Mackenzie Dornak knew she wanted to work in healthcare, but she just wasn’t too excited about the needles and the blood. Wharton County Junior College’s online health information technology program offered the perfect solution.
âI was looking at the WCJC programs page on the college website and saw the health information technology program and it really interested me,â said the Needville native. âI really like the idea of ââmedical field work without direct contact with the patient and without care. “
Health Information Technology Program Director Debbie Lutringer has heard many similar stories since taking over the program in 2007. She said a good chunk of her students are starting out in nursing, but lost their illusions after the beginning of practical work.
âWe offer something in the health care arena in addition to direct patient care,â said Lutringer.
The program additionally offers a fully online experience, something Dornak found appealing as it allowed him to plan his classroom work around his work schedule.
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âThe program is convenient because no matter where I am or what time it is, I can do my schoolwork and not have to be in class at a certain time,â Dornak said. âI have been able to formulate a work schedule that allows me to meet my financial needs while continuing my studies.
The Health Information Technology program offers both a 60-hour AAS degree and two certificate options. Classes focus on healthcare information and record keeping, as well as coding, statistics, quality assessment, ethics, legal aspects, and basic anatomy and physiology. . A virtual lab allows students to practice real-world software in a simulated environment.
âWe strive to provide graduates who have the skills and expertise to enter the field of work as productive and competent employees in the health information management profession,â said Lutringer. âWe want them to become assets for their employers and also to be mentors for our current and future students. “
Since the program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Health Informatics and Information Management, students who complete the AAS degree program can take the exam. health informatics technician accreditation. Program graduate Amanda Gomez obtained this certification in order to get promotion at work and is currently Director of Health Information Management and HIPAA Privacy Manager for Cuero Regional Hospital.
âThe program has benefited my career immensely,â she said.
Gomez has listed Lutringer and Health Information Technology Instructor Robin Matzke as excellent resources for students.
âThey care about the students and their success and make themselves available, even after graduation,â she said. “I have reached out on occasion for questions and have always received an answer.”
The program includes hands-on courses designed to prepare students for what they will face in the workplace. Karen Wells, director of health information management for MidCoast Health System, was a clinical internship supervisor for the WCJC program for years. Wells is a graduate of the program herself.
âThe WCJC is known for its high integrity program with exceptional instructors,â she said. âWe regularly accept students for their clinical placements and have been very impressed with their knowledge and professional skills. “
Wells noted that she turns to the WCJC when job offers arise.
âIt’s always my first choice to search when trying to fill a position,â she said.
Graduates of the program find employment in a multitude of settings, from hospitals and doctor’s offices to surgical centers and long-term care facilities. Lutringer said job titles vary widely, with graduates working as revenue analysts, data scientists, medical coders, quality data managers and more.
As for salary, according to the 2020 Occupation Outlook Handbook from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for medical records and health information specialists is over $ 44,000 per year. Employment is expected to grow eight percent over the next decade.
âIt is a wonderful experience to watch students grow up to become professionals and leaders in the profession of health information management,â said Lutringer. âThe opportunities are endless and constantly changing. “
For more information on WCJC’s Health Information Technology program, visit the website at wcjc.edu.