Looking for an innovative way to hire healthcare IT trainers and provide an unique opportunity for inexperience professionals to break into the healthcare IT industry? In comes “Big Break“, an American Idol styled audition process where candidates compete to become a healthcare IT trainers that will instruct healthcare professionals on the use of a sponsored healthcare provider’s EMR system.
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HIT Consultant: Give me a brief background overview of yourself and Intellect Resources
Tiffany Crenshaw: A little known fact about Intellect Resources is we spun out of Healthlink, which was, in the day, a really well-known boutique consulting firm that sold to IBM. But I came in to join them when there were about 30, actually less than 20 employees. And I came in to be their first recruiter and lead their recruiting efforts to help them grow the company. And was with Bill Augustine, the CEO of time, for several years, helped him build this company to about a 100 consultant firm. Then he looked at me one day and said, “You get bored really easily and we’re growing really well, so what are we going to do?” And I put the business plan for Intellect Resources on his desk. And quite honestly, I said, ”Gosh, Phil, there are a lot of consultants out there, excuse me, a lot of candidates out there who can’t travel like you need them to do, but they’d be great candidates to work for somebody else.” We, I try to recruit a lot of managers away and they don’t want to get on the road either. And they don’t need consultants, they need full time employees.
These two companies can operate very well together. And he said, ”Great, let’s do it!” And that’s how Intellect Resources spawned. We operated out of the Healthlink office. We use a lot of the same infrastructure. And when Healthlink was acquired by IBM, I was able to take the Intellect Resources. And ran Intellect Resources independently on my own, meaning I was the sales and the recruiter, it was just me for a number of years and then we started growing. Through the years, we’ve added on, not only the recruiting side, but also consulting go-live and then the I.R. Big Break, which I know we’re going to talk about that. Those are all the services we’ve added on through the years. And we have about 20 core non-billable employees, and we have about 300 consultants out in the field right now. So that’s the little story about how Intellect Resources started as the tiny little company that spawned out of Healthlinks.
HIT Consultant: Wow, I really didn’t even know that. So, tell me a little bit more about Big Break. First, what compelled you to start Big Break?
Tiffany Crenshaw: Well, Big Break is my baby. I get all jazzed when we talk about this. It’s just such an exciting, just an exciting event in general. It’s exciting for the clients, it’s exciting for my team, and it’s really exciting for the Big Breakers to come out to it. So what Big Break is, it is an opportunity for a hospital, to basically, and please don’t take offense to the word, but basically to breed new healthcare IT talent. And it’s a great opportunity for those that are trying to get into this industry, to get their big break and their foot in the door.[pullquote]So what Big Break is, it is an opportunity for a hospital, to basically, and please don’t take offense to the word, but basically to breed new healthcare IT talent. And it’s a great opportunity for those that are trying to get into this industry, to get their big break and their foot in the door. [/pullquote]So, there’s two sides to this story. One is the client side. We had a client in New York that was getting ready, getting closer to their go-live event with Epic. And they realized that their original plan for the 90 trainers they were going to need, the original plan wasn’t going to work. And we’d been a recruiting and consulting partner for them, at that time, for like 5 years. And they called and they said “We need 90 trainers. We need them in 3 months. We have very limited budget. We have absolutely no time.
We want to do an American Idol type audition. That’s all we’ve got. Can you help us?” And we said, “You’ve called the right folks!” And so we kind of took their need, and Big Break was our response to it. So what we decided to do with, since they had a limited budget and couldn’t really get experienced trainers because they didn’t have the time to go about recruiting 90 experienced people, you know, the idea of the done in a day audition was perfect. So, we rented out the Marriott Marquis in Time Square and we had invited roughly 400 contestants to come in as their big break into the healthcare IT industry and they came kind of to a gauntlet of exercises. They came in, they did a speed interview, they had to do an open mic in front of the camera, and then they came into an audition room with a group of judges.
We then, you know, extended offers to 100 potential trainers of course as you go through the on-boarding and the background checks, and that we ended up with 90 consultants. Those 90 folks came from all walks of life. We had folks from educators, we had people from the IT field, we had people from the healthcare field, we had people from customer service, we had fresh graduates; Folks that had minimal work experience but they were all selected, one because they had the hunch to come out such an event and two, they really shown in the event. They came in, they worked with a lot of poise, they could give impromptu presentations, they did well in front of the camera and that’s why we selected all of those folks. We got them all aboard, we trained them in Epic, they hit the classroom as Epic trainers, they went on to do the go-live event, as go-live, at the elbow support, go-live consultants. And now those folks, several of them were hired by our client at the end of the day, and they’re now permanent full-time employees of the client. Several have come to work with us on other projects and then the rest of them are all dispersed out in the field. Some have gone to work for hospitals, some for consulting firms, some, a lot of them are on the go-live circuit, doing that. So that was really what Big Break originally was, an answer to a client’s needs. We were so excited about the results, the client got great talent, they got it at a very economical price, their training and their go-live was a success. And then for all those folks that took that chance and, you know, kind of were our trial there, are now all out in the field working. So, very, very exciting.
Now our second hospital that we did this for, we kind of had a better understanding about what Big Break could be. And the second hospital, they liked all the benefits. It was a done-in a-day event, we could get good, strong, local talent, it was an economical alternative than getting experienced consultants. And this, our second particular hospital, was really wooed by the whole marketing idea. Wow, here’s a great way to bear the name of our hospital, really promote that we want to build up our New Orleans community and we really want to invest in our own people versus bringing outsiders in. So, the next Big Break that we did has all the benefits of we did for the hospital in New York, but this one really got excited about the marketing aspect of Big Break. And in the end of that Big Break, we actually hired 200 people because they have 8 hospitals to bring live over the next several years and these folks will be the trainers and also the go-live resources. So Big Break really started as an answer to a client concern and each time we’ve done this, clients get excited about different pieces of it. And we’re gearing up right now, for our third Big Break. [pullquote]So Big Break really started as an answer to a client concern and each time we’ve done this, clients get excited about different pieces of it. And we’re gearing up right now, for our third Big Break.[/pullquote] The first two were in the Epic world and the next one will be in the Cerner world so we’re very excited about that.
HIT Consultant: So, there were no qualifications to apply for Big Break? Like no previous healthcare experience? They could just have a different variety of experiences and come in and audition and really have an opportunity to gain entry into the field?
Tiffany Crenshaw: You are absolutely right Fred, now there are certain qualifications that we were looking for in both. One is the basic technical acumen. So we have an online registration process that is fairly detailed to make sure that they have the basic click and point and being able to navigate through technical instruction. So technical acumen is good. Good communication skills, good grammar, great spelling. Just basic communication. We gathered that from looking at their resumes and that’s also if they came in through the event, we got to see them. Presentation skills were paramount. In both cases, we had folks given presentations in front of big board rooms. We purposely, in both cases, also set, we kind of create this to be a gauntlet of activities that the candidates, the contestants have to go to. It has to be a little bit intimidating, so we need to see how people can work through in stressful situations. There’s a lot of unknowns. A lot of things that pop up that people aren’t expecting because that’s what training life is like for the trainer. You never know what’s going to happen when you pop up in into that classroom.
So, in addition to good communication skills, good technical skills, we need people that can really work in the unknown, can work in fast-moving environments. That can work with the unexpected. That was one of the third requirements that we were looking for there. And, then of course the presentation skills. In both cases and in future Big Breaks, we will say that healthcare or technology or training are preferred, but they’re not required. Interestingly enough, in both Big Break events so far, over 50% of the applicants have had a bachelor’s degree or higher. I think 30% had a master’s degree or higher. And in both cases, we actually had positions that actually came out to Big Break to try just so they could make that move. So, you would be really surprised at the individuals who came out. [pullquote] Interestingly enough, in both Big Break events so far, over 50% of the applicants have had a bachelor’s degree or higher. I think 30% had a master’s degree or higher. And in both cases, we actually had positions that actually came out to Big Break to try just so they could make that move. So, you would be really surprised at the individuals who came out. [/pullquote]We actually had quite a few who had healthcare IT background that came out for the first two because of the Epic experience and was trying to get their foot into the door with Epic. But I would say it was all over the gammet of what we got. Some that had experience, some that did not, some that had education and some that did not have it. So, very much across the board. But bottom line, the requirements were technical acumen, good communication skills, ability to handle the unknown and good presentation skills.
HIT Consultant: So, the individuals that were selected, are they guranteed a full-time job or did it depend on the client who was hosting the Big Break, so to speak? Are they starting off as temp-to-perm or is it just a temporary basis until they’ve proven themselves?
Tiffany Crenshaw: You know, I like to think of it as like the reality show that doesn’t end. Folks, it’s an elimination event. First they have to apply for the audition, and they either get to the audition or they get eliminated. They get to the audition and through various steps of the way, they either make it to the next step or they get eliminated. Once they start the position, they come to work for Intellect Resources on our payroll on a contract, hourly basis. Then the next step of elimination, is once they are done being a student, learning the product, learning the healthcare industry, learning how to be a trainer, they have to take a test, kind of the credentialing, and if they can’t pass that, they’ll be eliminated. The majority of people do. But there are a handful of folks that can never make it into the classroom as a trainer. And then, once they make it into the classroom as a trainer, and then you roll into go-live, you don’t need all the trainers to do the go-live, so there’s kind of an elimination there. And then once you get through the go-live, most of the people go-live in the first couple of weeks, then people start whittling your team back and there’s more elimination there. And then as with the first client, they ended up bringing 10 of those on throughout the summer and they used them in various capacities in the IT or kind of like a long extended, job interview. And then they hired 3 at the end of the summer, of their best and brightest and their favorite ones. So, I kind of laugh and say it’s the reality show that never ends. And the same thing is very much happening down in New Orleans.
People are eliminated at the application stage, throughout the audition stage, some folks, a hand full of folks that may get through the credentialing process and now all those folks are getting ready to step this week into the classroom as trainers. And as the project progresses and the client needs fewer and fewer folks, people will be eliminated throughout that and then they will choose their best and brightest to stay on. And we are very clear when we are doing the marketing of saying this is an elimination event, so it is a great way to encourage consultants to keep their best foot forward always. Get out there, do a great job, have great spirits, great attitude, work well with the team because those do well just get to keep on going. In both cases, we wrote the contract , the hourly contract for the first benchmark and we would just keep extending the people that did a great job.
HIT Consultant: Now what is Big Break doing to ensure that you’re creating a community of people that are finally getting their foot wet in the industry and then kind of making sure they have some type of support after this?
Tiffany Crenshaw: That’s really a good question on the support after. One of the things that we did for the first group, the New Yorkers, we created a LinkedIn Group of which we use to communicate with all of the folks. So there is a community of those first ones so that when we see job opportunities we’ll put it up there and say “Hey guys these opportunities are out there” or interesting articles we might find in the industry. And then of course, they’re all communicating amongst each other as well, posting similar things that they find, job opportunities and things that are going on in the industry. And then we’ve really stepped that up a notch with the New Orleans folks. We have, not, instead of LinkedIn, we’ve done everything on Facebook and we also have a FaceCamp of what we are doing all of those things. That is something that’s evolving. But right now, it’s really through all that social media, keeping people connected and informed and giving them information and of course, we’re trying to, when we have go-live events come up or contracts come up, our recruiters are very aware of who all the Big Breakers so they know who to call for certain projects and things that come up.
Part 2 of this interview/podcast will be posted soon.