Rush helps vet­er­ans find IT jobs

Modern Healthcare - - BEST PRACTICES - By Mau­reen McKin­ney

Jaime Par­ent, as­so­ciate chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer and vice pres­i­dent of health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy at Rush Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter, was frus­trated by the tough em­ploy­ment chal­lenges fac­ing Chicago-area mil­i­tary vet­er­ans. Par­ent, a re­tired lieu­tenant colonel who spent 20 years in the Air Force, felt his 669-bed hospi­tal could fill a need for those strug­gling to find work.

Rush’s Road Home Pro­gram al­ready pro­vided coun­sel­ing, health­care and sup­port ser­vices for re­turn­ing vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies. Par­ent thought oc­cu­pa­tional train­ing was the log­i­cal next step. “For tran­si­tion­ing vet­er­ans, find­ing em­ploy­ment is dif­fi­cult and con­fus­ing,” he said. “Many of them are re­ally hav­ing a hard time.”

Par­ent’s so­lu­tion? Train vet­er­ans and help them land jobs in the fast­grow­ing field of health IT.

It’s an idea that’s quickly gain­ing trac­tion among work­force ex­perts, said Pa­tri­cia Dom­browski, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Life Sci­ence In­for­mat­ics Cen­ter at Belle­vue (Wash.) Col­lege, which re­cently se­cured a $12 mil­lion grant from the U.S. La­bor Depart­ment for health IT work­force de­vel­op­ment, with a spe­cial fo­cus on train­ing vet­er­ans.

Health IT can be a great fit for re­turn­ing vet­er­ans, said Dom­browski, who, like Par­ent, is a mem­ber of a Health­care In­for­ma­tion and Man­age­ment Sys­tems So­ci­ety ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on vet­eran ca­reer ser­vices. Many vet­er­ans have in­de­mand tech­ni­cal skills honed in the mil­i­tary, and of­ten thrive in the highly struc­tured world of health­care, she said.

For a rel­a­tively small in­vest­ment, Par­ent said, Rush could pro­vide much­needed com­mu­nity sup­port while also demon­strat­ing how such a pro­gram could trans­late to other in­sti­tu­tions.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, af­ter a year of plan­ning, build­ing re­la­tion­ships with ven­dors, se­cur­ing ap­proval from hospi­tal lead­er­ship and re­cruit­ing vet­er­ans from the Road Home Pro­gram and other or­ga­ni­za­tions, Par­ent launched Rush’s EN-Abled Vet Pro­gram, a six-month, part-time paid in­tern­ship that pro­vides vet­er­ans with on-the-job and on­line IT train­ing, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, re­sume de­velop- ment and job place­ment as­sis­tance.

Can­di­dates must have some tech­nol­ogy ex­pe­ri­ence, al­though Par­ent says he’s flex­i­ble on that re­quire­ment. He also fo­cuses on vet­er­ans who are most in need, in­clud­ing those with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and trau­matic brain in­jury. “We want to find the hard­est cases and give them a fight­ing chance at a job in health IT,” he said.

If a vet­eran is un­able, be­cause of phys­i­cal or emo­tional dif­fi­cul­ties, to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram, Par­ent said he’s will­ing to of­fer the in­tern­ship op­por­tu­nity to the vet­eran’s spouse or adult child.

In­terns earn $12.50 an hour with­out ben­e­fits, which works out to less than $5,000 per vet­eran—a small in­vest­ment with a big re­turn, he said.

The pro­gram, which grad­u­ated its first class in May, cer­ti­fies par­tic­i­pants in de­ploy­ment of vir­tual desk­top in­fra­struc­ture, a soft­ware ser­vice that al­lows users to ac­cess their desk­top com­puter en­vi­ron­ment in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. The vet­er­ans also choose a hospi­tal depart­ment in which to “shadow” and spe­cial­ize, such as data se­cu­rity, net­work ser­vices or en­duser tech­nol­ogy, said Tommy Bankhead, Rush’s team lead for sup­port ser­vices, who man­ages the in­tern­ship pro­gram.

The vet­er­ans’ pres­ence in the hospi­tal has had a pos­i­tive im­pact on em­ployee cul­ture, too, Bankhead said. “They re­ally help the staff un­der­stand what vets go through,” he said.

Of the five vet­er­ans in the first class, four have got­ten jobs, Par­ent said. Two were hired by Rush—one on the help desk and one as a per­sonal-com­puter ser­vices tech­ni­cian. One found a job at a med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory firm and an­other was hired by a fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany. “One vet got nine phone calls and three in­ter­views,” Par­ent said. “I told him, ‘I am your best re­fer­ral. Put my busi­ness card right on the ta­ble.’”

The pro­gram is not in­tended as a staff-re­cruit­ing tool for Rush, Par­ent said. “We want the vets to be hired in the com­mu­nity and we want to show other hos­pi­tals that this is re­pro­ducible.”

Par­ent and his team made some ad­just­ments af­ter the first round, such as con­dens­ing the six-month, part-time pro­gram to a three-month, full-time cur­ricu­lum. The four stu­dents in the sec­ond class be­gan train­ing this month. Par­ent also said he’s look­ing to ex­pand the size and scope of the pro­gram, and plans to ap­ply for federal grants.

For James Wig­fall, a mem­ber of the first class, the ex­pe­ri­ence has been trans­for­ma­tive. Wig­fall, 46, spent 20 years in the Navy car­ing for pa­tients as a hospi­tal corps­man. But af­ter re­tir­ing in 2011, he strug­gled to find work.

“I just wanted some­one to give me an op­por­tu­nity to get my foot in the door,” said Wig­fall, who com­mutes more than 40 miles from his sub­ur­ban home to his job at Rush’s in­for­ma­tion-ser­vices help desk. “To fi­nally feel pro­duc­tive and vi­brant, it gives me new life.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.