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Learning new skills for the new economy

by henry on May 18, 2011

The innovation economy creates and will continue to create good jobs. However the skills these jobs require are increasingly in short supply. A big part of the solution to the jobless recovery is to better align our educational training programs with the technical needs of today’s employers to be globally competitive.

Healthcare IT is a growing field that needs reskilled workers.

Here is an example from the world of health care.

As a registered nurse, Jean Frazier has worked in labor and delivery for eight years. Now, she is helping deliver a new era in health care – information technology.  

“I have always been very interested in the use of technology in the health care industry,” Frazier said. “The first hospital I worked at in Louisiana was doing paper charting. They tried to implement information technology with computer charting, but they didn’t provide the proper education for the staff and they didn’t really get people on board with it before implementation. It was rejected by the nurses after several months, so we went back to paper. I was very interested in the hospital going electronic because I saw the advantages of it, including cutting down overtime for the nurses.” 

When Frazier moved to San Diego six years ago to work as an RN at UC San Diego Medical Center, she helped the other nurses at that hospital get up to speed on the new bar coding technology for medications.  

“Every time you introduce something new to a hospital, like technology, it can be challenging because the nurses feel overworked, and they often feel they don’t have the support they need,” Frazier said.  

Frazier decided the only way she could effectively  ease nurses and physicians into the digital age was to learn more about information technology.  That’s when she took the UC San Diego Extension Health care IT program which examines the impact of health care IT on different health care environments and organizations, as well as the national implications of effective implementation.  

“We received an overview of the health care system in a way I had never learned as a bedside nurse, like content management systems, how billing works and how IT fits into the hospital,” Frazier said about the Extension program. “We also learned about networking and computers and the different applications being used in health care, as well as how national policy impacts health care IT. 

“The course gave me an understanding of what I could do within the health care information technology field,” she added. “Everybody in the course was so different, from project managers to clinicians to technical writers and it was great to see how each has a place to fit into this health care IT field. This field is still emerging so a lot of people don’t know what kinds of jobs are available. What the course afforded was the opportunity to understand what heath care IT is about and how I fit into it with my particular skill set and interests.” 

Frazier, who completed the Extension course in March 2010, recently started a new job using her newfound health care IT skills. As a senior specialist in evidence-based medicine for Sharp Health care, she acts as a liaison between the hospitals’s IT department and the clinicians, as well as helps transfer medical records from paper to the electronic age. 

Frazier said information technology not only improves efficiency for hospitals but it also increases safety for patients.

“With electronic medical records I can now easily and quickly read what a physician has entered in the computer about a patient instead of needing to spend time clarifying what they have hand-written,” she said. “As a nurse, I now have access to many aspects of that patient’s record, regardless of where I am in the hospital. So I’m not waiting on a paper chart that someone else is using. I have immediate access to the patient’s information. With technology, like bar coding, where you can scan the barcodes to cross reference a patient’s wristband with their medication, you can cut down on potential errors of giving that patient the wrong medication.” 

“There are also reminders we can set in the programs that pop up on a computer that tell us when a patient is due for a wellness or follow-up exam,” she added. “Before, we had to sort through paper records. Information technology gives us a much more efficient way to know about and follow the care of a patient.”

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