Even though our friends in the Mid-Atlantic don't feel it right now, the arrival of HIMSS reminds us that spring can't be too far behind. And with spring come more trade shows, user group meetings, and industry group state chapter conferences. Although there are excellent events in the fall also, I always found the spring to be particularly energizing.

So how should we feel heading into this spring? Are things turning around? Are we truly ready to put this recession behind us? Do we have reasons to be upbeat?

Maybe so. While last week could turn out to be an aberration, there were three strategic vendor acquisitions announced. It's been a long time since we've seen that.

This news could be encouraging to many: healthcare investors anticipating a return of a market for investment exits; entrepreneurs eager to get their ideas and businesses funded; and those further along eyeing a potential liquidity event.

Of course, if you work for one of the acquired companies, or if your vendor was acquired, you may feel anxious. But that anxiety is associated more with healthy market activity than the “world is caving in” mentality that we've all seen.

Beyond the investor and vendor communities, another gauge is the HIT labor market. To me this is an accurate reflection of the state of the industry. Hiring, competition for talent, hiring freezes, and lifting of these freezes are all indicators of confidence or lack thereof.

Since the end of last year, and especially this year, most candidates I've encountered have been encouraged. Unlike six months ago, when fear could be heard in their voices, they now discuss the number of opportunities they are considering. It's not yet the “candidate's market” predicted by the country's demographics, but competition for strong talent is beginning to heat up. And that is a good sign.

It's a good sign if you're one of the many who were let go during the downturn, or if you're an executive or department head deciding whether to make that key hire. It's also a good sign if you're awaiting approval to fill that important position that's been vacant. Maybe now is the time to petition for that approval.

Whether you're looking forward to HIMSS, AHIP, or another conference, or attending a state chapter or user group meeting, or looking to get back to work, do so with reassurance and optimism. As we used to say when I worked on the back of a garbage truck one summer, “things are definitely picking up.”

Jim Gibson has been in healthcare for 25 years. In 2002 he founded Gibson Consultants after several years in healthcare IT and group health insurance. Gibson Consultants is a national search firm specializing in healthcare IT companies. Like Jim, the other professionals of Gibson Consultants enjoyed successful healthcare careers before turning to executive search. Follow Jim on twitter http://twitter.com/jim__gibson or reach him at (203) 431-1536 or jim@gibson-consultants.com.