What are some actionable steps — such as technologies to master — to transition my IT experience into the electronic medical records (EMR) field? For example, is the CompTIA CDIA+ (Certified Document Imaging Architect) still viable?
First of all, it's easier to move within the IT field between sectors or industries if you're already working in IT. Employers are not only looking for technical skills, but also soft skills and work ethics; after all, these are transferable and follow people wherever they go. Experience built up is very valuable and highly sought after.
Certifications (vendor and non-vendor): General non-vendor-specific certifications, like those from CompTIA, are not only viable but are also desirable. A lot of vendor-specific certifications delve deep into their own programs and only skim the hardware that their programs run on. Added to that, certifications (vendor-specific as well as CompTIA ones) and experience really go hand in hand.
Field: You're going to have to decide what field within the area of EMR you want to go into. There’s the data side, security side, support side, development side, etc.
Networking: No, I don't mean TCP/IP, even though you do have to know it. I mean networking with other IT professionals. You'd be surprised how much information can be relayed via this method. Associations in the United States — such as CompTIA's IT Pro membership, the Network Professional Association (NPA) and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) — can all be of assistance.
If we were to break down the path into manageable steps, it would look like this:
• Step 1: Decide what area or field you want to go into.
• Step 2: Network (this is done throughout all stages).
• Step 3: Gain entry-level certification(s) for the field — this can be done before or after you get your foot in the door). Examples include CompTIA certifications such as the A+, Network+, Security+ and the CDIA+; Microsoft certifications such as the MCDST (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician) and MCITP: EST (Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Support Technician); and best practice approaches such as ITIL v3 Foundation.
• Step 4: Apply for and gain job (again, this can be swapped with Step 3).
• Step 5: Continue to work and get trained for field-specific software and hardware and gain higher-level professional certifications that reflect your job role and responsibilities.
There’s one thing individuals ought to be aware of regarding mastering technology: It’s always changing, always being upgraded, swapped and stopped. For instance, you could learn Microsoft SQL 2008 and Windows 2008 R2; however, what if the backend of the EMR system uses Linux and Oracle? Or say you learn Vista, but it gets skipped and you’re required to go straight for Windows 7 or even a Citrix-based thin client system? There's always the chance of wireless being used or not; it really depends on how the system as a whole gets developed and evolves.
Ken Wagner is an IT network manager and part-time IT lecturer in the United Kingdom. He has lived in the United States, Asia and Europe. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.