Student Spotlight: Katelyn Beeley, Health Informatics Program

Katelyn Beeley, Clinical informatics manager and Health Informatics studentKatelyn Beeley, RN, BSN is the Manager of Clinical Informatics under Medical Affairs for Maine Medical Center and a student in our health informatics program.

Here, she talks about what led her to the field of health informatics, what she is learning from her studies, and about her experience with the UNE community.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I’ve worked for the state’s largest health care organization, MaineHealth, for 13 years now – but if you had asked me back then where I might be today, I would not likely have predicted the journey I am currently on.

Once I acquired my nursing license, I began working as an inpatient nurse at the bedside, on a unit that specializes in nephrology, urology, and renal transplant. I subsequently achieved my bachelor of science in nursing, continuing to work as a nurse in an inpatient acute care setting. After my third year as a nurse, I was approached by my nursing director and asked if I wanted to become involved with training clinicians for our new electronic health record implementation. It was at that moment that I fell into the world of informatics without even being aware entirely of what that meant.

This opportunity led me to become interested in the role of technology and its relationship with healthcare and those who work within the field. The opportunity to participate in the implementation of the EHR through a variety of roles over the years has been a tremendous experience. I started in 2012 as a credentialed trainer, while still working at the bedside, then became a senior training analyst and instructional designer for several clinical applications. While I was in those roles, our team implemented the EHR at six additional member hospitals, executed several system upgrades, conducted hours of training prep, built training environments, and held continuing education training sessions.

I returned to our flagship location here at Maine Medical Center as a Clinical Informatics Specialist under the Medical Affairs department, which is focused on providers’ interactions with their healthcare technology. And that’s my journey in a nutshell.

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Is our health informatics master’s program what you expected?

The program is fantastic. It’s fast and furious, but I’ve had really thoughtful feedback and interactions with my instructors. I find it valuable to have an experience with an online program with this level of accessibility to my instructors and to be able to develop a rapport with them.

What made you pursue your Master of Science in Health Informatics?

I had been considering a graduate program for a number of years, but never quite knew which path I wanted to pursue. It was only when I continued in the field that I realized there was so much more to learn about how our current healthcare landscape intersects with our technology and healthcare operations.

Even though I’d been working in the field with information systems and technology for years, I found that I had much to learn about the global aspects of what we’re trying to accomplish through interoperability, data, and electronic health records.

The profession is continually growing and evolving and we will need new innovative leaders who are able to elevate the field and affect change to work towards some of these, larger initiatives that are our national organizations like the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information, The National Academies of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health are working towards.

There is so much more to be done. Pursuing this graduate work gives me a better picture about how health informatics is affecting the wellbeing of our communities that we live in – not only at a local level, but at a city, state, national, and even global level.

Do you feel that your graduate work has helped you hone your leadership skills as well as your visioning and strategy?

Absolutely. At the beginning of this program, I was a Clinical Informatics Specialist at Maine Medical Center. Since then I have assumed a new leadership role as the manager. It has been exciting to build my team and to apply my graduate-level work. This program offers the opportunity to explore leadership, project management, and healthcare finance among other focus areas. The experience of broadening my knowledge and continually learning new information relating to the field is helping affect meaningful change for my organization.

Why did you choose UNE Online for your graduate degree?

UNE has a fantastic reputation, especially in the health field. I was excited to learn that we had a local well-respected institution and accredited program here to pursue. It’s an interesting thought because even though it’s been around for decades, health informatics is still very new, and like any technology field, evolving very rapidly.

I’ve really enjoyed the program – and I’m almost done, which is very exciting. I’m slated to graduate in May of 2020 – right around the corner.

How did you feel about your work-life balance as you went through the program? Did the online format work for you?

I had completed online courses before, so I knew the format would work. For me, the flexibility of the online format is really helpful, as I work full-time. Our instructors are accessible and there are great support systems in place for online students. The Student Academic Success Center is also a resource for writing, research, and more.

If life happens and you need to adjust your term schedule, you can do that. Thankfully, I have not had to, but I know that if I did need to, I could – and my work-life balance right now is manageable.

The online format has also been favorable because I can work at my own pace. I can work on school work in the evenings, nights, or weekends; if I need to adjust my schedule around a family member or work need earlier in the day, I have the flexibility to do that. That’s really helpful at a graduate level.

Did you get to know other people in the program, as a part of a community while you were going through?

I did – and in my personal experience, I found it one of the stronger benefits of being in an online program. I had a few courses with some of my coworkers and some with a few former coworkers, but I also got to interact and engage with other graduate students across the country in diverse locations and roles.

In one of my classes, I engaged with an analyst from Oregon who was working with their electronic health record. I had another classmate who was a pharmacist in a different part of the country. The online format allows you to engage with a diverse yet like-minded cohort of graduate students who are all seeking to grow.

The geographic and workplace diversity among students also leads to interesting discussions regarding health systems. For example, I’m working at a hospital licensed for 630+ beds, but I may be able to get valuable feedback from a classmate who’s working within a health system from a critical access hospital, or a classmate who’s working at a 900-bed facility. I was able to have in-depth conversations with someone who worked for the state and another for a non-profit. Getting feedback and engaging with others who work within diverse types of health organizations has been very helpful.

Pursuing graduate-level work is an extremely personal experience. You aspire to be the best leader and the best contributor that you can possibly be. In order to do that, you’re continually learning and growing – for your colleagues, your patients, your community, your coworkers.

What would you want a potential student to know before starting the program?

I sort of fell into nursing and I fell into informatics – but what keeps me here is my passion. I’ve developed a deep passion for health informatics and I truly enjoy being able to apply and grow that knowledge. When you’re pursuing graduate-level work, you have to have a genuine curiosity for what you’re studying. There is so much more to learn and this program offers you so many resources in order to achieve that.

I would urge people to take advantage of every single resource in the program. Whatever the class is offering, whatever discussion, website resource, or outside contact you can make – make yourself available and open to whatever is being offered. Try and take it all in.

On the flip side, definitely take your time and be patient; it’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. Persevere and engage with your instructors. All of the instructors I’ve had have been willing to go the extra mile and be a resource to me. Take advantage of their experience and perspective. To be able to try and challenge yourself with graduate work in a successful program is an inspiring and wonderful opportunity, I highly recommend it.

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