Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Learning the Story: A Year of CSS HIIM

In January 2016 I began working in the College of Saint Scholastica HIIM Department, a community within a community. Somehow the year went by like a blink, and over the recent holidays I have started to consider how this trip around the sun has impacted me. I had relatively basic knowledge of the school when I started, and my background in HIIM is non-traditional. I’ve combined a variety of education, work, and life experiences to match the needs of the school and the department, and feel lucky to be able to do so.

The school holds tightly to its Catholic Benedictine roots and values, greeting everyone with “radical hospitality”.  I have been treated to this in a new employee dinner with the school’s president (I hope that retirement is treating Larry Goodwin well!), lunch with the Board of Trustees, and many other social gatherings. As an example, the annual appreciation luncheon for CSS employees showed the deep level of investment that the school makes in its workforce and the same investment of that workforce in the school. Everyone dressed up and embraced the occasion. Along with many other opportunities to come together for convocation, commencement, or town hall meetings, it has been remarkable to work in a place so supportive and engaging. And, I’ve learned that the HIIM Department not only reflects but magnifies those same values.

For both school and department, expectations are high and consistently met or exceeded.  Our HIIM Faculty members publish articles and textbooks at a prolific rate, and speak at professional conferences around the country. Students frequently earn competitive scholarships at the state and national level, and find meaningful employment or benefit to current positions straight out of their programs.  I bet it would be impossible to go to a single professional healthcare conference in the country without bumping into alumni or friends of the program.  This wide web of connections allows current students to complete beneficial professional practice experiences in a variety of unique settings, from traditional health systems to consulting firms and industry leaders.  It provides a network of advocates and resources for job seekers and those looking for professional development. Alumni return to speak to current students, to present at the LaTour-Eichenwald Forum on HIM Leadership and Innovation, to keep a connection to the castle on the hill. I could go on extolling the specific successes of faculty, students, and alumni until I had a tome the length of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”!

Now, this is not to say that there is an overwhelming air of seriousness or focus on the ground floor of the Science Building. Rather, it is not surprising to be overwhelmed by a barrage of fake snowballs from colleagues upon arriving in the morning. There’s more coffee consumed in this wing than can be believed, as someone is always filling a cup in the breakroom or at Einstein. Saltines and peanut butter are consumed at a rate that borders on addiction, and any sweets that land on the table simply do not last. Any story that’s told around here is matched by two others, and it’s also literally impossible to go a day without laughing, unless you lock yourself in your own office.

As an analogy, the HIIM department is like an overachieving aunt or uncle, one whose holiday letter describes a year worth of travel and fun, before casually mentioning a potential nomination for a Nobel prize (and a handwritten note that both says and means “See you soon!”). This recap lands right below the picture of them giving a noted celebrity or political figure bunny ears on a red carpet. It’s worth both a chuckle and a bit of green envy, and you’re always excited to tell people of your relation to “Aunt or Uncle So-and-So”.

In the end, the family thing really carries through, whether it’s the department or the school. There are deep roots shooting out in every direction and kind faces around every corner. I did not know what it meant to become a Saint in HIIM at first, but I’m starting to get it now.


Eric Nordgren

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Students Begin Work on Internship Project at Essentia Health

Two current Health Information Management students have begun internship positions working on a major project at Essentia Health in the Information Services department. Chase Wood and Elizabeth Braun started their work in January, and we were able to catch up with them as they were getting underway.
Kicking things off: what will your responsibilities be as an IS intern at Essentia Health? When do you start, or have you already begun working? 

CW: As an IS intern with Essentia, my job is to assist during a "Go Live" during the first two weeks of February as well as a separate "Go Live" that will take place in May. A "Go Live" is a period of time when Essentia implements a new software within their facilities. For this "Go Live" they will be introducing "Beaker", which is a new feature of EPIC, into their labs departments across all of Essentia Health. My job is to learn how to use this new software, essentially become an expert on it, and then help anyone within the labs department that may need it during the first two weeks in February. During winter break I attended classes about Beaker, as well as studying and using it, to make sure I am prepared to help anyone who may need it when the time comes. 

EB: As an IS intern at Essentia Health I will be helping end users during the implementation of Epic's Beaker system into the clinics. I started my internship by doing eight to twelve independent study hours a week starting on January 3. As interns, we were required to attend two training sessions on the Med Tech version of the Beaker system. Along with those we have attended a floor support training where we were shown the ropes by an IS professional. During implementation, we will be stationed in labs around Duluth, and after the implementation happens, we will be helping the Information Systems employees with projects and working side by side with them. Then, towards May, we will be supporting the reboot of the system.
What are you most excited for with this internship? Do you have any specific goals? 

CW: I am mainly excited for the great experience that I will be gaining during this time, as well as getting a chance to meet the other interns.

EB: As an intern I am the most excited to be able to be in the real life hospital setting. To be honest, just being in the separate Information Systems building will be such a learning experience to feel the atmosphere of the real work environment. My goals will be to really get as comfortable as I can in this work environment to see if this is a setting that I would like to be in, or if I would want to be something different, like a vendor. I really want to use this internship as a guide to where I want to be in the future after graduation. 
How do you think this experience will help you as a HIM student at CSS, and as you begin your career?

CW: This experience helps me as an HIM student because it is my first opportunity to put all of the knowledge that I have gained in the classroom over the last two and a half years to work. It's fun to see all of the information we have been learning finally become applicable in a real life situation. This helps me with my career because it is a fantastic opportunity to get my foot in the door for future job opportunities within the field. 

EB: I think that this experience will allow me to use the knowledge that I have gained in class and apply it to a real working area. There are ten interns and only two of us are HIM majors, the other eight are health management majors. I think having a different field than the rest of my colleagues will teach me to collaborate. I have not collaborated with other majors much during my time at St.Scholastica, and I think it will help me to appreciate the skills other people can bring to the table and also it prepare me for the future if I am in a heavily mixed group of Computer Technologies and Health Information Management. 

Even though you were busy preparing for the internship, did you do anything exciting over winter break?

CW:  I had the opportunity to see comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham live at the Target Center! 

EB: I was able to go home for a couple of days and I saw my eldest brother for the first time since his wedding in August. I was also able to spend some quality time with the rest of my immediate family. 

Wow! Exciting time for these two. We wish Chase and Elizabeth the best as they dive into their work at Essentia Health, and look forward to sharing more stories about our wonderful students!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What’s Your Style?

A multitude of leadership theories have developed over time, each offering thoughtful information regarding various leadership styles and traits. These include autocratic leadership (Theory X), participative leadership (Theory Y), values-based leadership, servant leadership, situational leadership, and the contingency theory, among many others. What types of leaders have you encountered? What is your leadership style? Or do you question whether or not you are a leader at all?
During the Fall 2016 commencement at St. Scholastica last month, I found it was rewarding and quite moving to watch the graduates of all ages and areas of study take that walk across the stage, signifying completion of a hard–earned college degree. Seeing the looks of satisfaction, pride, joy, relief, and even tears on their faces prompted me to pause and reflect on how such an achievement, along with so many of our academic, professional, or personal achievements, define us. Whether it is a new job, a new credential, a new skill, our child’s first day of school, or even a day in which we receive a simple ‘thank you’ for holding a door for someone at the grocery store or for covering for a co-worker’s lunch break, these accomplishments, and how we handle them, define us. I’d suggest they define us as leaders.

Individuals are often recognized as ‘leaders’ if they are in a role as a supervisor, a manager, a committee chair, a CEO, an enthusiastic parent, a committed social organizer, or a never-ending volunteer. But, even though there are those clearly identified as enthusiastic and energetic leaders, there are many less recognized traits that help to define someone as a leader. A leader is often a role model, someone who influences others to take action or behave/feel a certain way. For example, all of those graduates who received their degree are leaders who may encourage others to pursue academic goals; or they may impart their newly acquired knowledge to enhance their current or future workplaces. A coder who works hard to learn ICD-10 or to optimize the use of computer-assisted coding software is a leader; that person may encourage others through a positive attitude or through working with others to enhance learning. Professional practice site mentors are leaders as they share their expertise with students. Students function as leaders when they come prepared to ask questions and discuss issues with their site mentors or in class each day. The person who offers positive encouragement to a struggling colleague, friend, or community member is a leader. The quiet co-worker who can be relied upon to consistently do quality work may be a leader. Leaders are role models and mentors who influence others in any variety of ways.

Whatever our personality type, whatever our job role, whatever our passion, we can all be leaders in countless ways. We can all find ways to positively influence others through our actions. In the profession of health information, the opportunities are endless for us to be leaders who positively influence change to improve processes, enhance the patient healthcare experience, and even impact the quality of care through our hard work.

As we enter the New Year, let’s take time to reflect on the question – What’s Your Style?

~Pam Oachs

Swenson, D.X. (2016). Managing and Leading During Organization Change. In Oachs, P.K. & Watters, A.L. Health information management: Concepts, principles and practice (pp 667-720). Chicago, IL: AHIMA.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Alumni Profile - Kiaja Earlywine

Name: Kiaja Earlywine, RHIA

Current Employer and Position: Clinical Informaticist at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, MN
Program/Degree/Anticipated Graduation Date: Masters of Health Informatics, Graduated December 2016

Why did you choose The College of St. Scholastica’s HIIM program?

I chose to attend CSS for my Masters because of the program’s great reputation within the industry. I also attended CSS for my undergraduate degree and enjoyed the experience. The faculty and staff within the program are knowledgeable and great to work with. I know that I am getting a quality education at CSS.

What was your favorite part of taking HIIM classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

I liked that the flexibility of the online courses allowed me to take classes while working full time.

What are your goals for after you earn your HIIM degree/certificate from The College of St. Scholastica?

I was recently hired as a Clinical Informaticist, which was my career goal. In the short time that I have been in this position, it is evident that the classes at St. Scholastica have thoroughly prepared me for this type of job. I also plan to take the CHDA (Certified Health Data Analyst) exam now that I have graduated from the program.

What advice would you give to someone considering entering a HIIM Program at The College of St. Scholastica?

The faculty and staff at the college are great to work with and want to help you succeed!
What hobbies do you enjoy? 

I enjoy spending time with my family, which includes my first child, a boy who was born in November of 2015. Balancing a baby, a job, and school is challenging, but it is definitely worth it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Busy, Thankful November at CSS

CSS Veteran's Q/A Panelists
The HIIM Department has had a busy November! Around the holiday, faculty volunteered for meal prep at the annual CSS Thanksgiving Feast hosted at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC). We had the pleasure of breaking bread to make stuffing with the high school honor students from Two Harbors. The meal served over 5,000 area residents in need.

Earlier in the month, the traditional HIM senior students hosted the Northeastern Minnesota Health Information Management Association (NEMHIMA) Region B Meeting. This annual event on campus brings together HIIM professionals from around the area. Participants are able to network and earn CEU’s toward credential maintenance. This year, the educational line-up helped to generate a full house! Topics such as Computer Assisted Coding (CAC), Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI), innovation in healthcare strategies, breakthrough technologies from GEOCOM Inc., Bridge to Health Survey Results, and Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Healthcare rounded out the agenda. One noteworthy theme from this event is the inclusion of the Veteran population. Being November, the month that honors all veterans on Veterans Day, it was very fitting to learn that, for the first time, the Bridge to Health Survey included veteran specific health questions to help identify the unique health needs of this population. 

The College is also taking steps to focus on the unique needs of the Veteran population. The CSS Nursing Department received an INVITE grant to both assist veteran students achieve their desire to become baccalaureate prepared nurses, and to support college-wide faculty and staff in developing opportunities to support veteran at all levels and in all programs. The grant has also allowed CSS to offer of a new interdisciplinary course: Interprofessional Veterans Health. This course has been developed to help break down the silos of healthcare specialties so students can learn together on how to best care for the Veteran population, as the students begin to transition to the workforce. Several School of Health Sciences programs joined the collaboration with Nursing, including HIM! The traditional senior HIM students had the opportunity to collaborate with both faculty and students from these programs to begin the process of identifying obstacles and areas of common ground in order to become more efficient and effective in understanding the needs and providing the best patient centered care for this population. 

In collaboration with the course, the HIIM Department hosted a very unique Veterans Q/A Panel. The panel participants (Elizabeth Palkie, Dean Mooney, Jon Brown) were veterans with unique experiences and talents. Each provided insight into their experiences, values, and knowledge of the veteran population. One of the panelists, Jon Brown, provided an overview of the VA System to help students understand how they can help support veterans in the healthcare industry even if do not work directly for the VA. We were very grateful for the time and effort the panelists put into the event and we are very thankful for their service.

Hoping everyone had a hearty and relaxing Thanksgiving!

Brooke Palkie, RHIA, EDD
Associate Professor, HIIM Department – The College of St. Scholastica

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Alumni Profile - Sue Powell

Name: Sue (Klejeski) Powell

Year of Graduation: 1991
Current Employer: Nuance Communications, Inc.
Position: Federal Healthcare Program Manager

What are your current job duties and how did your education at The College of St. Scholastica prepare you to be successful at those duties?

I currently manage the contract and client relationship for a revenue cycle software and professional services solution my team provides to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, I’m also involved in business development and process improvement. Quite a variety of tasks!

In addition to the top-notch HIM education I received, I think what best prepared me during my time at St. Scholastica is the Benedictine Values of Community, Hospitality, Respect, Stewardship and Love of Learning. These values have guided my life and career and prepared me well for taking on the world after college.

What do you remember best about taking HIIM classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

How much I hated learning how to code by using a book! I also remember fondly the class where we had to design the layout of a HIM office – it was fun but proved that I would never be an interior designer. Finally, I’m probably the only one ever that loved going to cadaver lab.

What topic in HIIM do you find most interesting/inspiring?

I find the rapidly changing technology the most interesting part of HIM. When I graduated from CSS there weren’t many, if any, technical tools for doing your job. Over the course of my career, we’ve gone from not even having email (I had to snail mail or fax my first resumes) to really amazing technology like speech recognition and natural language processing - technology that is constantly changing and improving and making healthcare IT an exciting field with tons of opportunity.  It’s a great time to be in HIM despite the challenges within the healthcare industry.

What one piece of advice would you offer to current students?

Make sure you become active in volunteering for your profession – at any level. This is the one thing that has made the most significant impact in my career. It gives you the opportunity to expand your network, learn about what’s going on in the industry and gives you the opportunity to discover and showcase your talents.  In my opinion, it is by far the best thing you can do to be successful in the world of HIM.

What hobbies do you enjoy? 

Hobbies? I’m a hockey (and dance, lacrosse and soccer) mom so there isn’t much time to do anything else!

What is your favorite travel destination? 

I travel a lot for work and I always enjoy going to a new city and learning as much as I can about it while I’m there.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Love of Learning

Each year, The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) selects one of the Benedictine Values as a focus and the value for the 2016-17 school year is “Love of Learning”. During our professional practice experience course and senior seminar course, I ask the undergraduate students to reflect and discuss how they can live these values in their personal and professional lives. In those reflections, many students talk about these values being “human” values and broadly applicable, not limited to the Benedictine community.

So, how can we live the Love of Learning?

  • Volunteering - There are endless opportunities to give your time and learn in the process. Working pro-bono for a non-profit allows us to learn about a cause and to do good for others. I am excited to be volunteering at Feed My Starving Children in a couple weeks with my daughters. I love to garden and have learned so much from volunteering as a member of my local garden club. Volunteering for a professional organization allows us to network with others in our field, which can lead to job growth and advancement. I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for the MN Health Information Management Association. Helping to plan the annual meeting, speaking, and serving as the Coding Key Focus Area co-chair has allowed me to meet so many great people and expand my knowledge in many areas of the HIM profession. I have really encouraged our students to get involved in their state HIM associations and volunteer while still in school. You just never know what doors may open to you!
  • Attend a workshop or conference - Whether you are looking to learn about something specific to the field you work in or want to learn how to make homemade soap, there is plenty to be gained by taking time to dig into a topic. AHIMA holds their national convention each fall. I think it has always renewed my excitement for the work that I do. There is something inspiring about sitting in a room with hundreds of other professionals listening to the organization’s president talk about the year’s accomplishments and the future of our association.
  • Massive Open Online Course - Take a course through a MOOC offering. You can take courses at Harvard, through a company like Coursera or CSS. CSS has offered several MOOCs on topics such as anatomy and physiology, health data analytics and SNOMED CT. If you are a member of AHIMA you can also earn CEUs and one of the best things about taking a MOOC through CSS is that they are free! You will learn something and you could tell everyone that you took a course at CSS (or Harvard)!  
  • Serve on a committee - Have you ever considered what you could learn by serving on a committee? We often have so much on our plates already at the workplace that it can be easy to sit back and avoid engaging. Maybe you’ve wondered why your workplace does things a certain way? It might also be possible that you see opportunities for improvement at your place of work? The next time an opportunity arises to join a committee that can impact change at your workplace, jump on the opportunity!  
  • Pursue a degree or certificate - As crazy as that may sound, it is a reality for the students enrolled in the programs of the Health Informatics and Information Management Department at CSS. Whether these students are seeking a change, advancing their knowledge, or starting a new career; they have taken the leap. A year and a half ago I joined them, jumping in to begin a doctoral program in leadership in higher education. There are many days where I question this decision in the context of my hectic life, however, I love learning and growing my knowledge. The last year has taught me so many things about higher education. One of the best parts of this new journey has been learning from others working in higher education and all of their experiences. I have gained new friends and have a wonderful support system as I work through the program.
  • Listen to your colleagues and network - We can learn so much from each other! It’s a simple concept, but I learn so much from my colleagues on teaching, working with students, and the healthcare industry. I invite a lifestyle coach to talk with our students each spring about professionalism and networking. She shares that the intent of a networking event is to build relationships with others, connect people you may know to each other, to stay current on industry trends, and to learn from others. At the AHIMA national convention and at the MHIMA annual meeting, the CSS HIIM Department hosts a social hour where current students and alumni can come together to network (and eat). As faculty we are able to catch up with alumni and meet our online students face-to-face and one of the best things is that we can connect people and provide them with an opportunity to meet their colleagues and network.

I hope I have inspired you to consider how you can live the value of Love of Learning. It is a trait I hope to instill in my two daughters as they grow up, and an excellent value for the College of St. Scholastica to embrace this year!

~Katie Kerr