After the 2015 Oil Crash, Elaine discovered the in-demand field of Health Information Management

CHA Learning has been planning a series for Health Information Professionals’ (HIP) Week that will showcase some of the stories of our diverse community of learners across Canada. 

Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic impacting us all, we feel it is as important as ever to keep connected digitally to our students and communities so that we don’t feel too isolated and to give us positive distractions while we are all doing our best to stay safe. 

The role of HIM professionals is incredibly important during times like this such as: ensuring complete, accurate and safe health information is available when patients and healthcare providers need it; ensuring high quality, timely statistical information to help us understand what is happening across Canada; contributing to research to help understand this disease and its spread and prevention. 

So, we will celebrate HIP week in honour of our important profession and to continue to keep connected with all of you. 

Please tune in every day this week, March 23-27, to read about a few of the learners in our Health Information Management Programs and their interesting backgrounds and personal stories. These stories have been personally written by our students so each will reflect their own personalities, values, lives and writing styles.   


Share a short bio about yourself and anything else that makes you unique or that you want people to know about you: 

Student Name: Elaine  

Stream: Full-Time Year 1  

Age Range: 35-44 

Location: Calgary, AB 

Currently, I wear many different hats. I’m a busy wife and a mother of two young daughters, ages 4 and 6.  I am also an older student working towards a career change. 

My family and I are first generation Canadians that came over in the 70’s from Hong Kong. My parents were newly married and wanted to get as far away as possible from their family.  My father saw an advertisement in the newspaper looking for a chef for a small ski resort town in BC. It wasn’t false pretenses, but they did advertise the location as Vancouver, BC when it was actually Fernie, BC, thinking that it was just a few hours away when it was more like 14. But, my fondest childhood memories were growing up skiing, snowboarding and shoveling. 

I moved out to Calgary, AB in the late 90’s to attend school and I knew that this was where I wanted to be. After finishing school, I was fortunate to find employment and eventually met my future husband who was from Oakbank/Winnipeg. We both now call this our home and have laid down roots for our children to be raised here.  
 

Tell us about your professional, academic or other experience prior to beginning your studies in HIM 

Nothing quite prepared me for the fallout when my career abruptly ended during the 2015 Oil Crash. I was a Senior Petroleum Geologist with close to 14 years of experience at a global energy company. The organization I was working for had laid off close to 85,000 people worldwide. I was just one small person that represented a drop in a giant bucket of laid off energy workers. This devasted me, I didn’t know at the time, but it changed my life forever.

What transpired next was a plethora of resumes and cover letters that were sent out to anybody that was remotely looking. All I received in return was the sound of crickets. Half of my classmates I attended University with were in the same boat. Everyone was trying to navigate through the Calgary downtown sea of intelligent, technically competent, hardworking but saturated market of hundreds of unemployed Geoscientists. We were a dime a dozen. I was a dime a dozen.

As the weeks turned into months and months turned into years of not working, I saw the door to my employability closing. The longer I was without a job in my chosen field, the more it signified the end of my career. When you’re unemployed the days seem so long, as if you are losing track of time but there is always the bi-weekly mortgage payment or the property tax bill that comes and violently shakes you back to reality.  I watched my then 1 and 3-year-olds become 2 and 4-year-olds and then they were 3 and 5-year olds. But I was stagnant, and my situation hadn’t changed. 

I saw the mental and physical toll on my husband as he was solely managing our “dual income bills”. He had taken on the silent heroic burden of being the sole “bread winner” for a family of four. And it showed. It was an accumulation of many things or maybe the writing was always on the wall, but I chose to stubbornly ignore it. It was time to move on and embark on something different for a career. I was ready for the challenge. 

 

What drew you into the field of HIM and your studies? 

One night I was reading the book “Dora the Explorer: What will I be?” to my daughters before bedtime. They innocently had their hearts set; one on becoming a ballerina, and the other a teenager (apparently that’s a profession) – while I was in crisis mode about my own career decisions.  

Prior to deciding on the field of HIM, I was undergoing a serious period of self-reflection. All I knew was that I wanted to do a complete overhaul from my last career. The problem was, I didn’t know what it should be. Only that it couldn’t be in the same industry as my husband. We couldn’t risk the horror of having both of us lose our jobs at the same time. It was like betting on 8 every time at the Craps table, I knew we had to hedge our bets. 

What happened next was a process of discovery. It started with the basics: what are my strengths and weaknesses? What are my transferable skills from my last career? What can I see myself doing? Is there a passion that I can see myself investing a career in? What brought me joy? The questions were endless.  

The main conclusion was that it had to be an industry that had demand, opportunity and transferability. It also had to be something that had realistic timelines as I was already in my early 40’s.

People often say that having children is lifechanging. Once I became a Mom, I found myself constantly wiping runny noses, Googling things once foreign to me such as: Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, GI, Croup, fever temperature, concussion symptoms, etc. There were constant trips to the doctors, flu shots and the ever so fun late-night trips to the ER at Children’s. Slowly it became apparent, my germy kids were leading me in the direction of healthcare.

I was curious and fascinated with the healthcare industry but didn’t quite know where my skill set might fit in. I was curious about the human body and found human anatomy and pathophysiology fascinating. The limiting factor was that I couldn’t see myself physically touching a patient. Despite the many nights of cleaning up vomit, nose bleeds and diaper explosions from my kids, I knew that I wasn’t comfortable with bodily fluids. I also knew that I wasn’t mentally equipped to handle the intense stress of front-line work. 

It was then that I came across the Health Information Management program at a local college. In the beginning I didn’t know much about it but after exploring more about the profession, it sparked my curiosity. From my previous career I was extremely familiar with working in an office setting, computers, collecting, managing and interpreting data, following regulations, and problem solving. By nature, I’m very methodical, organized, and meticulous. This was an area that I wasn’t just interested in, but soon saw as a profession where my prior competencies would not just add value but would be an asset. I saw myself as a fit. 

HIM also met my original set of criterions. There will always be a demand and need for healthcare. As a HIM professional, there are so many different directions you can take your career. It is never limited to just one thing because your skills are transferable. Since there are so many different areas and places that would need HIM, this also creates many opportunities. As my practicum preceptor had told me, “with a HIM certification, the sky is your limit”. 

Why did you choose to study with CHA Learning?  

One of the things that appealed to me with the CHA Learning program was the flexibility it offered. With a household to tend to and small children, every minute of personal time was precious. The self-directed study worked the best for my schedule. Once I dropped my kids off at school and at childcare, I was able to dedicate the entire day to working through the course materials. There is no set class time when I physically need to be in a classroom, and this allowed me to learn at my own pace. 

The flexibility of this program was extremely convenient on mornings when one or both of my daughters woke up with a 38-deg. temperature and was too sick to go to school. I was able to stay home and care for them. 

Another major reason that I chose CHA Learning over other education institutions was the price for tuition. It was considerably much less for the same CHIMA recognized program elsewhere. With this program I also didn’t have to consider the extra cost of driving and parking. 

The final reason I chose CHA Learning was a recommendation from another HIM professional. Before I embarked on this journey I wanted to learn as much as I could about the profession and have an idea of what this may entail. She helped me weigh the pros and cons of the different programs offered from other institutes, where her career has taken her and information about the health care sector. Based on her personal experience and work history she found CHA Learning grads to be much more competent than others.

For me, it made complete sense to choose CHA Learning because of the flexibility, reputation and value for the program. 

Pick and describe one memorable experience during your education with CHA Learning 

One memorable experience I have from my studies with CHA Learning was when I caught my daughters going through my Anatomy and Pathophysiology books. It’s not uncommon that I would have my study materials scattered all over the kitchen table or couch. They were pointing out at all the “gross pictures” and the anatomy of the female and male genitalia.  I was pretty surprised they managed to figure it out so quickly. I surely never told them the heart was on the left side or that the lungs have two sides.  How did they know this?!

They then started referring to my schoolbooks as “Mommy’s gross naked picture books” and have even asked if they could take it for show and tell.  I shake my head but, on the inside, it warms my heart. I loved that they were so curious and just by leaving the books lying around had created this fun learning environment. 

Is this the making of future doctors or HIM professionals? 

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If you are interested in our Health Information Management Program read more about our full-time and part-time options. Applications are now open for the September 2020 intake.  

Questions? Contact us at: chalearning@healthcarecan.ca.