Rush University program trains veterans for health IT jobs

Rush University Medical Center hopes to expand its program to help returning veterans attain skills in health IT and help other healthcare organizations replicate it.

A case study from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) outlines Rush's early experience with its EN-Abled Veterans Program, which offers a six-month internship in health IT for veterans or their family members. It's paired with Rush's Road Home Program, which provides support, counseling and health services for veterans and their families.

The EN-Abled program takes into account the range of issues facing returning veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. A study of veterans' frequent use of emergency rooms pointed to their "life circumstances" and cast doubt that a simple solution exists.

The program also recognizes that a spouse might be better equipped to support the family--and needs the skills to do so--while the veteran heals, training the Department of Veterans Affairs can't offer.

The program began last September with four veterans hired as part of an ongoing project at the facility to replace existing PCs with thin-client computers that use a virtual desktop infrastructure. The veterans were paid $12.50 an hour and worked flexible, 16-hour weeks to allow them to take care of other commitments in their lives.

One veteran discovered an interest in servers; another in security and shadowed a security specialist; a third wanted to focus on working at the help desk to find a job quickly. During the final two months, the veterans were given assistance with their resumes and interviews on their performance.

In the future, Rush wants to offer the program to veterans whose mental or emotional situations pose a barrier to employment.

"Anybody can hire the typical person who isn't struggling, but when you have a vet struggling with deep-seated emotional issues, that's a contributing factor to why they've not been hired," said Jaime Parent, Rush's associate CIO and vice president of IT operations, who developed the program. "[T]hat's the subset of the population that's going to have the hardest time getting a job."

To learn more:
- read the case study