LAKEWOOD – Shawn Armentrout worked as an electrician for 25 years, and established a solid career for himself until a lower-back injury forced him to rethink his future. “From 1998 to 2009, the wear and tear of working in construction just broke me down,” he admitted.
Two years and two surgeries later, he made the decision to go back to school and prepare himself for a field that would better suit him.
After working with a vocational counselor through the Department of Labor and Industries, Armentrout discovered the Health Information Technology (HIT) program at Pierce College.
“Health IT is an industry that just isn’t going to die,” he said. “The idea of going back to school scared me to death, but I was really excited to start something new.”
Armentrout is part of the first cohort of students to complete the Health Information Technology program this year at Pierce College. Eleven students are earning their certificate and another eight are receiving associates degrees.
Many students in the Pierce College HIT program are in similar situations, with many undergoing retraining from previous careers.
The program first started in Dec. 2012 through an $11,775,297 federal grant awarded to a consortium of nine community colleges, work force, industry and labor partners. As a condition of the grant, Pierce College created original curriculum that leads to either a certificate in healthcare database management, or an associate’s degree in health informatics and information technology.
“The long-term employment prospects in this field is very good,” said Donna Moran, program lead for HIT. “Our students will make good salaries.”
The curriculum covers electronic health records, medical terminology, information technology, as well as instruction in the healthcare environment, federal privacy laws, government regulations, communications skills and more.
Classes are already filling up for the second class of students pursuing an education in health information technology.
“This is a difficult program, and our students are able to develop strong skill sets to be successful,” Moran said.