With unemployment at levels not seen in decades due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and underemployment affecting younger workers, it is easy to forget that there are still industries where qualified employees are in short supply. The health care industry is one of them, particularly in the field of electronic health records (EHR).

An EHR is a digital record of a patient’s medical chart and can include their “medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results.”

EHR is considered a career with high-growth potential as more hospitals look to cut costs and improve patient care by going digital. There are more than 40,000 open jobs related to implementing, configuring, activating, and integrating electronic health records, reports Burning Glass Technologies.

Earn as You Learn a Sought After Skill

To bridge that employment gap and create a pipeline of work-ready employees, staffing and consulting firm Optimum Healthcare IT is announcing Tuesday that it joining with the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville to launch the first-ever paid apprenticeship program specifically for EHR careers.

The three-month apprenticeship will be open to students who graduate with a computer science or health care informatics degree. Accepted applicants will be hired by Optimum and paid as apprentices from the start of the 12-week training program, according to the staffing firm. A majority of the jobs are expected to be for roles as an Epic Certified Analyst, which can pay $90,000 or more annually.

“Technology is now playing a huge part of enabling clinicians and health care providers to have data readily available at their fingertips as they’re treating patients.There’s clearly a shift in health care to not only install EHR, but also to entirely do a whole digital transformation,” Optimum Executive Chairman Gene Scheurer tells WorkingNation ahead of the official announcement.

He explains that there is a whole new skill set needed to support that digital transformation and Optimum and UNF are positioning themselves at the forefront of that training. “There’s a lot of training that needs to happen right now to get those students coming out of college up-to-speed as far as what technologies are being utilized in the health care landscape. And not only the technology itself, but also the vernacular that’s needed to understand the terminology that’s used in health care.”

Paid Program Leading to Quality Jobs

The program will be hosted by UNF’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. The start date will be set after UNF finalizes its plans to reopen the campus.

In a statement, UNF President David Szymanski calls the partnership one of many examples of UNF’s commitment to helping graduates get quality jobs. “Thousands of current and future UNF graduates will benefit from this streamlined pathway to obtain great first jobs in the growing health care IT sector.”

“With the appointment of UNF’s first Vice President of Jobs, our University has a dedicated position in creating strong job opportunities for our students, and we are excited to be hosting America’s first apprenticeship program for electronic health records,” said President Szymanski.

After completing their training, apprentices will join Optimum project teams serving health care systems across the country. Optimum says that one of the major causes of the skills gap in health care IT is that hospitals are unwilling to take a risk on proven talent and the apprenticeship program will allow their clients to evaluate project workers before deciding if they want to hire them on their teams permanently.

“We’re looking at this opportunity to really grow the practice and provide a win-win scenario, a win-win for graduates coming out of UNF and anybody else of our university partnerships,” according to Scheurer. “And going into our health care system clients, giving them a resource that’s very well trained, very eager to learn, and has a nice baseline to come into the organization and make a difference.”

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