The Old "Foot in the Door" Conundrum
October 30, 2012 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Plenty of education, but no experience--how do I break into health information management or roles as a trainer in a healthcare setting?

I am a person with a professional background in librarianship, training/instruction, and adult education. I'm enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program in health information management and informatics that will make me eligible to sit for the RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) exam. My career goals are to work in a health information management role or as a trainer in a healthcare setting, maybe in support of electronic health record systems and system implementations, so I feel like this program triangulates nicely with my other professional skills.

But I don't know how to get my first job, because everyone wants experience, and I don't have any healthcare experience at all. And I can't figure out how to remedy that. Everyone seems to want coding experience for almost any health information job, medical office experience for any billing job, and healthcare-specific experience for any training job. Do I try to get an entry-level medical records clerk job? Do I really need to become a medical assistant also in order to get my foot in the door? Is there anything I could be doing better right now, or are there any great foot-in-the-door opportunities I might be missing? Are there any associations I should join?

Assume that I have already tried my best to use whatever placement/experience services my school may or may not offer. I have also talked to the American Health Information Management Association about mentor opportunities.

Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to give.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My husband was an RHIT for a few years before he moved into programming. You can probably get an internship leading into the last few months before you sit for the RHIA. This would help you get the coder/HIPAA training experience that everyone wants so badly.

If you're in the U.S., I'd also recommend joining (not just talking to) AHIMA ( They often hold networking events that may help you. They're do a lot more for members than they do for folks who just talk with them - I think you might find the membership dues worth it.
posted by RogueTech at 6:54 PM on October 30, 2012

Look into working in a QIO - Quality Improvement Organization. I worked here for several years: Qualis Health. Health information management was a big part of what they did and was becoming bigger all the time. Large insurance companies also usually have internal departments that may have opportunities doing HIT work or training on HIT systems.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 7:17 PM on October 30, 2012

Yeah, one of the things that frustrates me when I see all the articles and blurbs touting HIM as one of the more in demand fields of the near future is how. damned. hard. it is to get that first job. I have an RHIT, and am working as a coder, and a looot of places were very clear on the fact that they weren't willling to put in the time to train a new grad.

That being said-network. If you haven't already, join AHIMA. This will also give you a membership into your state association as well. Post questions like these on the Communities of Practice, there's a lot of people there willing to give advice. Are you on Linkedin? There's a few groups dedicated to our field as well.

I don't believe becoming a medical assistant would help you get your foot in the door; direct patient care and HIM don't have that much overlap. However,if you were to get a job or volunteer in medical records, you become a known entity to the HIM department-sometimes that's the push you need when an opening does come up.
posted by jacy at 7:31 PM on October 30, 2012

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