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Guerra On Healthcare: Healthcare CIO Career Fears

Savvy Healthcare CIOs are in high demand, but the recruiting and hiring process can be extremely stressful for the sought-after job candidates.
I've invited a few CIOs and other provider-side executives to blog on my site, sharing their experience, insights and expertise with my readers. Some of those bloggers post their own copy, which I read for the first time with everyone else after it's gone live. Others, however, prefer a more collaborative approach, running ideas by me for feedback.

One of those is Jorge Grillo, CIO of the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Recently, Grillo threw out a few ideas for his next post after relating that he'd taken a new CIO role in the states, adding he'd try to send me a few blogs before the big move. But rather than endorse one of his more traditional CIO-ish topics, I suggested his recent decision to switch jobs might contain great fodder for a post.

I suspected that anyone who'd made such a life-changing decision must have put a lot of thought into it, and probably overcome some trepidation in the process. Grillo said he'd have to think about it, as the personal nature of the topic made him slightly uncomfortable. But a few days later, I received a post that really blew me away. In it, he openly and frankly talked about the fear, stress and discouragement that is necessarily a part of searching and applying for any executive-level position.

In the world of healthcare IT, with its HITECH-fueled market, savvy CIOs with experience in clinical IT transformations -- those who know how to ensure a sound infrastructure while also developing easy rapport with top physicians -- are in extremely high demand. Every health system in the country knows its CIO will have much to do with qualifying for millions in federal stimulus funds. Certainly, they figure, switching out CIOs, perhaps even spending a bit more on the position, is worth the potential rewards.

All that adds up to stiff competition, and Grillo relates just how stressful the process can be, with denial following denial, extensive application processes, and little feedback on how one has fared in the process. Success -- in the sense of finding and retaining a desired position -- only comes to those who absolutely refuse to be defeated, who will not internalize any of the confidence-shaking effects of rejection.

But Grillo went even further, cautioning his peers on the hidden effects of stress. He said sometimes one may not even realize the stress of their job search is bleeding into familial relations. Of course, add to that the anxieties associated with a major move (across international boundaries in this case) and you can see how such a change can be all encompassing.

More than anything else, however, is the fear that one may be making a mistake, that after accepting the job, buying a home, finding new schools for the children and settling in, it will all turn out to be a massive blunder. Grillo notes that many executives fail at new positions because they simply cannot adapt to their new environment, they never truly become part of the new team.

What Grillo did not do is let fear box him into a position that would probably have been taken away at some point (his contract was expiring). He didn't cling to a deflating raft rather than swim for a distant island. Sometimes we can see that island -- we gauge our strength, the current and every other factor available, and just know we can make it -- but cold, pure, ruthless fear keep us clinging to a sinking piece of plastic.

We all encounter choices of this magnitude a handful of times in life -- either cling to what's safe until someone takes it away or trust our gut and make for the island. I absolutely believe those who attempt the swim, like Grillo, have won (in a cosmic sense) the second they let go of the raft, no matter what happens afterwards.

Anthony Guerra is the founder and editor of, a site dedicated to serving the strategic information needs of healthcare CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected]

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