In February 2020, Patricia Gaffen was looking forward to attending HIMSS20, scheduled to take place that March in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, HIMSS20 was canceled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While COVID-19 forced much of the world to move online in 2020 for work, school and even virtual events, Gaffen didn’t miss a beat in pursuit of her Master of Science in Health Informatics from USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine, thanks to the program’s established online format.
“An online program allows you to have flexibility to do what you need to do, whether you have a full-time job or family – or both, if you need to manage those,” says Gaffen. “It gives you the opportunity to complete your education on your own time, and the fact that it’s 100% online also allows you to be able to decide when you want to complete the program.”
“After I completed the Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics, I was able to obtain a position as a Quality Improvement Specialist,” says Gaffen, of her job with MCR Health, a federal qualified health center (FQHC) that “provides affordable primary care services and increased access for all people, regardless of income or ability to pay for care.”
As a Quality Improvement Specialist, Gaffen works to ensure that the quality standards of care are always met. Her responsibilities include collecting and analyzing data through EHRs, reporting platforms and software, and reviewing of patient and clinical data.
“Part of my role is being very data driven, so I have to constantly be looking at gaps and root cause analysis to try and find what we can do to improve processes across the organization,” she says.
With an occupational therapy degree and over 20 years of experience working in healthcare—”from children all the way up to geriatrics, internally, as well as wellness programs, ergonomics and Pilates programs”—Gaffen sees the knowledge she is gaining in the USF Health programs as a bridge between her established professional experience and her future goals.
“I have had the experience to be able to see what makes things successful, what types of standards are required for things to move forward in a value-based society within the healthcare division,” she explains. “So, I felt this would be an excellent parallel to what I’ve been doing my entire career.”
Gaffen is looking forward to completing her certification process through the program, as USF Health’s online programs help prepare participants for industry recognized certifications and credentials.
“The grad cert was a good jumping point to transition into the program of healthcare informatics, and I love it. I’m so glad I did it,” Gaffen emphasizes. “I have several more classes to complete to obtain my master’s degree, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about what is out there in the field of informatics.”
While 2020 may have been a year of disruption and disappointment in many respects, Gaffen is building on her momentum from the last year and looking forward to all that 2021 has in store, including making up for that cancelled HIMSS20 convention by attending HIMSS21: “I’m very much looking forward to going to Las Vegas in 2021, to go to the convention and learn more about the program…”
USF Health’s status as a HIMSS Approved Education Partner (AEP) was one of the deciding factors in Gaffen choosing the online health informatics program.
“HIMSS is the education partner for the university,” she states. “And if you’re in HIMSS, as a member, you have the opportunity to go online and take a look at various courses they have, further your education, as well as receive member benefits.”
As a HIMSS Academic Organizational Affiliate (AOA) program, USF Health students can qualify for a complimentary HIMSS student membership, Learning Center access, and a variety of HIMSS discounts—including attending the annual HIMSS convention.
The rigorous HIMMS distinction and opportunities, the online flexibility, and the fact that USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine is “rated one of the best out of 2021…all of those factors were really good opportunities for me to take the plunge into the program,” Gaffen emphasizes.
To those who are unsure about taking the plunge or feel their life is just too busy to continue their education, Gaffen says: “Think about what you want to prioritize in your life, and what is most important to you. Where are you in your life now, and do you want to succeed in another arena? This is a great opportunity to do that.”