was pretty much the last straw for me in making my decision. At my age, I really don’t have the time to waste on a HIM degree.

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  4. I am saying don’t give up so easily….it’s all about networking and getting your name out there. I have taken the step of doing some cross-training at my current employer, in hopes of expanding on what I have learned in school. I am approx 5 classes away from Graduation (HIT Progam) and do have long-term goal of continuing my education in this area of study. I am sure that something will come up eventually, you may have to take a coding job, just to get your foot in the door and move forward from there.

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  5. Larissa,

    While I applaud your enthusiasm, I have to say that my experience has also been that those of us without experience will find it almost impossible to get hired.

    I have an RHIT, CCS, and CCS-P. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from my RHIT program. I live in an area with literally dozens of hospitals, etc. And after applying for 56 positions at 32 facilities in the last few months, I’ve found it next to impossible to get a interview, much less a job.

    You say that we may have to start as a coder-I’d love to start as a coder, or as an HIM Assistant/Medical Records Clerk, or anything else in HIM. I’ve networked and networked. Even with the help of HIM directors and managers, I still haven’t been contacted for interviews. I have to believe at this point that there just aren’t the jobs to support the number of graduates coming out of these programs. Maybe they’ve simply grown too fast.

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  6. please apply at Gloucester County College if you are in south NJ area.

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  7. Are there any Veterans Hospitals in the area that you live? With the VHA coders are Title 38 Allied Health employees and that means we are hard to find and retain. Check out USAjobs.gov. and look for the Job Title Medical Record Tecnicians.

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