Join LifeBridge Health VP & CIO Tressa Springmann (@tresspringmann) and fellow panelists at the annual #HealthITChicks Meetup at #HIMSS18 on Tuesday, March 6 at 2pm. Learn more about the session, “Making the Ladder Lateral: Advice from #HealthITChicks on Creating the Career Path That Works Best for You,” here.
How long have you been in health IT, and what made you gravitate towards – and stay in – the field?
I believe everyone in the industry has a healthcare ‘story’ – so many of us have had really great opportunities outside of this largely nonprofit but full of extremely personal stories arena. Mine has always been a healthcare one; it became a healthcare IT one over 20 years ago. Coming up through the leadership ranks in IT finally to the position of CIO for the last 14 or so years, the teams I have led have made such a difference in assisting other clinical team members and the patients we serve in a meaningful way. They SEE and experience a direct line of sight into how they improved patient care and the patient experience. So very many people spend their entire careers without experiencing what my teams and I do with a high degree of frequency. It has been an exciting time to be a part of automating the hig- touch world of patient care, and I believe we are just beginning to FINALLY feel that future benefit we all know exists.
Do you consider your career path to be a traditional one?
I hopped over into the IT space after recognizing a few years out of college that medical school and the research path I was on was not my flow … BUT that the automation and management opportunities offered me in a basic science research lab gave me a thrill and joy that no 2 am assay timepoint could. I found that my strong deductive reasoning skills honed as a biology major (focusing on molecular biology) were identical to the troubleshooting and requirements definition skills a good analyst leverages. Sure, there were times when I felt like the uninvited unicorn among the traditional computer scientists, but it became clear project over project that my nontraditional path led me to an industry and roles that I have been able to excel and gain tremendous reward in.
I am an example of someone who did the work then became the someone who oversees the doing of the work. Over time, I have been rewarded with the ability to evolve my management skills to become that influential leader I have admired, followed, and still strive for.
My former experience in protein chemistry and genetics is about to come full circle – our EHRs will house the human genome enabling our ability to provide patients with therapies tailored to them. I believe my ability to lead with WHY creates that essential sense of purpose provides more intrinsic motivation than so many other incentives, especially when we come to this industry by choice.
What advice can you offer women in health IT looking to make their career path their own?
My advice to anyone considering this as their own career path includes a few elements – unicorns can be cool (embrace it if you find yourself in the same place in your own nontraditional story); find selective female and especially male mentors; and DON’T wait for anyone to recognize how great you are and offer you that dream position – you’ve got to define it and ask for it yourself (and if you only think your 60-percent sure it’s the right thing, ask anyway)! And remember, although it isn’t easy, it really can be worth it and not something that requires 100 percent of all you have – balance and stamina are required for the long haul!