Leadership Skills Should Be an Extension of HIM Curriculum, Educator Stresses

Integrating leadership concepts into health information management (HIM) curriculum is as crucial to a student’s success as understanding basic industry principles. The most important thing an HIM educator can do is help students develop strength of character and integrity, a top educator said Wednesday, the final day of AHIMA’s Assembly on Education (AOE) Symposium.

“Yes, it’s a heavy burden. Yes it’s tough, but it’s a sacred responsibility,” said Merida Johns, PhD, RHIA, with The Monarch Center for Women’s Leadership Development. “We can teach coding, ROI, and data modeling. But if we don’t have this bedrock of leadership then all is for naught. We will not have that voice at the table, we will not be able to lead.”

Merida’s presentation, “Preparing HIM Students for Leadership Across All Healthcare Sectors: Beyond a Narrow Structural Model of Leadership,” pushed HIM educators to empower their students.

Johns characterizes the development of leadership skills as a process, which means it needs to be taught early in an HIM professional’s education.

“Before anyone can be a leader, they have to be empowered,” said Johns, who defined empowerment as the perception that an individual has control over his or her own life. “Before anyone can be a leader, they have to be empowered,” she noted.


Gender and Leadership Roles in Healthcare

Another key theme of Johns’ presentation was gender and leadership roles in healthcare. An AHIMA membership survey revealed that 92 percent of its members are female. In the broader healthcare community, 73 percent of healthcare managers are women, 18 percent of hospital chief executive officers (CEOs) are female, and only 4 percent of healthcare company CEOs are women, according to a report by RockHealth in 2012.

Women have much to offer healthcare organizations in terms of knowledge, experience, and different approaches to communication between colleagues. Johns pointed to new research showing that women excel at collaborative team work, cautious risk taking, mentoring, and taking initiative.

On the flip side, women also are more reluctant to tout their accomplishments to peers and managers, and face cultural, socioeconomic, and gender-based barriers to advancing in the workplace, Johns said, all of which affect their capacity to be leaders.

“We need to keep these things in mind because the women in our classes, we need to be able to remediate this. We need to let our male students know this as well, because men are likely to advance faster through roles of influence than women,” Johns said.


Motivating HIM Students to Lead

Johns pushed educators to help their students identify their strengths and weaknesses, and then to leverage their strengths as professionals as a means of developing leadership qualities.

To become leaders, students must have a vision for themselves, she added.

“Vision means what do you want written on your epitaph. That’s vision. Get your students up to an upper level and help them set goals and help them learn how to achieve those goals,” Johns said.

This can occur in professional practice experience settings, in curriculum and coursework, and most importantly through volunteerism.

“Volunteerism is very, very important,” Johns said. [It] gets students into the greater community,” and can be accomplished by attending state and regional conferences and events.


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