Kathleen Nguyen is the supervisor for release of information and regional medical records at Seattle Children's Hospital. Here, she talks about how the HIHIM program helped her prepare for a managerial position in health information management and connect with other professionals in the field.
Can you tell us a bit about your current position?
I'm the supervisor for the release of information and regional medical records at Seattle Children's. I oversee a team of eight staff members. Six of my staff members are dedicated to processing requests for medical records at the hospital. Last year, we processed close to 30,000 requests for release of information. The other two staff members are located at the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. They are mainly involved in retrieving and delivering medical records to Odessa Brown providers, scanning medical documents into our electronic record, and release of information.
What types of requests for the release of information do you process?
We process requests from patients, parents, community providers, and attorneys. We also process requests from schools, state government agencies such as Child Protective Services, and from Seattle Children's own internal auditors, such as risk management and business services.
We follow Seattle Children's policies and guidelines, federal regulations (HIPAA) and Washington state confidentiality laws to validate and properly release health information.
Why did you decide to pursue this bachelor's degree?
I wanted to combine my interests in business administration and human resources with health care. I spoke with the adviser about this program and saw that it really aligned with my interests. Health care is an exciting field that's ever changing. With new initiatives like health care reform, there's something new every day in my line of work.
Do you think having this degree helped you get your current job?
Definitely. When you graduate from the HIHIM program, you're eligible to take the exam to be certified as a Registered Health Information Administrator. If your career aspirations are to enter into a management or another leadership position in HIM, you are required to have your RHIA credentials. Going through this program and being able to obtain my credentials has steered me in the path of management.
As part of this program, you worked on a capstone project. Can you tell us about yours?
My capstone project involved working at a local health care organization on the cardiology service capture process, a billing process for cardiac procedures. My project partner and I were assigned to evaluate, document and recommend an appropriate cardiology service capture process to improve the team's workflow.
How did your capstone project help you professionally?
Being able to observe the professional work environment and having a site coordinator that really pushed me to execute and deliver a high-level project was crucial. I learned how to work at my full potential and be accurate and precise in submitting my deliverables.
Did you make professional connections during the capstone project?
I'm still connected with my site coordinator. My site coordinator motivated me to join a local association called SHIMA [Seattle Health Information Management Association]. He was the president at the time and encouraged me to network with other HIM professionals. That led to my position now as the current SHIMA president.
Did other experiences in the program help you develop your career?
A class that was really beneficial was Professionalism and Leadership. The class helped us create a career road map for our 3-year, 5-year and 10-year career goals.
The instructor asked us questions like, "Where do you want to start? Where do you want to see yourself eventually and how do you want to build that path?" Guiding us through a career plan was really helpful.
What did the instructors bring to the program?
They all have a ton of experience and knowledge in industry standards. They're the best of the best within HIM. They've done the work; they've been in leadership roles for local hospitals and health care organizations. I value their experience and expertise.
How are the career opportunities in this field?
It's exciting. A lot of things are going on within health care, and if you're someone who's always up for change, this is the right path for you. It is definitely a growing field.
I'm going on to the HIHIM master's program to gain a high-level view of organizational-wide initiatives and management in HIM. Gaining that understanding, as well as some technical know-how, will really help me advance my career path in health information management.