My name is Judith Jones and I’m currently the Program Director for the Health Information Technology program at Bryan University. I’ve had an interesting and gratifying journey getting here. My journey first started at Ohio State University, where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. After graduation, I landed a job working for a publication as a journalist, which I enjoyed for a number of years. I later decided to make a career change and took a position working with a health insurance company. I took this position with the assumption that it would be temporary until I found another career pathway. However, 20 years later, I was still with the same company! I came to the realization that even though I had a good position and seniority with the company, I needed a change.
During my time in health insurance, I was introduced to the healthcare claims process. I oversaw the adjudication procedures for claims and found it very interesting how claims are coded and processed. I interfaced with healthcare providers and doctors who would express concern at times that their revenue was inaccurate, most likely due to incorrect coding in many cases. As a result, I became interested in the coding practices, revenue reimbursement cycle, how to help doctors improve clinical documentation to support better patient outcomes, and look for innovative ways to make the electronic record-keeping processes the best in the country as well as internationally.
As I researched and became more familiar with Health Information Management (HIM) and Health Information Technology (HIT), I discovered that there are many different career pathways in this industry. I liked the idea of having options. In addition to career options in medical billing and coding, I also learned that there is a broad spectrum of opportunities available within HIT.
In 2008, I made the decision to completely reinvent myself and start down a new career pathway. I enrolled in an Associate’s Degree program for Health Information Technology. I completed the program 18 months later and passed the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification exam through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). I was able to complete these goals while continuing full-time employment. It was hard work, but worthwhile!
As I continued to work full-time, I also completed a part-time externship at the Ohio State University Medical Center. Once I completed my externship, I made the decision to relocate to a position at a hospital in Phoenix working a night shift while continuing to maintain full-time employment in health insurance. During my time in Phoenix, I also had an opportunity to teach part-time at Phoenix College. I discovered that I had a passion for teaching and sharing my experiences with other students, especially those who were like me: adult learners returning to college to start a brand new career. What impacted me most of all was being able to connect with students and help them further their educational and career goals.
After a couple of years, I decided to advance my education further by relocating back to Ohio. I attended Franklin University and completed a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. I was pleased to have an opportunity to continue teaching when I was offered the position of Department Chair, Director of Health Information Technology at a local university in Columbus. During this time, I also began work on a Doctoral Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Supply Chain Management, which I anticipate completing in December 2015.
Even though I had enjoyed my time in Ohio, I had a desire to return to the Phoenix area. A colleague of mine referred me to Bryan University, located in Tempe, AZ. As I researched the programs offered, the curriculum, the student support services, and the unique educational delivery model, Bryan struck me as a very distinctive and innovative institution. It had everything I would look for as a student. I realized that if I had found Bryan University when I was searching for an HIT program, I would have enrolled here.
Now that I’m a full-time member of the Bryan team as the HIT Program Director, I’ve come to love the approach that Bryan University takes with its curriculum and synchronous online classes. As a student, you are expected to complete assignments, but you also have the opportunity to collaborate in live online sessions with your facilitator and classmates. The synchronous classes and online community environment of Bryan University make you feel like you are in a brick-and-mortar classroom in every way. There is interaction with people from all over the country, and there are so many ways to teach and engage students in this environment.
One of the best parts of the HIT curriculum is the AHIMA Virtual Lab where students get practical experience applying all the concepts of HIT. Students gain specific skills and practical experience that employers in the industry are actually looking for, and these skills can be highlighted on students’ resumes. Employers will immediately recognize the value of these skillsets, in addition to AHIMA certifications.
The advice I would give to new students who are considering a career change is to go for it! Reinventing oneself takes time, perseverance, and courage, but I can assure you based upon my personal experience that it’s worth it in the end!