The opportunity to help IFHIMA celebrate its Golden Jubilee has given me the chance to reflect on my own HIM career. I will have been a Health Information Manager for 39 years by the time this article goes to press. It has been a privilege during that time to encounter and work with all sorts of people in many different countries. I like to think of my HIM career in three phases.
At the start of my career I worked in hospitals, mainly with manual HIM systems and coding with ICD-9. I interacted with all sorts of staff in the hospital, from the Chief Executive Officer to the doctors to the allied health professionals to the nursing staff to the clerical staff and all the other personnel that are required to make a hospital hum. It was busy and vibrant and no two days were the same. I knew what we were doing made a difference to patient care. I miss those days and those experiences.
The second phase of my career took me into data management, working firstly with cancer data and then with hospital morbidity data at the state health department. This gave me different experiences but ones that my undergraduate HIM education had prepared me well for. In those days, I primarily worked with epidemiologists and researchers helping them to access and understand coded data. I also helped support those that provided the data. We transitioned from ICD-9 to ICD-10 in those days. That brought with it all sorts of complications as I am sure the anticipated move to ICD-11 in the coming years will also!
The final – and current – phase of my career is in academia. I work as Course Coordinator for the Bachelor of Health Information Management at the Queensland University of Technology. I’ve been at the university for 24 years now. There are two parts to my role here. Firstly, I teach our new generation of HIM students. This is a very rewarding activity as I watch students transition from the university to the workplace with confidence because of their learning experiences. It’s a challenge trying to squeeze everything a new HIM needs to know into a three year program of study! This is such a diverse career that can take graduates in so many different directions – management, eHealth, coding – to name a few. I also work with the international health information community as part of this role. Much of this activity involves engagement with international donors, the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments to offer consultancies and short courses to Ministries of Health and statistical agencies. These cover a variety of health information topics, including basic health information management practice, medical terminology, clinical coding, cancer registration and data quality assurance.
I have been fortunate to work in countries as geographically and culturally diverse as India, Mauritius, Botswana, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Tonga, Guam, Samoa, Solomon Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Caribbean, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Romania and Vietnam. I’ve been able to attend several IFHIMA congresses over the years and it’s always a great delight to me to meet up with former students at those forums. In addition, I am a long term member of the WHO Family of International Classifications Network which is responsible for working with WHO on its flagship health classifications, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health (ICF).
I congratulate IFHIMA on its Golden Jubilee! What a wonderful organisation it is – seeking to unite health information professionals from across the world, helping us to understand that many of the issues and problems we think are unique to our own experiences are actually common, working together to promote best practices. I look forward to joining the celebrations.
Sue Walker CHIM, FHIMAA
Course Coordinator, Bachelor of Health Information Management | School of Public Health and Social Work | Director | National Centre for Health Information Research & Training |
Queensland University of Technology | Kelvin Grove campus 4059 | Queensland AUSTRALIA
Fiji-training course on ICD-10 mortality coding for Ministry of Health in Suva 2017
Japan-WHO Family of International Classification meeting in Tokyo in 2016
Brunel-training course on ICD-10 morbidity coding for Ministry of Health, Bandar Seri Begawan 2015