A few months ago a question like ‘Are you still working from home?’ would have seemed strange. But since the beginning of COVID-19, this and other things that seemed unexpected have become the norm. The impact of COVID-19 continues to touch all of us in some way – some more severe and devastating than for others. That this has followed on from a horror bushfire season has made us all feel both isolated and connected to each other in some way.
When 2020 begun, no one knew how the year was going to manifest. A global pandemic shifted every aspect of the working environment and transcended the idea of ‘normality’. To ensure the safety of the population, workers who could work from home transitioned to communicating through the computer screen and the lens of a webcam in meetings, webinars and workshops. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime have become household terms. It has compelled professionals to revise existing processes, install entirely new processes, implement changes in short periods of time, update policies and devise strategies to manage staff in a virtual environment. Transformation to this new ‘normal’ has sparked innovation and adaptation, and this was no different when it came to second-year health information management placements at La Trobe University.
Academic staff at La Trobe University asked two 2020 graduates six questions about their remote placement experience during Victoria’s second coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown. Tran Nguyen completed her placement with the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine (SPHPM) and Rebecca Tran was placed at the Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI). Two vastly different organisations, but with many shared experiences, challenges, and triumphs for the students.
It was March 2020 and the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, had just announced mass testing of 'hotspot' suburbs in Melbourne. The number of coronavirus cases nationally were 1,917, with the 'clusters' all identified. “Our state’s health system is preparing itself for an emerging COVID-19 pandemic with a new plan to manage more cases and the growing risk of an outbreak in Victoria” (Premier of Victoria 2020). As I walked a lap of the local football oval with my son, Harry, and my dog, Bonnie, on New Year’s Eve 2019, we discussed what 2020 would have in store for us. "I wonder what 2020 will be remembered for?" Harry asked. At the time, we had no idea how destructive the bush fires were, and we had no idea that a new virus would bring the world to its knees. A microbe had and continues to change everything.
Completing a final year professional practice placement in 2020 was an experience that was out of the ordinary. Due to circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, most students were introduced to the idea of remote placements. Essentially, remote placements involved a ‘working from home’ approach, which was different from face-to-face placement in previous years. This was made possible as agencies were able to provide internal data, support and information access to health information management students using health information technology (HIT) and communication tools. I was one of the few students who were fortunate enough to complete their fourth year professional placement face-to-face, over a course of eleven weeks at Bass Coast Health (BCH), Wonthaggi Hospital, Victoria.
I have always thought of myself as an untraditional Health Information Manager (HIM). At the beginning of my career, straight out of placement, I worked in private health insurance. Working as a claims analyst and auditor, my role consisted of using the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Australian Modification and Australian Classification of Health Interventions (ACHI) codes to substantiate and verify the claims based on the admission.
In November 2020 the Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA) appointed a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jae Redden. Jae comes to HIMAA with a strong background in publishing and with membership organisations. In her first month in the new role she made time to get to know and understand the HIMAA committees and interest groups, providing members of those committees and groups with an opportunity to get to know Jae. The HIM-Interchange (HIM-I) Sub-committee posed some questions for Jae so that members could get to know Jae further as well as provide an opportunity to understand what attracted her to the HIMAA CEO role.
Stella Rowlands has been a member of the HIM-Interchange (HIM-I) Sub-committee since its inception in July 2015 and we are sad to report that she has recently retired from the role of secretary and from the sub-committee. Before she got away, I managed to get some parting words of wisdom. Read on to hear from Stella herself about her journey with the journal and her thoughts about the future of the journal and the profession.
What does an experienced Health Information Manager (HIM) do when they leave the Victorian public health sector after thirty years? I packed up my knowledge and suitcase and relocated to Tuvalu, one of the smallest and least visited countries in the world, to work for 12 months as a volunteer HIM with Australian Volunteers International, an aid program funded by the Australian Government.
Twenty-five years ago I moved to Alice Springs. Like many who have moved to‘The Alice’ I thought I would be in town for one or two years at most, then move on to bigger and better things. Instead I find myself working in an environment that continues to offer a wide range of professional experiences and challenges for a Health Information Manager (HIM).