What Will Be Your HIM Legacy?
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.