Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Journey and Thoughts on Calling

In early January, I attended a retreat on vocation, supported by the Mission Integration Office here at The College of St. Scholastica. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the broad questions around the meaning of the work that we do, and how we connect our own calling to serve students both on our campus and in extended and online locations. I feel fortunate to work at a college that supports this kind of deeper examination, and left with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. It’s good for everyone to have the opportunity to reflect on that question “What is my life’s work?”

Personally, the concept of calling leads to a challenging inner conversation. My career trajectory has been erratic, with stops and starts in a number of different areas. My college journey addressed what I thought was my true calling, as my bachelor’s degree is in Secondary Education - English/Language Arts. I wanted to be a high school teacher, in the mold of two mentors that impacted me significantly during my own high school years. However, due to a challenging job market and geographic limitations, I was not able to find a permanent position in a school. Over the following decade, I spent time substitute teaching, answering phones in a call center, selling running shoes (more on that later), and enrolling health insurance applicants. When I found the position at St. Scholastica, I had resigned myself to a career outside of education. The opportunity here was not where I set out to go, but it is where I found myself. In the application and interview process, I was able to draw on another calling to support my qualifications for the position.

The second calling that I have heard in my life is more abstract, as a lifelong pursuit of athletic endeavor is not common. It took from 6th grade until my junior year of high school to figure out that being stick-thin and afraid of getting hit made me a poor football prospect, but the transition to the world of running opened my eyes and my future. I joined the cross country and track teams, and the sport has been a constant in my life since, for the past twenty years. From high school 5K races to college steeplechase to marathons to trail hundred mile distances, I have been in constant progression. I deeply love the daily routine and the unknown that bundles my nerves each time I stand on a start line.

Along the way, I’ve realized that the community I found in running needs support in addition to participation, and I have volunteered on a few boards and at a number of events. Those experiences in giving back and supporting the community were instrumental in connecting with the hiring committee that interviewed me here at St. Scholastica. In some ways, it’s easier to talk about the part of me that is called to run, as it’s a passion that doesn’t have anything to do directly with earning wages. I like to believe it is a pure motivation that brings me out the door and to the service of other people who are pursuing their own running goals.

And, the growth of that calling along with my current role in education have brought me to the most satisfying time in my life. There’s a balance between the professional and the personal, and I’m able to engage with both callings, which I hope will allow me to continue to grow in both realms. I like this quote from Holocaust survior Viktor E. Frankl “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” This illustrates the need to pursue that ideal of completing our life’s work, and the need to measure ourselves against that ideal, rather than anyone else.

It would be wonderful if everyone had the opportunity to consider their own calling, though you may not have the same resources to devote to the exercise. As a starting point, I highly recommend the book we read in advance of the retreat: Let Your Life Speak, Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer. It’s a good place to begin the dialogue around vocation, whether you’re doing so on your own or addressing these questions with friends and colleagues. I greatly enjoy those deep conversations, and hope you do too.

~Eric Nordgren

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Student Profile - Joan Nnadi, Health Informatics '21

Name: Nnadi, Joan Chinyere 
Current Employer and Position (If any):
Shift Supervisor, Center for Transfusion and Cellular Therapies
Emory University Hospital

Program/Degree/Anticipated Graduation Date:
Masters Health Informatics, 08/2021

Briefly describe your journey to Health Informatics. What lead you to study this field?

I have watched the struggles that clinical lab scientists and blood bankers face anytime a new piece of automation is launched. It often seems like despite all preparations in the validation environment, go-live is always full of user design issues that keeps workflow below the expected target. That’s when I decided to be part of the solution. What if users that truly understand how these instruments should meet their needs were part of the design and build process? As I searched for answers, Health Informatics was all encompassing, but opened my eyes to data analytics and how we can use the information produced to make quality driven analysis that will improve care and revolutionize healthcare!

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

I searched through many schools looking for accredited programs that is well known, not just here in the US, but also globally . When I got to CSS, I realized all the admission team members were willing to go above and beyond to answer all my questions. I was blown away by Professor Marc's willingness to take my curious questions despite his busy schedule. I further learned that one of the main data analytics textbook was co-authored by him and others. Besides, CSS was the first school to launch the HIM program in the nation.  I immediately wanted to be part of that success story! And with regards to the accreditation, I am told we are in the final stages despite being a nationally recognized program. (ed. note - the Health Informatics program is now fully accredited through CAHIIM)

What is your favorite part of taking HIM/HI classes at The College of St. Scholastica?

I think the flexibility of the classes and the fact that it is 100%  online is so wonderful. I am able to adapt and move along with the pace. The lectures are all exceptional, offering the very best course content, and the interactive format keeps me engaged.

What topic in HIM/HI do you find most interesting/inspiring?

All the courses are great . Data Analytics and human computer interactions or usability are all thrilling.

What do you see coming on the horizon for HIM? What will be the next innovation?

Besides data mining, I think machine learning and artificial intelligence is the next innovation that this career embodies . When I look at the auto industry, especially Toyota, I am amazed at what they are able to do with process improvement and AI. If you look at healthcare, it seems like we are catching up. I am excited to be part of a career that will usher in this innovation and much more !

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

I intend to work as a business analyst / data analyst / quality analyst and user interface designer . Will truly love to do some of it remotely too. I intend to work with EPIC and Grifols user interface design teams.

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

I will encourage the person to go for the gold ! CSS has what it takes to get you to where you need to be in this career.

      What hobbies do you enjoy?  Reading, Traveling

      What is your favorite movie? The Passion of the Christ

      What book are you currently reading for fun? The Bible

      What is your favorite travel destination? Caribbean, especially the Bahamas . 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Listening with the Ear of the Heart

Each November and late February/early March we send our undergraduate HIM students out on their professional practice experiences (PPEs). This is a very exciting time for all of us! It takes a lot of planning, communication, preparation, and time to get to the point of setting foot on the doorstep of the PPE site. One of the best parts of preparing our students for me is meeting with each of them individually to review their expectations, goals, strengths, opportunities, concerns, and worries. These are very personal conversations, and for our online students, it may be one of a handful of times in the program that they have gotten to meet live with a faculty member.

As I prepare for each of these meetings, I am reminded of the first words of the Rule of St. Benedict,
“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” Telling a professor about your weaknesses can be intimidating, especially for those that are not as open to sharing personal information. I am by no means an expert in helping all individuals overcome their weaknesses, but I can listen intently and ask thought-provoking questions to help guide them in developing their own potential solutions and ways to overcome their weaknesses. I also feel called to give students my deepest respect; listening with the ear of my heart allows me to respect their uniqueness and support them in achieving their personal and professional goals.

While I truly listen with the ear of my heart during these student meetings; I wish I could be that way with my children each time they have something to say! My husband and I have two daughters, ages twelve and thirteen. The twelve year old is a talker and she is always asking questions or telling us stories about her day or sharing something she read about or seen on television or social media. Some of these stories and sharing sessions go on and on and sometimes I find myself zoning out or returning to what I was doing, nodding and saying things like, “Really?”, “Huh”, and “Wow.” Then, afterwards I feel guilty that I didn’t give her my full attention and listen carefully to what she had to say. Taking myself away from what I was doing and truly listening to her stories allows me to show her that what she has to say is more important than what I was doing and that I love her.

I would like to challenge you to listen with the ear of your heart when you are struggling to follow someone sharing a story that goes on and on or one that you are not interested in. Listen with the ear of your heart when someone is sharing a weakness or a struggle. Listen with the ear of your heart when someone is sharing a great success or new experience. It is in these moments that you are showing them that what they have to say is more important than anything you need to do in that moment, that you truly care about what they are sharing, and that you have a loving and compassionate heart. 

~Katie Kerr

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Adjunct Faculty Profile - Deb Honstad

Name: Deb Honstad, EdD, RHIA
Industry Position: Program Director/Professor for a HIT associate’s degree program
Alma Mater: The College of St. Scholastica, Concordia University St. Paul, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Degree: BA Health Information Management, MA Organizational Leadership, EdD in Leadership
Courses Taught: HIM 4315 and HIM 6506

Briefly describe your journey to teaching/working in the CSS HIIM Department. What lead you to this area?

I’ve been working in HIM education for more than 15 years. I’ve taught both face-to-face and online courses during that time. I consider my expertise to be working with online students. I am honored to be able to work as an adjunct instructor with my alma mater CSS and all of its wonderful students, faculty, and staff. Prior to my work in education, I worked in release of information, as a manager in a HIM department, and at an insurance company in fraud and abuse and claims editing.

What is most rewarding about your work? 

I find working with aspiring professionals to be very rewarding. I enjoy helping students develop and grow their knowledge and skills, and eventually to reach their educational and career goals. It’s very exciting for me to help make things click, and to hear that my students are able to apply what they learn to their work.

What would you call your area of expertise/greatest interest? 

I’m most interested in the areas of management and law and ethics, but I also love teaching the introductory course in the program. That’s where I’m able to share my enthusiasm for the field with brand new students which is exciting. I’m also very interested in online education and providing high quality, engaging online courses for students.

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

Never stop being curious and learning. Your education doesn’t stop with your degree. It is so important to keep growing professionally and to keep up with our ever changing field. Don’t let yourself become outdated.

What are your career goals?

I see myself continuing to work in education for a long time. I’ve found my fit and my passion here! I aspire to stay active in the HIM education community, and to continue to bring future professionals into our field.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
 In my free time I enjoy running, hiking, watching my daughter dance, traveling, and doing things with my family. Any time I can be outside in the Arizona sunshine, I take advantage!
What is your favorite travel destination? 
My family and I are admittedly Disney Cruise addicts. I also love Aruba and the rest of the Caribbean for their sunshine and blue water.