Junior consultant program to take the edge off HIT staff shortage

Sheri Stoltenberg, CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, says she could see an IT consultant crisis coming
By Diana Manos
09:25 AM
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Pittsburgh-based Stoltenberg Consulting has found a way to put more health IT experts in the field with a new junior consultant program.

Sheri Stoltenberg, CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, says she could see a crisis coming with regard to the need for IT consultants three years ago. “As a consulting firm, by nature, shouldn’t we be providing solutions and solving problems?” she asks.

 

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Stoltenberg says health IT consultants tend to be a little older. The solution was to move more young people into the industry. “It changed the way we look at staffing,” she says.

Before launching the program, Stoltenberg ran the idea past some focus groups at a College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) conference. “It got rave reviews,” she says.

The program was launched this month, after taking three years to prepare for it, Stoltenberg says. The junior consultants are put through a rigorous hiring and training process. “We knew to be successful, we had to train junior consultants in more than just vendor specific software,” she says.

“I believe vendors install software but consultants should be looking at how you’re going to use that software so it works well in your clinical process,” Stoltenberg says. “For our program to be effective, we needed to spend more time on process workflow training.”

The junior consultants are ready to hit the track running, she says. They are productive from the first day, and cost a hospital 35 percent less than a senior consultant. Senior consultants from Stoltenberg are grouped with junior consultants at a hospital, adding to the training. The junior consultants sign a one-year contract with the hospital, with the option of keeping them on longer. Some hospitals take more than one junior consultant on at a time, Stoltenberg says.

[See also: CIO survey forecasts IT staffing troubles ahead.]

Stoltenberg Consulting is currently working with Ohio Northern University to recruit new undergraduates for the program. “We are looking for students with great communication skills and business acumen” along with a healthcare degree of some kind," says Stoltenberg, who notes that her firm is also working to expand the recruiting process to other universities.

Stoltenberg Consulting’s interest in training IT consultants goes farther than the new junior consultant program. The firm has established a Stoltenberg Future Fund Scholarship, which has pledged $50,000 to the CHIME Education Foundation over the next 25 years. The CHIME Education Foundation provides scholarships for CHIME members to attend educational events.