Dear CertMag: Tech Path to a Career in the Health Care Industry
I am currently a senior college student double-majoring in finance and management information systems along with completing two certificates in business intelligence and project management. I have a passion to help people and to serve my community, especially its elders. My future business plan is to establish an assisted living facility. To get there, I need experience in that field. With your expertise, what position do you think I can get into, especially in the health care sector, and also, what certification should I pursue to be competitive once I graduate, in addition to my two majors?
From an experience point of view, I would recommend getting a position as a support worker, care assistant or nurse assistant, at least for a few months, over the weekends as you’re a student. I’ve found that one of the best ways to build up knowledge of any industry (and thus the clients) is to experience the bottom of the ladder, so to speak.
Qualification-wise, in the U.S., most states have implemented a certified nurse aide program, whereas in the U.K. and Europe, there is the NVQ program, among others. Both programs are done via an approved curriculum and either assessed or graded via exams. In the U.K. and Europe, this is assessed through work. This will complement your degree and your qualifications not related to health care.
An additional certification that you may want to consider is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) certification, regardless of whether or not it’s already incorporated into your current degree program. The Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) is another option for you to consider. While these certifications will not guarantee a job or promotion (no certification or qualification can) they will give you an edge and help on the CV front.
The health care industry, like many specialized industries with heavy technology needs, relies on a candidate bringing with him or her a progression of experience that demonstrates both functional and vertical competency. They expect you to know what you are doing with the technology and also understand the hows and whys of the health care business.
If your end goal is to focus on the business of one day owning and running an assisted living facility, it will be critically important to you to maintain contact with the underlying business and not allow yourself to get sidetracked too heavily into a technology-focused or specific services direction.
Your first entry-level job should be a basic services or technology opportunity within the assisted living sector of the health care industry. It is also possible that you may be able to find work in some other kind of home or living facility. The critical thing here is that you are dealing with a facility that has to meet the unique needs of patients who depend on it 24 hours a day and that you begin to build your experience within the modern regulatory controls and health care practices.
Look for opportunities in that first position to attend conferences, seminars and trainings on HIPAA. Also, you should prepare to obtain an advanced degree in business management, not technology. Plan on completing your MBA, and ensure that if you have the opportunity, you are reserving funding toward that goal.