Health Information Technology alumna Carolyn Pitcher at work.

When Carolyn Pitcher started studying at FRCC, she thought she wanted to be a nurse. She’d been working as a certified nurse aid—but wanted something more from her career.

She knew she wanted to work in health care, but quickly discovered nursing wasn’t the right fit for her. Then a conversation with the college’s Health Information Technology (HIT) program director gave her a new direction. “There are so many opportunities in this field,” Carolyn recalls learning. “You can choose to go in several different directions—coding, billing, data analysis.”

Medical Records and Technology

The world of medical records—with more of a technology focus—turned out to be right up Carolyn’s alley. She says the HIT program gave her everything she needed to start a new career in health care. “Once you graduate there’s a lot of payoff, a lot of places you can go.”

Small Classes, Personalized Attention

“The program was so small, every semester we would all come together in one room—and they would direct you to the classes you needed and send you where you needed to go.”

Carolyn’s coding class was challenging, but she describes it as “invaluable” for her career. “The teacher would always stay after class with you if you needed extra help.”

Health Records and the Law

Her class learning about the legal aspects of managing health records—although not her favorite at the time—turned out to be the most useful in her future career. “I use that knowledge a lot now in my daily work.”

Practicums Provide Work Experience

In her final semester, Carolyn’s practicum allowed her to work the job on-site. “We got a lot of hands-on experience. You went on the job and actually did what you were learning in the program.”

She says the HIT program helped her chose a path based on her focus, interests and career goals. “They set you up with practicum place based on what you want to do, which direction you want to take your career.”

Evening HIT Classes for Working Adults

“A lot of people [in the program] were also working full time,” she recalls. “The evening classes were really geared toward working adults. All the instructors were knowledgeable and very willing to schedule time outside of class hours. They knew we were working [in addition to being in school], and made themselves available at times that worked.”

Getting the RHIT Certification

After completing an Associate of Applied Science degree in 2016, Carolyn choose to take the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) national examination. “FRCC prepared me well for the exam—one of the final classes was specifically focused on certification exam prep.”

She passed the exam on her first try. (90% of FRCC’s graduates do.) “That certification got me my first job in medical records,” she says. “I had no real office experience. I had worked only in direct patient care my whole career. The certification got me in the door.”

Career Success Straight Out of School

Her first job was at Boulder Community Health as a records analyst. Carolyn says she felt well prepared, and learned to apply the concepts she had learned in school to real world situations. “FRCC was a good foundation for me.”

With her wealth of experience from the HIT program, Carolyn quickly got promoted into a specialist position doing records release. The job was more interesting, with more responsibility. “You have to make sure you have everything legally required to release the medical information. There are a lot of ‘i’s to dot and ‘t’s to cross.”

Moving Up Quickly

Through FRCC’s program, Carolyn had met an instructor who later reached out to let her know about a new job opportunity. That person is now her manager at UCHealth. As a system support specialist, Carolyn gets to focus on health information management, how their system works, and troubleshooting from an IT perspective.

Her work is fast paced, requiring her to think on her feet. “I really love my job,” she says. “It’s very dynamic and interesting, and my day goes by fast.”

Employers Notice an HIT Degree

Carolyn says there is a “night and day difference” between her work and life before and after the FRCC program.

“I didn’t get anywhere in my career without this degree. Employers actually notice you and take the time to look at your résumé. It was completely worth the work and sacrifice. All my instructors made it easier, and offered all the help they could give.”

Now her salary has more than doubled. She can work from home some days and has more flexibility in her scheduling. “No more night shift—that’s behind me,” she says. “It’s great. My new career is work-life balance friendly. I get good benefits, and have a stable career path.”

HIT is Versatile

For others who may be considering a career change, she says the first step is the hardest. “Deciding what you want to do and study, then realizing you have to make the time commitment, even though you’re working and may have a family. That’s tough.”

But she says it’s absolutely worth all the work and time you have to put into it. “There are so many job avenues you can go into with HIT. This is a great field to be in with lots of job opportunities. It’s a versatile degree. If you want a job in health care but don’t necessarily want to be a nurse or health care provider, it’s a really good option.”

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