Lessons in Supporting Nurse Careers through Innovative Education Programs

Episode Summary

In this three-part series, we explore the nursing profession from a variety of perspectives—covering interesting career trajectories for nurses, what they are most passionate about, where they find resilience during challenging times, and how nurses in the field are being supported by their organizations and communities. We begin by exploring the latest innovations in HIM education–for students, healthcare professionals, or clinicians–with John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Episode Transcription

John Richie: “In the whole idea of hosting MEDITECH Expanse EHR on the AHIMA VLab™ e-learning platform is to provide students with hands-on experience using EHR so that after they graduate, they enter the healthcare workforce as well-trained health information professionals, and so they begin adding value and making a difference for their employer right away.”

Christine Parent: Welcome to another episode of MEDITECH podcast. We’re the leader in healthcare technology, empowering you to be a more informed healthcare consumer and provider, hear the latest from our friends and colleagues in the U.S., Canada, and abroad on topics that we think you should know about.

I’m Christine Parent, MEDITECH’s Associate Vice-President and today I'm talking with John Richie from the American Health Information Management Association. John is here to talk about the latest training model designed to meet evolving needs for nurses. We’ll also talk about an exciting program for preparing nurses to use the EHRs in the field. I look forward to hearing what's new. Welcome, John. 

Over the past 20-plus months, we’ve seen a dramatic shift to virtual learning and work from home. As an educational organization with a large virtual presence, what are some of the trends that you are witnessing?

John Richie: Since the start of the pandemic, we are noticing that student enrollment in some academic programs is increasing and, at the same time, is declining in others. Generally speaking, enrollment for some but not all online programs has increased and enrollment for some, but not all, in-person programs has declined. We also noticed that more positions are turning virtual and more education is turning virtual, as well. Some of AHIMA’s online learning products, such as webinars and CEU offerings, are increasing. Another thing we noticed is that the number of campuses subscribed to AHIMA VLab™ is holding steady at just over 300 campuses subscribed, so a lot of education programs across the country, that's about 80 percent or so of the CAHIIM accredited programs subscribe to a AHIMA VLab™ which, of course, is an e-learning platform and so lots of folks continue to use VLab™, and also we are seeing challenges across the country with internships and the need for the industry to shift, and fewer opportunities for in-person internships or professional practice experiences, as we call him in the HIM world, and so folks are looking for opportunities for online or remote options for internships or PPEs. And lastly, we also noticed that some college campuses around the country are mandating COVID vaccinations for all faculty, students, and staff, as well, and so the debate rages about that, too.

Christine Parent: The pandemic has caused many individuals to change career paths whether due to unemployment, burnout, or safety concerns. Can you share with us what you were seeing from students attending your programs and entering the field, and how are you supporting them on their transition?

John Richie: Over the years, many thousands of people have based their entire adult working careers in the exciting and rewarding health information profession, which is all about empowering people to impact health. The health information profession is the first career choice for many thousands of people, and it's also a second career choice for a lot of other folks, too, and so of course, from the student's standpoint, there are tens of thousands of students enrolled in health information academic programs around the country at this very moment, and they are actively preparing to enter the healthcare workforce as health information professionals. As you mentioned, the pandemic has prompted some healthcare professionals to reassess their career paths and consider transitioning to one which provides them with, perhaps, a safer work environment, maybe one that provides them with improved job security, or even broader employment options than what they're experiencing right now. The health information profession can be that pathway for second career folks to improve their employment situation. Even before the pandemic, it was not uncommon for some hands-on healthcare professionals, such as nurses and other practitioners, as well, to transition from their direct patient care roles into the health information profession. The pandemic has prompted many to consider that sort of a transition, and so if you want to practice — use your clinical skills on the business side of healthcare — then a health information profession is certainly an option for you, and many people have chosen to make the switch. And so, that's what we're seeing and, not only for folks entering the field but folks who are already practicing in the field moving into this sort of business sort of role, and we support them through our academic, if they are pursuing education to transition into a different role, we provide them support through the AHIMA VLab™ products that are used by, like I said, over 300 colleges and universities around the country right now. We also have continuing education for folks that are credentialed. They can pursue continuing education, and we also have the Career Map, which I want to mention as well. That is a very useful tool so that folks can kind of visualize their future. They can explore what job roles exist right now at the entry-level, mid-level, advanced level, and mastery level, and examine and explore transition or promotion paths to get from one level to the other. There are lots of different ways we support folks throughout their career journey.

Christine Parent:  You’ve long been an advocate of hands-on learning. What value do you see in early introduction to EHRs across disciplines?

John Richie: The electronic health record is the primary documentation and communication tool used by clinicians and providers. Electronic health records, EHRs, are the place where your care and response to treatment are recorded. Information from your EHR is shared with other clinicians, then, who are a part of your healthcare continuum, such as specialists, consultants, surgeons, among others.

Your primary care practitioner documents your care and then shares that with others if he or she needs to make a referral and so on. My point here is that, foundational EHR proficiency is critical for all healthcare staff, more so for some depending on your individual role, and less so for others, but understanding what EHRs are and why they're important and how they are used, I think, is foundational and critical for anyone working in the healthcare field, regardless of their role.

The AHIMA VLab™ e-learning platform features the MEDITECH Expanse EHR. That also comes with acute care modules and ambulatory care modules. On our e-learning platform, we've built pre-built patient cases in our instance of MEDITECH Expanse. We built pre-built patient cases for students to access and to review. This is, by the way, the actual version of MEDITECH Expanse that is used by over 2,300 hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country. It's not a simulation, it's the real MEDITECH Expanse EHR. And the whole idea of hosting MEDITECH Expanse EHR on the AHIMA VLab™ e-learning platform is to provide students with hands-on experience using EHRs so that after they graduate, they enter the healthcare workforce as well-trained health information professionals, and so they begin adding value and making a difference for their employer right away.

They're well-trained job candidates. They can hit the ground running. One other application that we have on AHIMA VLab™, in addition to several others actually, we also feature Dr. Krono, which is an outpatient physician office practice management system, and we host that on our platform to provide students with hands-on experience using an outpatient EHR, so they get the best of both worlds. They get inpatient and outpatient with MEDITECH Expanse, they get outpatient with Dr. Krono, and I also want to give a shout out to MEDITECH and also SISU Healthcare IT Solutions, First Databank, and Intelligent Medical Objects for supporting the AHIMA VLab™ instance of MEDITECH Expanse. We couldn't do it without the support of these important vendors, and we really thank them and appreciate them for their support in allowing us to host their applications on the platform to benefit students around the country. We've done so for many thousands of students, and right now we have around 15,000 students using the  AHIMA VLab™. We definitely make a difference for a lot of people, and we hope that we're helping the healthcare workforce by getting new blood in the healthcare workforce. They're well-trained job candidates and we really appreciate our role in helping in that way.

Christine Parent: I always ask the final question, a little bit more on a personal note. I'm hearing that your guilty pleasure is around amateur photography. Can you share with us a little bit of what connects amateur photography, or photography in general, with what your passion is and what you love? 

John Richie: It's a way to freeze time and it's a way to capture a moment. I really like capturing a shot, I like composing the shot, I like making sure that the sunlight is right. I don't want to be the big glarey kind of shadow kind of a thing, you know. I like composing the shot. I don't overdo it though. I don’t drive people nuts with that. Selfies, I just don't understand selfies — I just don't. And so I like taking pictures of other people, not myself, but I really like nature and close-ups of flowers and, you know, that kind of stuff, but I like the broad expanses of the Grand Canyon, too, and everything in between. The thing about capturing a moment and freezing time, to me, is just a real charge, and I take it one step further, too, and then I actually get my photos developed — old school — turn them into hard copies, delete them off my digital camera, delete them off my iPhone after I get them downloaded and developed and stuff. And then I like putting together photo albums, too.  For instance, we just got back from a two-week vacation to Hawaii, and I took 1,100 photos and I’m in the process of finishing up my photo albums right now. It's a wonderful hobby of that, and it's a great interest of mine. I have just enjoyed it over the years and, of course, when the kids were growing up, I got the sports albums and all that. It’s just a fun and harmless guilty pleasure. I just love it.

Christine Parent: Thanks for tuning in. For our next episode, we continue with part two in our series. We’ll talk with three strong and inspiring nurses from Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Missouri. I'm excited to hear their first-hand stories about what fuels their passion for the nursing field, how they've advanced their careers, advice for staying resilient during challenging times, and ways their organization and community support them. As always, be sure to subscribe to hear our latest episodes and we'll talk to you next time.