Career Intersection: IT and Healthcare

Career Intersection: IT and Healthcare

The Washington State Community Colleges’ Centers of Excellence (opens in a new window) (COEs) serve as vital hubs for workforce development, bridging the gap between education, industry and government to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in today’s competitive job market. Through industry partnerships and research, the COEs collaborate closely with industry partners to identify current and emerging workforce needs, and to address industry challenges such as closing skills gaps that hinder competitiveness and productivity.

Brianna Rockenstire, director, Center of Excellence for Information and Computing Technology, states, “We work closely with education and industry partners to support the growth of the technology sector in Washington State. Digital literacy and general technology skills are increasingly important in all types of jobs, so we partner with the other COEs to better meet the changing workforce needs in our state.”

To meet the needs of the healthcare industry, which is increasingly reliant on IT solutions to improve patient care, streamline operations and enhance overall efficiency, Rockenstire collaborates with the Allied Health COE (opens in a new window) , which is hosted at Yakima Valley College. Dan Ferguson, director, Allied Health, states, “One of our key roles as a COE is the delivery of responsive education and training that helps build a competitive workforce for the healthcare industry. My work intersects dynamically with the IT COE because everything in healthcare is driven or governed by IT — from population health analysis, telehealth, electronic health records and patient engagement tools to clinical decision support systems. Let’s not forget cybersecurity, which is critically important in healthcare due to the sensitive nature of patient data and the potential consequences of breaches.”

Serving the state’s extensive portfolio of healthcare workforce programs

 The Allied Health COE supports 34 colleges in Washington state that offer healthcare workforce programs. A sample of those programs includes: Nursing (RN and LPN/LVN), Medical Assisting, Dental Assisting and Hygiene, Pharmacy Technician, and Health IT.

Ferguson says, “One of my most important activities is to filter what is happening at the state level and then share that information with all the deans and directors who run healthcare workforce programs across the community colleges. I host monthly meetings with the deans and directors, during which I share what is happening with the legislature, the Department of Health and with licensing changes. We also deal with challenges related to students, clinical training, faculty challenges and recruitment challenges.”

Elizabeth Patterson, director, Allied Health Education at Edmonds College (opens in a new window) , views the support her college receives from the Allied Health COE as extremely helpful: “They provide the opportunity for us all to get together to discuss the issues that affect our programs. We share best practices, learn about opportunities to partner and problem-solve. The knowledge that Dan shared with us from his participation in the Interprofessional Education and Practice (IPE) organization factored heavily into the development of our Integrated Healthcare Management BAS degree.”

Responsiveness to industry’s education and training needs

 The Washington State Community and Technical Colleges share an explicit economic and workforce development mission, which is to impact the state’s economic growth and competitiveness through industry-specific education and training that helps create a highly skilled workforce. The Colleges fulfill that mission by graduating students with the education and skills that meet the workforce needs of business. The COEs play an important role in the feedback loop that provides the colleges with an understanding of industry’s most pressing and urgent workforce training and skills-related needs.

The responsiveness of the community colleges to the needs of the healthcare industry is embodied in Seattle Colleges (opens in a new window) ’ partnership with Seattle Children’s Hospital. Chris Sullivan, executive dean, workforce development, Seattle Central College, stated, “We created a healthcare IT certificate program that students can complete in nine months. The program covers foundational IT skills, customer service skills and exposure to Epic, the leading electronic health record system in the country. Students who successfully complete the program receive CompTIA A+ certification (opens in a new window) , the industry standard for establishing a career in IT and the preferred qualifying credential for technical support and IT operational roles.”

Pat Russell, Psy. D., executive dean, Healthcare & Human Services, Health Education Center, Seattle Colleges, remarked, “The industry feedback that we gathered from the Allied Health COE and our own industry sources showed a strong demand for people trained in various healthcare programs such as Epic, which are used for online communication with healthcare providers. Because we have had an ongoing partnership with Seattle Children’s Hospital, we have been able to create a sustainable IT training program that will help meet the future workforce needs of regional healthcare delivery employers.”

How to get started in a healthcare IT career

Entry-level healthcare IT jobs typically provide opportunities for individuals to gain foundational experience in the field while learning about healthcare systems and technologies. Some of the most common entry-level positions in healthcare IT include:

Healthcare IT Support Specialist/Technician: Provide technical support to end users, troubleshoot hardware and software issues, and assist with the implementation and maintenance of healthcare IT systems.

Healthcare Data Entry Clerk: Clerical position involving tasks such as entering patient data into electronic health records (EHR) systems, verifying information accuracy and maintaining data integrity.

Healthcare Systems Analyst: Assist in the analysis, testing and implementation of healthcare software systems, including electronic health records (EHR), billing systems and practice management software.

Clinical Informatics Assistant: Support clinical staff in the use of electronic health record systems, assist with documentation and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Health Information Technician (HIT): Organizing and managing patient health information, coding medical records, and ensuring data accuracy and confidentiality.

Telehealth Coordinator: Assist in the coordination and implementation of telehealth services, including scheduling virtual appointments, educating patients on telehealth platforms and providing technical support as needed.

Quality Assurance Tester: Testing healthcare software applications for functionality, usability and compliance with regulatory standards.

IT Project Coordinator: Assist in the coordination and administration of IT projects within healthcare organizations, including scheduling meetings, maintaining project documentation and facilitating communication among team members.

Article: What Is a Healthcare Data Analyst and How Can You Become One? (opens in a new window)


For more information about programs offered by the Washington State Community and Technical Colleges, please contact:

Brianna Rockenstire
Center of Excellence for Information & Computing Technology

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