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Health Informatics Student Interns at Area Hospital

Posted Sep. 18, 2012

HI internship: Rachel Nordhoff and Ted McAllen (AGMC)A two-week Heath Informatics internship with Akron General Medical Center solidified Rachel Nordhoff's decision to continue her education in the Health Informatics graduate program at Kent State University. 

(Photo: Rachel Nordhoff with Ted McAllen, Director of Nursing Informatics at AGMC. Photo by Joel Walker, AGMC.)

Nordhoff, '12, recently graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Marketing from Kent State University. She began her master's degree in summer 2012 and plans on graduating in spring 2014.

"I actually have very little experience in the field of health care, which is what made the total immersion experience so valuable," she said. "I visited 10 different departments within the hospital in order to gain an understanding of how hospitals and clinical staff utilize their current systems, the advantages and challenges presented by those systems, the varying needs of different departments in regard to the systems, etc. In addition, the experience allowed me to absorb the atmosphere of urgency that permeates health care: when lives are on the line, delays and errors take on new meaning. Even a malfunctioning printer can cause massive issues."

The internship was designed for Health Informatics students who don't have  health care experience. "There is a pool of people interested in our field, and who qualify for admission, but have no health care experience," said Health Informatics Professor Michael Bice.

"The internship is intended to give a brief exposure to the field, and to better prepare the student for classwork," he said.

Ted McAllen, director, Nursing Informatics, at Akron General, worked with Bice to create the internship and oversaw Nordhoff's activities in the hospital. "Rachel was given the opportunity to gain observational experience in a variety of clinical and departmental settings that utilize many different information systems," he said. "She saw firsthand how clinical and departmental information systems can facilitate patient and practitioner access to health care. She was also able to experience how challenging information systems and interdepartmental communication can be during a time when technology is in the midst of change and workflow adjustments to new technology."

Originally, Nordhoff planned on going into the Library and Information Science graduate program at Kent State when she came across Health Informatics.

"I had heard mention of it previously, but I didn't actually know what it was," she said. "I read all of the information offered on the program website, researched the field more on my own, and I liked everything I read, so I applied and made sure to look into other ways to achieve the required familiarity with health care."

Her internship responsibilities consisted of attending each assigned department and observing everything she could. Nordhoff took notes, asked questions and made recommendations to help her learn more about the health field. After each department, she was required to make a journal entry about her experience and what she learned from it.

"Every day I recognize another piece of knowledge I gained from the experience," she said. "Not only do I feel more prepared for my coursework and even my career following graduation, but the internship solidified my conviction that this is the right career to pursue. Without having any experience in health care prior to the internship, I doubted my decision from time to time, as I had no idea what to expect. Now that I have experienced a taste of what it is like working in informatics, I am confident in my choice and looking forward to what comes next."

McAllen added, "[The internship] is a great opportunity and one that can definitely assist in giving a student a better view of how their future can and will impact patient care delivery."

Health Informatics is one of three concentrations offered in the Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM) program in the School of Library and Information Science. 

The School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at Kent State University has the only American Library Association-accredited Master of Library and Information Science degree program in Ohio, offering courses in Kent, Columbus (State Library of Ohio) and through a fully online option. SLIS also offers a Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management and participates in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the College of Communication and Information. The school is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s top 20 LIS graduate programs, with a youth librarianship program that is ranked 13th. It is one of the largest library schools in the country, with more than 650 students enrolled.  For more information, visit www.kent.edu/slis.

By Nicole Gennarelli