North Idaho College

 While doctors and nurses may be the public face of the healthcare industry, many people also work behind the scenes to keep hospitals and care facilities running smoothly—such as healthcare computer technicians who install, manage and troubleshoot IT systems in medical and clinical settings. North Idaho College offers a two-year Healthcare Computer Technician program (formerly called Healthcare Informatics Technician) to fulfill this industry need. Students can earn either a certificate or an associate’s degree in the program.

 

“There’s high demand for skilled computer repair technicians in healthcare,” said Sue Shibley, chair of the Business and Professional Programs Division at NIC. “It’s a growing field with opportunities for advancement and specialization.”

 

Employment in all computer occupations is expected to increase by 22 percent by the year 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) biennial update of employment projections—much faster than the average overall occupation growth in the United States.

 

It is anticipated that growth in the healthcare industry will spark a need for more IT security. The average salary for a healthcare computer technician is $61,050 per year, according to the BLS.

 

Students in the program are matched with an internship at a healthcare facility. In many cases, Shibley said, these internships lead to jobs.

 

“When we find a superior intern, we offer them a job,” said Skip Meyer, president of Highpoint Medical, Inc., a medical practice and hospital consulting business with an office in Coeur d’Alene. “This way, we get to hire people we’ve already worked with and know.”

 

For years, Highpoint has had a symbiotic relationship with NIC. Through their internship arrangement, Highpoint hires new interns and sometimes full-time employees who have graduated from NIC programs, while NIC gets hands-on experience for their students.

 

Kyle Barney was one such student. He worked as an intern with Highpoint Medical, Inc. in the IT department. Upon graduating from the program in May, he was hired to work there full time.

 

Previously, Barney had an associate’s degree in general studies from NIC, but wasn’t sure where he wanted to go from there. Then the Healthcare Computer Technician program caught his eye.

 

“I was already interested in working with computers,” he said. “If I had the healthcare side of things, it would open a lot of doors for me.”

 

In addition to the computer technician aspect, he took classes about medical terminology, medical coding and billing, HIPAA guidelines and other subjects. An understanding of the underpinnings of the healthcare field is vital, and Barney says that NIC prepared him for that.

 

“My experience at NIC was awesome,” he said. “It’s a good place to start. You get a view of both sides—basic knowledge of Windows and servers, and the healthcare side.”

 

Barney has three associate’s degrees from NIC under his belt but, for now, he’s taking a break from school and plans to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Technology.

 

“I like being on the cusp of what’s happening,” Barney said. “Technology is developing rapidly, especially in the healthcare field. Things are really progressing in a great direction, and I want to continue working with that.”

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