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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On being a HealthIT Mento(ree)

Last night's #HITsm chat brought up the topic of resources for people entering the Health IT workforce.  One of the most amazing resources that any person can find is a mentor.  It's a particular and often peculiar relationship that benefits both parties.

One of the things that I learned late my IT career is that Standards Development Organizations like HL7, profiling organizations like IHE, and HIT professional societies like HIMSS offer their members access to some of the most skilled professionals in Health IT.  And it was with couple of those that I developed a mentor/mentoree relationship around the same time.

I wouldn't be in the role that I'm in today if it hadn't been for my mentors.  I've been fortunate enough to have several, including some that I went to school with, others that I worked with directly, and others who worked for a competitor (for almost as long as I've known them).  I've also been a mentor on several occasions that I can count.  In at least one case the role flip-flopped back and forth several times.
From a Health IT perspective, I can tell you that I'm both proud and to some degree, even a wee bit jealous of those I've mentored.  The reason I'm jealous is because they are so much younger than I was when I got engaged in Healthcare IT and found my first mentor since my college years.  In at least one case, I managed to find the "Perfect Student", one who absorbed everything I had to teach and surpassed me quite rapidly.  I think he's now a VP of software development (I'd have to check linked-in).

Being a remote employee these days, it's very hard to find a mentor "in-house" as it were.  For those that aren't remote it can still be challenging because you have limited access to skilled senior-level people. I've seen many organizations try to formalize the mentor/mentoree relationship in a program.  Most of them simply don't work because you cannot force it, there needs to be the right chemistry.  I suspect the programs that do work focus more energy on making sure the right opportunities arise to develop the relationship without trying to force it.  As a new member of the Health IT workforce, don't wait for a program to offer you one.  I encourage you to join an organization like HL7, IHE, or HIMSS and get engaged.  It is through those engagements that you will learn more (possibly than you ever wanted to know) about the field that you've entered.  And if you are lucky (like I was), you may even find a mentor (or two) who can help you navigate the field.