student-stories

From the Red Cross to Health IT: Student Says It’s Never Too Late to Advance Your Career

UW Extended Campus Blog Team September 28, 2017

“You’re probably wondering why I would earn a new degree at 51 years old,” says Glenora Howard, a University of Wisconsin student and full-time instructor for the American Red Cross.

For Glenora, the motivation to expand her career opportunities and earn an online bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management and Technology (HIMT) came down to two things. Glenora isn’t the type of person to coast through her career. She wants to continue moving up in healthcare—but this has become difficult without a bachelor’s degree. She also has a strong passion for IT.

We asked the Charlotte, N.C. native a few questions about her career and experience so far in the UW HIMT program. Here’s what she said.

How did your career start out?

I have worked at the American Red Cross (ARC) for 24 years. When I first started, I worked as a phlebotomist on mobile blood drives.

Now, I work in an administrative role in blood banking. As an instructor, I train new hires and incumbent staff to electronically manage the blood products and any information the donor provides that could affect the safety of the blood.  

What brought you to the UW HIMT program?

I had been laid off from a position at the ARC. While I was fortunate to find other employment at the ARC, the new position did not challenge me. When I applied for a different position, the hiring manager told me he could not move forward with my application because, at the time, I didn’t have a degree. I decided I did not want to be in a position in which not having a degree would hinder my career growth.

In 2016, I graduated from Central Piedmont Community College with an associate in health information technology (HIT). I knew I wanted to continue my education, so I searched online for health information management (HIM) and HIT bachelor’s degree programs.

I read about the HIMT degree offered by UW-Green Bay and liked it, because I could specialize in HIT. I was not worried at all about online learning; I was very familiar with it, since I completed most of my associate degree online.

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Why HIT?

The reason I chose the HIT track is that most of the coursework that I completed for my HIT associate degree is covered in the HIM track. And I really wanted to learn more about health IT.

Although my skillset in IT is a long way from being a computer programmer (smile), I am passionate about IT. I hope to take what I learn in my HIMT courses and build a new career in health IT. My ultimate goal is to work in the IT department at a hospital or other medical facility.

What are the three most helpful skills you’ve learned in HIMT courses?

In my current position, having additional knowledge about IT and software has already been helpful. So far, the three most useful things I learned from my courses are:

  1. How to manage and implement new IT projects at healthcare facilities.
  2. Documentation and navigation in an electronic health record. I have enjoyed using the SpringChart software and Neehr Perfect software.
  3. Computer programming software.

How has your experience with the HIMT instructors been?

Even though HIMT courses are online, I never felt “out of touch” with the professors.

I appreciated Professor Gibbs and his assistance with the HIMT 345: Programming and Software Development class material. I admit I struggled with the material early in the course and did not immediately reach out to him for help; however, Professor Gibbs reached out to me and volunteered his assistance.  

Several times during the week, he and I met via video conferencing. Professor Gibbs even offered to help me on the weekends if we had scheduling conflicts during the week. He was so dedicated that sometimes he delayed his family responsibilities (like preparing dinner for his children!) so we could finish our session. His explanations helped me gain a better understanding of the course material.

I want to add that my time at UW-Green Bay has been such a success thanks in part to my academic adviser, Linda Briggs-Dineen.

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Glenora expects to graduate with her bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay in August 2018. After that, Glenora plans to leap into the fast-growing field of health IT.

Have questions? Contact an enrollment adviser at 608-262-2011 or learn@uwex.edu. Enrollment advisers are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST, or by appointment. 

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Programs: Health Information Management and Technology