Hire top health IT talent before talent pool drains

Looking for Santa to bring you a network administrator, security expert or software developer in the near future? Better get on it now. Positions that earn $80,000 to $90,000 today will jump into six figures in the latter half of 2011.

Bottom line: The days of plenty for top IT talent may be over. No doubt, hospitals in your region will expand their IT departments in the New Year, and all of you will be looking for the same types of IT talent. But you'll be drawing from the same dwindling pool of candidates.

That's according to Tim Tolan, senior partner of the health IT practice at Sanford Rose Associates, Charleston, S.C., who recently shared some of his predictions for the New Year with FierceEMR.

IT growth alone isn't driving the talent squeeze. Also draining from the pool are solid IT techs with healthcare training. This supply will slow to a trickle over the first half of 2011. That's when the fun begins for job candidates seeking higher salaries. CIOs, meanwhile, will scramble to create in-house training programs for IT staff they normally recruit from outside of healthcare, Tolan predicts.

CIOs also may have to provide perks they haven't considered in a while, such as generous relocation assistance, sign-on bonuses, healthcare coverage for family members, childcare, additional vacation time and more, says Gwen Darling, CEO of recruiting firm Healthcare IT Central, Tulsa, Okla.

The run on IT job candidates may already have started, as CIOs rush to meet meaningful use and other Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act requirements. Tolan's client requests have already started to spike, and he expects that candidate searches that once took eight to 12 weeks soon will run three to six months. "I've spent my entire career in healthcare and I've never seen anything like this," he tells us.

For those of you in the market for a job, take heed: The hottest hiring markets appear to be East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) and West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas). Let the reindeer games begin!

Sara Jackson is a health IT reporter based outside of Washington, D.C.