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HIM Education: Prepare for Healthcare’s Future

What Will Be Your HIM Legacy?

Published June 11, 2014 10:43 AM by HIM Professionals
By Debi Nelson, RHIT

As I wrap up a career in Health Information Management, I ponder what my legacy will be. Starting in 1979, I was fortunate to have positions I truly loved. While managing departments, planning and implementing budgets and drafting policies, I was also able to teach and give counsel on career choices. Will my legacy be about process or about the people's lives that I touched?  How do you want to be remembered in the HIM profession?


I've had this Chinese proverb posted in my offices "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." No matter what position I held in HIM, I always wanted others to understand the ‘why' for things and not just the answer. This included students, co-workers and colleagues. I had a passion for teaching others information they could use for a long time, not just to get over the current hurdle. I remember an on-going discussion with Radiology on the coding of diagnostic versus screening mammograms. It was important to use the opportunity to discuss the purposes of coding and how it fit in health information for the accuracy of the patient's record, the welfare of the patient, along with reimbursement. I wanted others I worked with to see HIM and its value to the patient and organization along with giving them the answer they sought. Teaching was always important to me and I hope this has become part of the legacy I will leave from my HIM life.

I have had the privilege of working with HIM professionals who are outstanding in their areas of expertise. They were willing to teach students and co-workers not only their skill, like coding or transcription, but also their passion do it right. I know they will be remembered for loving what they did AND helping shape coding and transcription programs by passing down their expertise to those they taught.                        


While conducting employee performance appraisals each year, I would ask the same question "If you are doing this same job next year when we meet, will you be happy?" As I was fortunate to truly love the positions I held, I wanted nothing less for my employees. Most of the time, they would say yes or share the next level they would like to achieve. Once in awhile they would say ‘no' and then we would explore how they could get to their desired position. More than once it was a totally different profession and I encouraged this also. I would surprise new students by asking them early on in their internship if they truly liked what they were learning and if they could see themselves doing a particular task 8 hours/day. I counseled more than one that they should not look at the HIM position that paid the highest but should look at the duties that they would be doing each day. ‘Career counseling' and caring about people's goals could be another legacy to leave in HIM.                                     

People Before Process

"Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time." This quote from the 14th Dalai Lama is worth pondering when looking at what legacy you will leave in HIM. As I look back at my HIM life, I know I certainly have made some mistakes. I wish I could re-do some situations AND some conversations. However, through it all, I tried to place people before process and tried to do the right thing. I would stress that we needed to do the right thing. Not because we had to, but because it was the right thing to do. To me this was another piece of being honorable. Sometimes people would question why I tried so hard when it might not make a big difference. I would remind them of the ‘starfish story' where a guy was seen walking along the beach tossing starfish that had washed ashore back into the ocean. He couldn't save them all, but he made a difference to the ones he could. Do you want to be remembered for doing the right thing even when it is not the most economical or profitable?  Will this be the legacy you leave from your HIM life? 

If you have been in the profession for many years, you will be known and remembered for something - what is the legacy that you wish to be remembered for? If you are just starting out in the profession, remember that you also will leave a legacy - now is the time to ponder what you wish it might be.



posted by HIM Professionals


Hello Debi,

Thanks for sharing, your insight is refreshing. I am a new student and new to healthcare, and just learning the basics in my HIM 101 class. I love learning new things, and healthcare has always had my interest. There are a lot of areas of opportunity in the HIM field. I hope to learn new things along the way. Helping people I feel is so important in this field, and its great to see you put it into prospective. I hope I have a rewarding career and make a difference in someone's life. Thanks again!

Mandi , Beal College September 16, 2018 5:21 PM
Bangor ME

Hello I’m a student and very new to this field. Reading your blog I was impacted and I would like to thank you for all the contributions that you have occasioned to the HIM field. I would like to be remember as very know professional that contributed to this industry making a good job and helping many others.

Leydis Naranjo, Student May 22, 2016 1:12 AM
West Palm Beach FL

Thank you Debi for making a difference in the HIM field. As a student I hope to leave a long lasting legacy such as your own. I hope my legacy will be something as impacting as yours in the community outreach program to find long lasting cures for different diseases and sicknesses. One question I have for you would be how you were able to seperate the process and the people. I feel as if it would difficult to do those and as a student it would be nice to know going forward in the HIM field. Thanks so much. %0d%0a

Trevor Hyde, Davenport University May 20, 2016 6:43 PM
Wayland MI

Hello Debi,

I believe the field of patient care is about quality and compassion regardless if one works in the profession of a clinical setting or working in the Health Information field both deserve attention of detail and quality. As you stated "its about doing the right thing and not because we have too"and that in it self represents caring and quality to the HIM field. Thanks for sharing your kind words!  

Holly Fenner, student January 12, 2015 11:31 PM
Grand Blanc MI

Thank you Debi for making a difference in the lives of others and for advancing the HIM profession throughout your career.  Thank you also for sharing your insights and ideas. All the best to you.

Patty Sheridan, , President Care Communications June 13, 2014 9:21 PM
Chicago IL

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