How to explain “I am a Healthcare IT consultant” at the Holiday Dinner Table

dinner tableWe’ve all been asked the question…what is it that you do exactly?  For years my parents just tell people that I travel for a living helping hospitals with computers.  Although it is not completely off, it’s not exactly right.  Let’s face it, our career path is confusing to non HIT folks.  I thought I would share some tips and ideas that might actually engage family and friends during the holidays.

First lesson I learned, don’t mention Epic, MEDITECH, Cerner, Siemens, or any software company for that matter.  My entire family thinks I work for Epic.  I do not, nor have I ever.  I’ve had ongoing heated discussions with friends who insist Cerner did not buy Siemens, and that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I try to avoid arguing with people as a general rule.  I just shake my head and say, ok.

Stay away from other HIT jargon like Meaningful Use, ICD-10, or Clinical Transformation.  Every year I’ve mentioned one of these, I have to listen to someone talk about ObamaCare, and how awful it is.  Really?  Did I mention anything about ObamaCare?  Sigh…

For the last couple of years my response has been simple.  “I manage consultants who help hospitals convert from paper to electronic medical record systems.”  I think this is pretty good, even though I actually originally built scheduling systems…but close enough.  If you are going to try to simplify what you do, keep it to something that people can relate to.

Here are some other good ones:

  • “I’m a computer programmer who builds software for hospitals.” – Now this may once again suggest you work for Epic…but hey, whatever.
  • “My company provides short term IT staffing support.” – I’m ok with letting folks think I work for a help desk.
  • “I travel for a living working with hospitals who need help with their computer systems.” – I like this one, as it usually opens a discussion about travel instead of work. Much more interesting to most people.

Statements guaranteed to confuse everyone at the table, but may get a good laugh:

·   I’m on the bench

·   I just got certified

·   The hospital is converting to Siemens

·   I have to provide go-live support

· My contract was extended

· I accepted a project based hourly position

· I work with Kaleidoscope and Stork

· I am working on my Six Sigma Black Belt

Regardless of whether your second cousins fiancee or your 19 year old nephew is inquiring, keep it short and sweet.  It’s an ongoing battle, but worth elaborating when you have the right audience.  Happy Thanksgiving!

2 Comments on “How to explain “I am a Healthcare IT consultant” at the Holiday Dinner Table

  1. One question I always get from people is when do you plan to settle down or are you still searching for the best opportunity that fits you. …um, I am already settled, this is what I want to do!


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