There is no longer any question that IT capability and knowledge need to be part of the BMET and CE skill set. In fact, they have become fundamental skills. IT capability, in that there is a need to know how to analyze and troubleshoot computers and their networks in the clinical environment—now more than ever. Obviously, there needs to be a level of understanding in order to be able to service the network, but I also think of IT knowledge as a separate additional factor or level. The second level includes a bigger wherewithal of network interoperation and how new technology will fit and work with your present network. In other words, it is an understanding of the big picture of IT and the skills needed to deal with it.
As I start a new column, I cannot help but think about why we are doing this. The column charter boils down to support of the creation of baseline IT knowledge for the working BMET and CE. I think of each column as a sort of knowledge bite or bit to fold into your collection of other IT knowledge bits in your reference library. Everybody has one—some reference libraries more formal than others. The attempt of this column is to create something short enough to be read fairly quickly while still covering enough of the details and background information to tie it all together with other IT knowledge bits.
Creating an IT Library
I have been doing this one way or another for more than 20 years, starting just after the time when computers and networks were becoming a large part of the clinical scenery. Over the years I have learned a couple of things. Technically oriented people (like BMETs and CEs) want to know everything—all the grim details. This is fine with me, as I want to know all the grim details too. It is just that it is becoming difficult to sustain it. My perspective quickly became one of creating my own library or knowledge base of IT information to keep it all straight. My reference library is an assembly of articles, books, and Web sites, together with a vague scheme to keep it organized. The result is a personalized knowledge repository or knowledge base—designed with my mind in mind. I read a hefty IT technical manual from cover to cover once, and the only thing I can remember is where I put it on the shelf. But I also have a vague recollection of its content and can dive back in to look things up when needed. For me, that is the key. With the rapid pace of technical advancement, especially in the IT environment, and a job that keeps you busy, it makes it tough to keep up, much less get caught up, with everything that is going on.
A large part of this is to also get comfortable with the fact that you cannot know or remember everything. Then again, there is no need to know everything as long as you can look it up just in time when you need to know it. For example, when I landed a Six Sigma Black Belt job I was immediately thrust into meetings to guide/mentor Green Belts in the Six Sigma way, of which I barely knew anything about. My new boss said to ask a lot of questions and find out what the Green Belts were up to beforehand and dig into the pertinent Six Sigma details before the meeting. He said, “As long as you are one step ahead of the Green Belts you’ll do fine.” That worked fairly well, especially after I had created a Six Sigma personal knowledge base that I could dive into for any grim details. I think that same perspective works here as well. Create a personalized knowledge base, keep an ear to the ground to what is going on, and learn about IT technical aspects “just in time.”
The BMET/CE’s IT capability should also obviously focus on what is pertinent to health care IT, or HIT. There is a skill in being able to discern what is important for me to know. It can be a tough call because something that is very interesting may have no impact on your organization’s network infrastructure or future plans, so why spend time investigating it? Sometimes all I need to know is a general overview level of knowing that I can dig into when needed—just in time.
These are among the reasons to provide a health care IT networking column. I hope you come across one or two that make it into your reference library!
Jeff Kabachinski, MS-T, BS-ETE, MCNE, has more than 20 years of experience as an organizational development and training professional. Visit his Web site at kabachinski.vpweb.com. For more information, contact .