student-stories

UW HIMT Graduate Gets Her First Job in Healthcare Before Graduation

UW Extended Campus February 16, 2018
Krista Reinhart sitting at her work desk.

When UW HIMT graduate Krista Reinart, a stay-at-home mom, decided to return to the workforce, she knew she would need more education. Her associate degree in health information management was a great first step, but Krista had never worked in healthcare. She knew medical record coding was one key to quality patient care but she wanted to do more to make a difference and a bachelor’s degree would help her meet this goal. Working as a waitress while raising a young family made on-campus classes impossible. When she discovered the online University of Wisconsin Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology (UW HIMT), Krista found her fit. Thanks to her bachelor’s degree, Krista got her first job in the healthcare field even before her graduation in 2016. 

A Choice Between Management, Technology, or Both

The field of health informatics is growing so quickly that there’s a need for both health information managers and health IT managers. In response, the UW online health information degree was designed as a dual-track program. Depending on their career goals, students choose a concentration in management, technology, or both. Krista knew right from the start that she wanted to complete both tracks. Her goal was to advance into a management position that leveraged her knack for health information and IT.

Designed for returning adult students, the UW HIMT program is transfer-friendly. Because Krista  earned her associate degree from Mid-State Technical College in health information management, she benefited from an articulation agreement between the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin System. She began in earnest earning her online degree, with UW-Stevens Point as her home campus.

Ready for Job Interviews

As a UW HIMT graduate, Krista felt prepared to start her healthcare career.

“This degree prepares you for a variety of health information roles. From health information management to the IT department to billing…every department is influenced by healthcare records today.”

When she saw an opening for an application specialist at Sauk Prairie Healthcare, Krista decided to interview. It was a new position, one that combined her interests in both management and technology. Sauk Prairie Healthcare has been recognized as a top 100 hospital and numerous other recognitions for patient experience.

During the interview, Krista learned that Julie Owens, the health information management director and hiring manager for the position, serves on the UW HIMT advisory board. Members of the advisory board play a crucial role in the development of University of Wisconsin online degrees. Leaders from a wide variety of healthcare organizations, such as Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago, UW Health in Madison, and HIMSS North America, help align what students learn in the UW HIMT curriculum with employer needs. As a result, the health information management director was very familiar with HIMT graduates’ skill sets.

“During the interview, Julie and I talked a lot about the courses. She was as excited about UW HIMT as I was and eager to hire a graduate from the program,” says Krista.

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A Day in the Life of an Application Specialist

Even though it’s been just over a year, Krista has already grown tremendously in her position. She cites the Continuity of Care Document (CCD) as just one way she’s succeeding.

“I’m definitely challenged and learning every day. For example, I deal with the CCD–when a patient transfers into and out of our care, this document follows them. Our organization must send and receive CCDs under federal meaningful use criteria. We’ve been working with software companies to bring the documents into the healthcare record. With my management and technology knowledge, I’ve been able to play a major role in this project.”

From answering emails sent to the patient portal, to meetings where she represents the HIM viewpoint on projects that are happening across the hospital, Krista interacts with people throughout her day.

“We’re currently working on setting up a new sleep clinic. There are a lot of different departments involved, including billing, registration, and IT, as well as clinical staff from the sleep clinic. I give guidance on documents and where these should go in the record, so staff can find them. I help with naming conventions so that we all understand what these documents are.”

What’s Next for Krista?

“I want to get my master’s degree eventually. I really enjoy this field and all the new technology coming down the road. I look at the patient portal and see so many possibilities. The industry has new opportunities to communicate automatically with your healthcare record. I really like being a part of all of that, all the innovation ahead.”

Would you like to explore UW HIMT, a degree that prepares you for the fast-paced field of health information? If so, contact an enrollment adviser at 608-262-2011 or learn@uwex.edu.

Programs: Health Information Management and Technology