Getting a Nursing Informatics Positions

by Cheryl Parker and Joyce Sensmeier

Question:

If you had just completed your MSN in Nursing, specializing in Informatics, went on interviews with no position landed yet possibly due to lack of IT background experience, what specific strategies would you use to increase your chance of getting a position if this apparently was your only weakness by feedback received?

Answers from Cheryl Parker:

I often hear this question from students who are new to nursing informatics. It's a common paradox: employers require experience, but how do you get experience if no one will hire you? The first thing I recommend is to evaluate your situation and decide what you are willing to do to find that first position. Are you willing to relocate or travel? If so, do you have any restrictions? While you make these decisions, you must also remember that your first NI job will not be your last. New job opportunities will present themselves in years to come and some short-term job difficulties can reap long-term benefits. For example, I have a co-worker who accepted a great position in another state and negotiated a long-distance commuting plan for 12 months until her youngest graduates from high school. After her child graduates she will be able to finalize the family's relocation. Once you know what you are willing to do to get the job, you need to review your skills.

Most nurses have many skills but often we don't translate them into terminology recognized by others i.e. what we call patient management, others call project management. In order to move into informatics, you need be ready to sell all of your skill sets and you may need to rethink how you highlight your experience, education and training to show how it can help you with the new job. The first step is to dust of your resume by reviewing this list of potential interview questions found athttp://allnurses.com/nursing-informatics/i-want-get-340772.html and be ready to sell your skill set no matter how limited it is. Be honest but don't be shy either.

It's very likely an informatics nurse will need to use all of the Microsoft Office products - Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, as well as Access, Visio and Project. I strongly recommend you assess your own skill level in these applications and fill in the knowledge gaps where needed. And I don't mean the ability to type a basic report and create a slide. If you want to see what expert skills are, go to the Microsoft Learning site athttp://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mos.aspx#certifications and click on an exam #and then on the Skills Measured tab.

Ask yourself if there are any skills you can upgrade such as using project management software, creating online tutorials, or managing databases. Showing that you have taken the initiative to learn more always helps show you are serious about being a good, proactive employee.

After you identify your strengths and skills, it is time to start sending out your resume. While there are opportunities everywhere, you have to know where to look for them. Investigate healthcare facilities that are at the beginning stages of a big implementation to see if they are willing to train you, but also don't forget about ambulatory clinics, transitional and long-term care organizations. Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities are also good candidates for your job search. Keep a list of possibilities and check their job boards weekly. Remember, in some ways this job search is similar to the one you did right out of nursing school, so you are starting at the beginning again.

As you find job opportunities, apply for anything and everything that is even a remote possibility. I got one of my best jobs from an application I submitted for a part-time hospital bill auditor position. I applied for the job, even though it was not exactly what I was looking for. Although I did not get that position, my resume was sent along to another executive in the company who was looking for a RN with my qualifications. Before too long, I had a great job at Equifax-yes, the credit reporting company-working in the occupational health division. I stayed at this job for five years, until I moved across country and could not telecommute. So just remember to have an open mind and to apply for a wide range of jobs since you never know what might work out.

It's also important to remember that all nursing informatics roles are not only about implementing EMRs. I haven't worked on an EMR implementation in more than five years, so think about other possibilities in the field. I work for a vendor organization; a friend runs a simulation learning center used by hospitals and emergency medical services in her county; and many others work in data analysis for public health, while others teach.

Network, network, network because the best jobs aren't always advertised. Start creating your network both in person and online and attend meetings or conferences when possible. Another way to develop connections is by volunteering your time on committees - this will show your commitment to your new specialty even if you are not working in the field yet. I strongly encourage using LinkedIn to let recruiters know you are interested. Finally, using the HIMSS job boards and alumni services at your school will leave no stone unturned.

Put yourself in the hiring manager's place-what qualities would you want to see besides just experience? Skills such as building an application screen can be taught, but being self-motivated and a self-starter cannot. You must be able to clearly articulate why you would bring value to an organization and be worth the cost of hiring and training.

Lastly, don't get discouraged. It may take a while, but I'm confident you will succeed!

Answers from Joyce Sensmeier:

Cheryl suggests many good strategies, and I would simply add that you should try to build a case for any informatics or IT experience that you may have, even if it was gained in a volunteer capacity. What informatics or IT projects did you complete in your masters program? Are any of them applicable to the roles or positions that you are seeking? If you can relate these projects to a portion of the position descriptions, it will help build a case for the value that you may bring. Have you volunteered on any informatics related committee, task force or work group? Have you written newsletter articles, published white papers or developed any on-line tools that might inform or support the work of the hiring organization?

When I was being recruited for my current job at HIMSS, I did not have any previous association experience. But one of the things that made me marketable was my experience as a volunteer leader at a regional nursing informatics networking group. I had worked my way up from being a member, to chairing the membership committee, to serving as president. Those experiences were a notable part of my resume, even though they weren't carried out in a paid informatics position. Including those volunteer roles in my resume showed that I could lead an informatics organization to success and that was a definite plus. It also gave me a reference point for my subsequent job duties at HIMSS, and many times I looked back on those volunteer experiences and leveraged the lessons I learned, as well as my network of colleagues and friends.

One other suggestion is to pursue an unpaid internship. That is a great way to gain informatics experience and start to build a network. An internship will also help you to identify the particular informatics role that you may find of interest. Health IT is definitely booming - hospitals and health systems are rapidly implementing both electronic health records and clinical information systems, and informatics nurses are at the forefront of those efforts. Reach out to your professors, colleagues or other contacts and ask them about the projects they or their organizations are working on. Maybe they haven't previously considered having an intern, but your inquiry might spark their interest. Each of us can easily use an extra pair of capable and willing hands!

Finally, be sure to take advantage of social networking tools in your search. Today there are many vehicles available to start a discussion about a particular informatics topic that you are interested in. And that discussion could lead to discovering a new job opportunity. HIMSS has a vibrant nursing informatics community among its members. Post a question in the Nursing Informatics Discussion Forum or join the HIMSS Nursing Informatics Community and participate in its activities. LinkedIn is another great resource for both networking and participating threaded discussions. Once others see your name out there, you will soon be seen as 'in the know' and that alone can lead to future opportunities. In summary, find volunteer opportunities to gain experience, consider an internship, build your network, add confidence and credibility, and you will soon be successful in launching your future informatics career!

March 2012

More Information: /health-it-career-services/e-mentors/nurse?navItemNumber=13447#parkerSensmeier


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