Routes into Health Informatics

Routes in to Health Informatics

There are many ways that current health informatics practitioners have entered the profession including:

Qualifications

Health Informatics Apprenticeships

Graduate Management Scheme

Work Experience

 

Qualifications

With good GCSEs and/or work experience

Although currently you may not need formal qualifications to begin working in health informatics, GCSEs or equivalent qualifications and/or some work experience can be an advantage. At entry level, you can apply for a range of assistant jobs, working in libraries, wards and outpatient departments, or on computer helpdesks, supporting healthcare and health informatics professionals.

The Health Informatics Career Framework (HICF) demonstrates the breadth of roles in health informatics – to look at entry level roles, search for job roles at level 1, at level 2 and level 3.

For more information about entry requirements for Health Informatics see the NHS Careers website.

With A-Levels.

With A levels, equivalent qualifications and/or some work experience, you can start your career as a management trainee. There are also opportunities for existing staff to enter junior management positions. A levels may also be helpful for some specialist roles, for example A levels in anatomy and/or physiology are helpful for specialist library posts such as clinical librarian.

For more information about entry requirements for Health Informatics see the NHS Careers website.

As a Graduate

A strong academic background and sound management experience opens up opportunities to management positions in health informatics. A Health Informatics Management specialism is now part of the NHS Leadership Academy Graduate Management Training Scheme. Graduates looking for a structured entry to Health Informatics employment with academic support, should visit the NHS Leadership Academy website for further details about the scheme and when recruitment takes place.

Staff working in information management often hold a degree or masters degree in Health Informatics. A degree in library and information studies or information science will allow you to join the professional tier of the library service. For a very senior role, such as knowledge services manager, you may also need a postgraduate qualification in information and library work.

For more information about entry requirements for Health Informatics see the NHS Careers website.

As a qualified clinician or other NHS employee

Many current health informaticians began their careers as clinicians and then moved into informatics. Clinical informatics is increasingly important in ensuring that the NHS provides a high-quality service and consistent, evidence-based care. Clinical informatics often concerns the capture, communication and use of patient data and clinical knowledge by doctors and other clinical professionals and the development and implementation of electronic tools to support the whole cycle of clinical information.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships provide routes into a variety of careers, including many in the NHS, and offer the opportunity to earn, learn and achieve nationally recognised qualifications at the same time. Apprenticeships always include a technical qualification at either level 2 or level 3.

Apprenticeships in England and Wales are generally available to 16 – 25 year-olds in England and to all ages in Wales. In 2006 alone more than 4,000 people were awarded apprenticeship certificates in Health and Social Care, Pharmacy Support, Dental Nursing and Support Services. These apprentices now have an excellent foundation for their chosen careers in the health sector.

Work Experience

Click on the following case studies to find out more about how people have  become Health Informatics professionals.

Case study: Example of a move into Health Informatics

Susan left school and went to work for her local NHS Trust as an Administrative Assistant. In this role she was working with a bookings system, receiving calls from members of the public and processing records in a hospital environment.

This work gave Susan a good awareness of hospital processes and computer systems. She worked here for several years before moving into work on a Help Desk to provide advice to members of staff on the use of Trust wide systems and communications. This experience around IT helped her progress in IT support, with a particular emphasis on the use of data and information. Her most recent progression has been into the role of Information Analyst.

Case study: Nurse becomes IT Training Manager

Stephen was trained as a qualified nurse prior to moving into the role of a Training Manager in Health and Social Care in the North of England. At that time his work as a Training Manager covered IT training, soft skills, occupational standards and qualifications. He also attained a CIPD in Training Practice (Level 3).

His current role is as an IT Training Manager for a large Trust based in the Midlands. This is a challenging role and one in which Stephen feels he has a constant need to develop his own skills and support others to develop theirs.

Case study: IT Operations Manager taking a Business Management degree

“As IT Operations Manager, I am responsible for the day to day technical support of all desktop computers and IT infrastructure for our customers across the county. I manage 150 staff through six direct reports who are based each at different locations enabling them to cover the whole of the county.

“The foundation degree course was part time and suggested the required amount of study time would be two hours per week plus one compulsory residential weekend per year. The degree ran over three years and, at the time, it appeared that the relatively short amount of study required each week was unlikely to encroach seriously on my home life or on my work commitments.

What were the barriers to learning?

“The biggest barrier, for me, was definitely time, as I found that the amount of studying required far exceeded the recommended study time. I would estimate that at least twelve hours were required each week and the majority of studying took place in my own time, usually on a Sunday.

“Another difficulty was the way in which I was expected to write my assignments: I’ve always written in ‘black and white’, so to speak, but here I was in an academic environment expected to produce work in ‘uni-speak’ and to back my research and reasoning up with various theories that, until now, I had been completely unfamiliar with.

“A further obstacle was the dramatic drop-out rate; initially twenty three students embarked on the degree course, however, only three of us completed it. This had a huge impact on the dynamics of the group; as the numbers dwindled, there simply were not enough students to work through issues and problems with.

“I was supported by tutors throughout each aspect of the training, with different tutors assigned for each module and a separate one who oversaw the whole course. In terms of support for learning from my employers, study leave was approved by the organisation but I only really took a handful of days throughout the three years that I was studying generally during the lead up to an exam or when I needed to complete an assignment in a short period of time.

“The degree was assessed through a combination of exams and course work assignments such as written papers and formal presentations. The multiple choice exams were not too difficult but I made a rule never to go back and change my original answer as apparently more often than not people change a correct answer to an incorrect answer. The written papers were more stressful and arduous. Aside from the anxiety of time constraints and not having any notes to refer to, the hardest challenge for me was that they had to be written by hand. It seems so old fashioned to hand write in the modern world that we live in today and my hand and wrist muscles just weren’t used to it.

“At work my boss was my mentor, and he was very supportive of my studying, having identified it through my personal development plan as a way to progress my career and had funded the course. More than this, I felt I had his moral support and this was very important to me as it made me feel valued and also gave credence to the efforts I was putting into my studies.

“I spent around twelve hours per week reading and studying and yes, sometimes it was extremely difficult to find this time. I did all my studying outside of work hours, so I would spend time on it most evenings and pretty much all day on Sundays. Obviously this had a massive impact on my home life, leaving me little time for leisure activities, relaxing, and seeing my family.

What was the outcome and what were the benefits?

“The key outcome for me was that I attained a foundation degree and I would say there were three significant benefits to me on a personal level, to me on a professional level and to the Health Informatics Service as my employer.

“Firstly, I felt a strong sense of personal satisfaction and pride from my achievement.

“Secondly, the addition of a degree to my CV will definitely open up far broader career opportunities for me. Throughout my career I learned that no matter how experienced I may be at my job, without degree level qualifications, many doors would always remain closed to me.

“Finally, my boss said that he believed that this course has helped develop me as a manager and in all modesty I agree with him – I certainly have a better understanding now of the business processes applicable to the HIS than I had before I undertook this course.

What lessons did you draw from your experiences?

“I would advise anyone who is thinking of doing a similar course to make sure that both themselves and their families are fully aware of the time commitments. It can cause quite a lot of tension in the family and stress to individuals.

“I’d also suggest reading up on how to write university assignments. It’s very different from anything I had done in the past and although you learn as you go, I think it would be beneficial to crack this nut right at the beginning so that you can then focus on the more important aspects of the course.

“I felt I was very well supported by both my employer and the university which was important. Certainly anybody studying and working full time needs to feel supported at work. If I had been aware that my employer would pay for my books, this would have helped. So a lesson for other work based learners is you should ask about this, rather than just assuming you have to pay for your own course materials.”

Thanks to Sussex Health Informatics Service for sharing this case study.