I'm back at the IT campus again, this time for a "Test Drive" for the Health Information Management program. A secretary kindly offers me another swag bag filled with orientation goodies but I can't except it in good conscience lest it lead to a "Hoarders"-like spiral of collecting hundreds of identical Day-Glo lime green satchels, pens and notebooks. As it stands, I'm already paranoid that the administrators are starting to suspect that I'm doing these "Test Drives" just to get the free lunch.
My guide today is Samson, who seems genial but distracted. He leads me into a classroom where a veritable spread of baked good is laid out on tables.
"We're doing this for our 'Teams in the Workplace' class."
"Making apple cinnamon fritters? Are you sure you guys didn't end up in the Baking and Pastry Art class by mistake?"
"No," my host replied, 'dumbass' connotations in his tone, "We're raising funds for a local health-related charity and a large part of our mark is determined by whether or not we make our goal."
Although I thought the good karma that might result from such an unorthodox academic pursuit was obvious, I really had a hard time picturing myself going back to college for Bake Sale 101.
We proceed on to the first class, and Samson does a great job when he can giving me the strait dope on the program. I say "when he can" since all day long he seems to be besieged at every turn with a constant bombardment of pop quizzes, pop tests and pop, er...essays. Frankly, I didn't even think there was such a thing as pop essays.
At one point, after my overseer begins rocking back and forth and muttering "Krusty is coming, Krusty is coming" when faced with an impromptu writing assignment, I take the opportunity to go up to the front of the class and barrage the instructor with more questions that were asked during the Nuremberg Trials.
She tells me that upon successful completion with the program you usually end up working in some capacity with the Canadian Institute for Health Information. You typically start with coding medical files and then you can sometimes move on to a supervisor/managerial role with the Department of Health or in some aspect of data analysis. And you all know how much I would ♥ that!
I discover to my chagrin that the job would involve a tremendous amount of sitting. Despite its $20 to $23 hourly starting wage, the entry-level jobs mainly boil down to data entry. You basically take one medical file after another, try your best to interpret the chicken-scratches, and then code all the information into an electronic template and then send it away for data compilation and analysis.
I'm encouraged when the instructor is honest enough to confess that there was a shortage of job opportunities "a while ago" but things are really starting to pick up again, especially on a the national front. There are approximately fifty people employed locally in the three major hospitals in the city, and the lion's share of jobs involve the aforementioned dreaded coding.
I go back to join Samson and he's since been forced to move to a new computer to complete his in-class assignment. While I'm waiting for him to resurface, I flip through a text book which is filled with various symptoms, etiology, diagnosis, treatments, and prognosisi. Basically, this is pure hell for a hypochondriac. I'm disgusted that the textbook isn't content with just describing these horrible signs of illness, n-o-o-o-o-o, they've gotta photograph each one in high-resolution color closeup. I'm only three hours in and already I'm starting to itch.
I begin to glaze over as I'm inundated with constant abstract references to ICD-10, CIHI, NACRS (Not as in, "Oooo, what a nice set of...". Don't make the same mistake I did...), DAD, CPE, CHIMA...Cripes, this program has more acronyms then the friggin' I.R.S. This isn't boding well. Somehow I'm not surprised when Sampson informs me that class attrition has been brutal: they started with twenty-one students and are now down to twelve.
One favorable thing he does point out is the pronounced dearth of male students. If the guy can be envied for anything, it's the male to female student ratio. He's the only dude in a class of bona-fide hotties.
Little wonder baking skills are so important. Kidding, ladies, kidding!
I get a chance to chat with one of the gals, Melissa, who seems to be taking all the challenges in stride. Our backgrounds are similar: she once worked for a certain major office supply chain before another (more evil) office supply chain bought them out and made working conditions so unpalatable for her that she had to quit. Hence, her academic aspirations and hopeful career reboot. She bright, genial and easy-going so I'm confident she'll do fine!
The next class was a spot of apparently necessary yet unfortunate dreck dealing with Sensitivity in the Medical Profession. You would think a lot of this would boil down to common sense, but since that phrase has become an oxymoron in this day and age, such training is required. To me the class was way too painfully similar to the insufferable Sexual Harassment awareness sessions at my last place of employ where you were politely asked by your managers to avoid touching each other's Danger Zones. Really? You actually have to tell us not to do this? You, in particular?
Some of the issues raised are valid, but I can see how they can irk the average health care professional. Some examples:
- Jehovah's Witnesses don't accept blood transfusions. While it's important to honor this stance, I imagine to a lot of doctors it's the medical equivalent of not wanting to get your picture taken because you're afraid the process will "steal your soul".
- Rastafarians believe that the body should remain intact. That's all well and good in theory, but just think how much richer the whole world would be if Bob Marley had just lopped off that pesky cancerous toe?
- In some Asian cultures the character for the number 4 is pronounced the same way as the character for the word “death.” Needless to say, being assigned to stay in the "death" room in the hospital would do little to speed up your recovery process.
The final class of the day was all about symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. If glancing through the textbook earlier didn't give enough reason to believe that I already had fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, then this class put the capper on my paranoia altogether. The instructor was a young, gregarious and micheviously funny lady who couldn't resist sneaking some subversive slides into her otherwise sober Powerpoint presentation on various ailments. When it got to the section on colds and flus, it wasn't enough for her to describe the condition of rhinorrhea (which is a runny nose, by the way, not when a certain gray-hued, one-horned Spider-Man villain is explosively incontinent). Noooooooooo, she also had to show this slide...
Sooooo, between the program's exorbitant tuition costs ($9000.00 a year, zoinks!), the mind-numbing reward of doing glorified data entry and knowing I'd end up feeling more germ-infested then Howard Hughes, Health Information Management is a BIG thumb's down for me.
EPIC: Whatever you wanna say about his skeezy interest in disproportionately and vaguely related young Asian girls, Woody Allen is still the prototypical hypochondriac.
FAIL: Here's a tip...don't FAIL
"Hey, kids, be the first on your block to collect them all!"