Escape from Project Management
August 28, 2015 8:53 AM   Subscribe

I find myself being recruited for (and sometimes taking) healthcare IT project management jobs, and it turns out I hate them all. Specifically, I hate being held accountable for everything but having zero authority to actually do, fix, or decide anything. How do I break out of this project management career trap?

Despite my healthcare colleagues thinking I'm a technical genius for being able to work Excel and quickly learn the infinite quirks of an electronic medical record system, I don't have real technical skills (i.e. coding, networking, hardcore statistical analysis, software certifications). While I think it might be nice to be actually able to fix problems or build/design new tools, I don't want to be chained to my computer like the IS/IT analysts at my organizations have been - I like getting out and about during the day. Have any of you escaped from project management? What career jumps/paths did that take? Did you stay within the same field and become more of a specialist? If so, how did you beef up those specialty skills while working as a project manager?

Despite having a master's degree in public health, I don't have a real clinical background, so it's hard for me to transition to other healthcare management jobs without having trained/worked as a nurse, for example. And while I like the money that project management salaries pay, if I have to sit through another hour-long debate on SharePoint site hierarchy, I may find myself doing something that I regret even more than taking my current job.
posted by Maarika to Work & Money (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The nature of PM includes closely working with business analysts. Have you looked at what they're doing, including the closely related work of process improvement?
posted by Mogur at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

What about becoming a trainer on new EHR technology/software? You would get to be out in and about, use your technical know how, and help solve people's problems right there.
posted by CMcG at 9:10 AM on August 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm in a similar boat. I don't want those "pure PM" jobs but that's supposed to be the goal. I realized that what I really liked was doing the analysis and being an expert in the system I was supporting. So I'm looking into Senior Business Analyst jobs now. Many of them want you to have some degree of PM anyway so that's a selling point. We'll see how successful I am, I'm really trying to spin it as "this is my strongest asset, but I'm also seasoned at working on projects and all that entails."
posted by cabingirl at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

First of all, I'm sorry, because you're not supposed be accountable for other people just for yourself and documentation, and if you document other people's fuckups then they should be accountable. That said, all PMOs are dysfunctional to some degree, so welcome to it.

There is a very healthy (har) Healthcare IT consulting world out there. These jobs will pay well, value PMs, and kind of separate you a bit from what you are talking about as your problems here. I agree with the above that you could look at the BA job and see if you like that. Additionally look for other industries that matrix in with yours - for example, web dev firms that skew toward advertising/digital that work with heath care companies -- you would be managing projects for the same kind of people -- CLIENTS this time -- in an environment where you work with different people than you do now.

Additionally as above, look at training and implementation jobs.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:03 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone! I do like the idea of healthcare/management consulting, but I can't do a high-travel job in the foreseeable future due to family obligations. I've done EMR implementation and training in the past, which involved a ton of travel and brutal never-ending go-live hours. The EMR trainers at my current employer don't have to travel, but I would be so bored teaching the same screens/functions day in, day out. I will start looking at local consulting firms and business analyst jobs and see what's out there!
posted by Maarika at 12:37 PM on August 28, 2015

Consulting firms can be of many different types -- not all of them operate on the 4 day travel, 1 day rest model. My husband works at one such biotech consulting firm -- the more junior employees basically hardly ever travel -- not more than average in any other corporate role anyway. The hours are still long, but it is an option.
posted by peacheater at 1:26 PM on August 28, 2015

You could try to transition to a health information management position with your background. Unfortunately I don't know enough about that career track to recommend an actual position or job title.
posted by eatcake at 3:22 PM on August 28, 2015

Update: I have figured out an exit path for now into healthcare process improvement work. There will still be project management frustration and lack of control, but at least it gets me out of focusing solely on IT stuff. Plus, I'll get to specialize in six sigma/lean and gain some new skills that way. Hopefully I won't be looking for another escape route in 6 months!
posted by Maarika at 6:37 AM on December 19, 2015

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